Sugar Cookies To make these special treats, you’ll need to dig out your stash of holiday cookie cutters and assorted decorating paraphernalia, whip up a batch of Royal Icing (recipe follows), and turn up the Christmas carols. Round up a few elves to help and you might catch yourself whistling as you work.
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks)
unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon
Colored sugar crystals, coarse
COOKIE CUTTERS NEEDED: all kinds of holiday shapes
WHISK together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
USING an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy. Add the sugar and beat well until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla and lemon zest. With the beaters on low speed, mix in the flour mixture until fully incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, gather the
dough into a ball.
DIVIDE the dough in half, place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap, press into a disk, and wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or until firm. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)
PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
REMOVE one disk of dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes or until softened slightly. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper (see Note) to an even ¼-inch thickness. (When rolling dough between sheets of wax paper it’s easy to roll it too thin, so lift the top sheet occasionally and measure the thickness of the dough. Also check to make sure the paper isn’t creased; if it is, smooth the paper and roll out any wrinkles in the dough.)
PEEL off the top sheet of wax paper and stamp out cookies close together to minimize scraps. Using a thin metal spatula, transfer the shapes to the prepared sheet(s), arranging them about 1½ inches apart. Gather the scraps into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate; reroll a few times. Repeat with the remaining dough.
IF applying decorations before baking, sprinkle the cookies with sugars and /or nonpareils. (Press gently on the nonpareils so they don’t roll off.) Leave the cookies undecorated if you want to apply icing and decorations after baking. (See below.)
BAKE the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. The cookies shouldn’t color much. (If using 2 sheets, rotate them from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.) Carefully transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
STORE plain or sugared cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days. Undecorated cookies can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Some sugar cookie doughs can be difficult to work with, turning soft and sticky as you’re rolling or stamping them. I think you’ll find this dough easy to assemble and firm enough to roll and cut into shapes. On a warm day, though, it, too, can become soft, so I recommend lightly flouring the wax paper before rolling out the dough and then refrigerating the dough on a cookie sheet to firm it before stamping out cookies.
Have the next batch of cookies ready to go on a clean sheet of parchment placed on a cooled cookie sheet; refrigerate until baking time.