Butter Cookies


The blank canvas of baking—perfect for flavoring, decorating, and sandwiching.
TIME About 30 minutes, plus time to chill
MAKES 2 to 3 dozen
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon milk, or as needed


Method
1 Use an electric mixer to cream together the 2 sticks butter and the sugar until light and fluffy; add the egg and vanilla and beat until thoroughly blended.

2 Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beat for a few seconds, then pinch the dough to see if it holds together easily. If not, add some milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating and stopping to pinch the dough after each addition.

3 Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece into a log about 2 inches in diameter by rolling it on a flat surface. Wrap them in wax paper, parchment, or plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days (or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze indefinitely).

4 Heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease 1 or 2 baking sheets with some butter. Cut each roll of cookie dough crosswise with a chef’s knife into slices ⅛ to ¼ inch thick. Put the cookies on the prepared sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space between them.

5 Bake for 6 to 10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and the center is set. Cool for about 2 minutes on the sheets; then transfer the cookies to a rack with a spatula to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for no more than a day or two.

Variations
  • Cookie Cutter Cookies: In Step 3, pat each dough half into a flat disk. In Step 4, dust the work space with flour and use a rolling pin to roll each disk until it’s ⅛ to ¼ inch thick. Cut out the shapes you like by pressing a cookie cutter into the dough; then gather up and roll out any scraps and make some more. Continue with the recipe.
  • 5 More Butter Cookies:

1 Cocoa Cookies: Add ¼ cup cocoa to the dry ingredients in Step 2.
2 Butterscotch Cookies: Use ⅔ cup packed brown sugar instead of the granulated sugar.
3 Butter Cookies with Sea Salt: Sprinkle the tops of just-baked cookies with a few grains of coarse sea salt.
4 Ginger Cookies: Add 2 tablespoons or more chopped crystallized ginger to the finished dough.
5 Jam Sandwich Cookies: Smear ½ teaspoon of raspberry or strawberry jam between 2 baked cookies.

Tips
  • To decorate with frosting or glaze, wait until the cookies are cool and leave them on the rack so the excess drips down, away from the cookies.

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