I used to feel about sugar cookies much the way I felt about wedding cake, which is to say that I found them pretty, festive and nearly impossible to pass up, but almost invariably a disappointment in the taste department.
Then last year, I discovered this recipe from Bon Appetit and I became a sugar cookie convert.
Paul refers to these as shortbread cookies — high praise from a Brit — and while they aren’t technically shortbread, they do have a similar buttery flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
One of my favorite things about these sugar cookies is that both the dough and the finished cookies freeze well, so you can always have cookies on hand when you need/want them.
They also do a pretty good job of holding their shape when baked, so you don’t have to worry about cutting out cute holiday cookies and then opening the oven to find that they’ve baked into amorphous blobs.
I frosted my cookies with a basic royal icing, drawing the border of the trees with green icing that I then thinned down to a more fluid consistency before filling in the center of each cookie. I also like the decorating ideas at the bottom of this Food 52 post for simple but sophisticated-looking cookies.
Once frosted, these cookies keep really well in an airtight container on the kitchen counter. The frosting helps the cookies stay fresh longer, but even unfrosted cookies will be fine for at least a few days if stored in a cookie tin or other well-sealed container. For longer-term storage, wrap them well or slip them into a freezer bag and just thaw them when you’re ready to eat them.
Adapted, barely, from Bon Appetit.
- 1 1/4 cups (21/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on high speed until well combined. The original recipe notes that, unlike many recipes, there's no need to cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. About three minutes should do it.
While the butter and sugar is creaming, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
Scrape down the mixer bowl and add the eggs and vanilla, mixing just to combine. Scrape down the bowl again and then add the flour, mixing on low speed just until the dry ingredients are well incorporated. Shape the dough into two flat disks, wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a couple of days (or longer in the freezer)
When ready to roll and cut out cookies, remove a disk of dough from the refrigerator and allow to soften slightly at room temperature. Roll to about 1/4 inch thick, on a lightly-floured work surface. Cut into desired shapes and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to turn golden.
Cool on wire racks.