Every December, I turn on the holiday music, pull out this recipe, and bake up a batch of cut-out sugar cookies with frosting. Since I've been writing this food column almost three years, you all probably know me well enough to know that I don't like things to be fussy. I particularly don't like things to be fussy around the holidays. There are memories to be made, presents to be wrapped, photos to be taken, eggnog to be drunk, and lots and lots of baking and treat-making to be done. The last thing I want in the midst of all of the festivities is a cookie recipe that has to be chilled for several hours or dough that sticks to my rolling pin or breaks apart when handled.
This is my go-to, fail-proof recipe. The thing that sets it apart is the powdered sugar in the dough in lieu of granulated sugar. Powdered sugar helps the dough become beautifully pliable and the cookies, when baked, to be perfectly tender.
Although I'm not a fan of fussy, I am absolutely a fan of yummy and delicious. I don't like to skimp on flavor in favor of ease. I've included almond and vanilla extracts in both the cookie dough and the frosting recipe to give these buttery beauties that extra something special, worthy of the season. Feel free to divide up the frosting recipe and use food coloring for decorating. My preference is white almondy frosting with holiday sprinkles.
Frosted sugar cookies
Yields about 2 dozen cookies, depending on the size of your cookie cutters
1 cup butter, slightly softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and powdered sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg and the extracts, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed until everything is combined. Gradually add the flour and salt. Beat the dough until it comes together.
Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and roll dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. There is no leavening in this recipe (to maintain shape and detail from the cookie cutter), so the thickness will remain about the same after baking. Be careful not to roll too thin. Cut with cookie cutters and carefully transfer to baking sheets.
Bake for 8 minutes, or until set but not browned. Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Frost when cool.
Sugar cookie frosting
Enough for 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup half-and-half
Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the almond and vanilla extracts and half-and-half gradually. Beat the frosting until fluffy and smooth. (Add food coloring here, if using.)
Spread or pipe the frosting onto cooled cookies. Add sprinkles, as desired. Store cookies in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email email@example.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.