Sugar Cookie Dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Royal Icing and Decorations:
1 pound (about 3 1/2 cups) confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Gold gel food coloring, for coloring the icing
Black food color marker, for decorating
White and gold decorative sprinkles, for filling the cookies
White sanding sugar, as needed
Special equipment: a 4-inch champagne flute cookie cutter; 2 pastry bags; 2 round pastry tips (1/16 inch)
For the sugar cookie dough: Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat together the vanilla and egg in a small bowl.
Beat the butter, granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed. Once incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mixture is slightly creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce the speed to low, then slowly pour in the egg mixture and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions; increase the speed as the dough gets thicker to keep the beaters spinning.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters as needed. Once all the flour is just incorporated, increase the speed to medium high and beat until the dough is very smooth, about 5 minutes.
Turn the dough out of the bowl and bring it together. Shape into a square and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
To roll, cut and bake the cookies: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Generously dust a work surface with flour, then roll the dough out into a square just slightly thicker than 1/8 inch. Use a 4-inch champagne flute cookie cutter to cut out 30 cookies, re-rolling the dough scraps as needed. Divide the champagne flutes between the baking sheets. Refrigerate the cookies on the baking sheets until chilled, about 30 minutes.
On 10 of the cookies, cut a 1/2-by-1 1/2-inch rectangle out of the top half (the bowl part, not the stem) of the champagne flutes with a sharp paring knife.
Bake, rotating the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom about halfway through baking, until the cookies are golden brown around the edges in spots, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets on a cooling rack, about 30 minutes.
*For the royal icing and decorations: Meanwhile, combine the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder in a large bowl. Add the vanilla and 5 tablespoons water and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, adding up to 1 tablespoon more water if needed, until the icing forms thick and glossy peaks, about 2 minutes. Fit 2 pastry bags with 1/16-inch round tips and fill one with half of the white royal icing.
Stir in drops of the gold gel food coloring to the remaining royal icing until you achieve a nice golden hue. Thin the icing with water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until the consistency of honey; if you drizzle a little bit of the icing back into the bowl, it should smooth out and sink back into the icing within 8 to 10 seconds. Scoop the gold icing into the second prepared pastry bag.
Cut a sheet of parchment into 10 small strips, each about 2 inches by 1/2 inch. Write New Year's reflections on one side of each strip with a fine-tip pen.
Place the 20 cookies without cut-outs on a work surface covered with parchment. Pipe white royal icing around the outer edge of each cookie, following the pattern of the champagne flutes. Fill in the bottom of the stems with white icing and fill the top 1/4 inch of each champagne flute with white icing. Fill the remainder of each champagne flute with the gold royal icing. Pipe 3 small white dots (to mimic bubbles) on the top right or left corner of the gold icing. Allow the cookies to dry completely, 3 to 4 hours.
Once the icing is set and completely dry, use the black food color marker to write "Pop Me Open!" on the gold portion of 10 of the cookies; set aside.
Turn the remaining 10 decorated cookies over so the decorated sides are facing down. Pipe white royal icing around the outer edge of each cookie. Place a cookie with a hollow center on top of each iced cookie, making sure the cookie bottoms align as closely as possible. Fill the hollow centers with white and gold decorative sprinkles. Pipe white royal icing around the outer edges of the hollow cookies. Roll the New Year's reflection notes so the ink side is on the inside and will not touch the cookies. Insert a rolled note into each hollow center and top with the reserved decorated cookies decorated-side up, making sure the cookie bottoms align as closely as possible. (You want to be able to stand the cookies up on their stems when you serve them.) Allow the cookies to set completely, 2 to 3 hours.
To serve, fill a small decorated rimmed tray with a thick layer of white sanding sugar. Arrange the cookies so they are standing up in the sugar. Serve immediately.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
[Source: The Food Network]