1. Combine flour, almonds, baking soda and salt in bowl. Beat together butter, sugar, eggs and almond extract in large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour mixture. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half into 6-inch square; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly flour dough. Roll half of dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4- to 1/3-inch thickness. Cut out into heart shapes, using 3-inch cookie cutters. Reroll scraps; cut out shapes. Repeat with other half of dough. Place cookies on baking sheet.
3. Bake in 350 degrees F oven for 10 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.Decorate cookies:
4. Using small fine-tipped paintbrush, coat cookies with thinned Royal Icing. Let stand until dry. Decorate with thicker icing, piping with pastry bag fitted with fine writing tip.Royal Icing:
5. Beat together meringue powder or powdered egg whites, confectioners sugar, sifted, and water in bowl until peaks form, 10 minutes (makes 3 cups). Divide icing in half. To make base coat for glaze: Thin half of icing with water, a drop at a time, until consistency of sour cream. Use thicker half of icing for piping. Tint icing with food colors. Keep icing covered when not using. Make additional icing as needed for decorating cookies.Chocolate Cookie Variation:
6. Stir into flour mixture 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.