I baked these Sugar Cookies in the shape of a Christmas tree, because I had this sugar-plum vision that Jeff and I could snack on them while we watched Christmas movies and put up the Christmas tree and wassailed around the house. But then he got a sore throat. And I started sneezing.
So, we did the best we could, given the sneezing and the coughing and the Sudafed brain fog. Instead of a star or angel, we topped the tree with a few flower hair clips. Instead of a Christmas movie, we watched “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” And instead of lovingly decorating the cookies, we ate them plain. All of them. Without even a sprinkle. Because Sudafed gives us the munchies.
Sugar cookies come in two groups: the kind you decorate and the kind you eat. The ones meant for decorating usually steer clear of leaveners and require you to refrigerate or freeze the cutouts before baking. They come out of the oven looking almost the same as when they went in.
These cookies are meant to be eaten. The dough, which includes a little baking powder, goes straight from the counter to the oven, so it doesn’t hold the cut-out shapes perfectly. The cookies are a little puffy, sometimes misshapen. But they are sweet and buttery and have a nice, old-fashioned flavor that doesn’t require icings or glazes or sprinkles.
These sugar cookies are lovely without having to be perfect. Like a Christmas tree with a hair clip on top. Like ditching the bald kid who never kicks the football to watch Steve Carell finally score.
Today, we sneeze. Tomorrow, we’ll wassail.
Grandma’s All-Occasion Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
Makes about 50 2-inch cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Sugar or cinnamon sugar, for dusting (optional)
- Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together.
- Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale.
- Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a counter, and divide it in half. If you want to make roll-out cookies, shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. If you want to make slice-and-bake cookies, shape each half into a chubby sausage and wrap in plastic. Whether you’re going to roll or slice the dough, it must be chilled for at least 2 hours.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
- If you are making roll-out cookies: Working with one packet of dough at a time, roll out the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4-inch, lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for re-rolling, and carefully lift the rounds onto the baking sheets with a spatula, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cookies. (This is a soft dough and you might have trouble peeling away the excess or lifting the cutouts; if so, cover the dough, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.) After you’ve rolled and cut the second packet of dough, you can form the scraps into a disk, then chill, roll, cut and bake.
- If you are making slice-and-bake cookies: Use a sharp thin knife to slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between the cookies.
- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove the pan from the oven and dust the cookies with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you’d like. Let them rest for 1 minute before carefully lifting them onto a rack to cool to room temperature.
- Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.
STORING: The cookies will keep at room temperature in a tin for up to 1 week. Wrapped well, they can be frozen for up to 2 months.