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Sugar Cookies

by Nancy Newcomer

Sugar Cookies are tradition at my house. There is nothing more fun and festive than hanging out and decorating these scrumptious treats. I’ve tried a variety of recipes over the years, tested them over and over, and this one is hands down the BEST. No, I didn’t make it up–it’s the tried and true Williams-Sonoma Sugar Cookie Recipe. Why mess with something that is SO good? These classic cookies can be decorated in a variety of ways. They can be sprinkled with colored sugar crystals before baking, or decorated with royal icing using a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, or a small plastic bag with a corner snipped off.

You may use either a vanilla bean or vanilla extract in this recipe.

16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
3/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 piece vanilla bean, about 2 inches long, or
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Colored sugars and decorating pens

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the butter mixture. If using vanilla extract, add it now. Mix well.

In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Reduce the speed to low and beat until well mixed.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, then flatten the balls into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (The dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.) Let it soften slightly at room temperature before continuing.

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a dough disk 1/4 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. Gather up and reroll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.

Bake until the cookies are golden on the edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Decorate the cookies as desired with colored sugars and decorating pens. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Makes 24 to 30 cookies, depending on cutter size.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Holiday Baking, by Jeanne Thiel Kelley (Time-Life Books, 1995).

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