A classic sugar cookie recipe is something every baker needs in their arsenal. A great sugar cookie is versatile in that it can stand on its own as a tasty treat, but also can be decorated with frosting and sprinkles on the proper occasion.
My mom is notorious for having baked goods all over the house at the holidays. She tucks a covered plate of cookies or a bowl of her famous sweet and salty popcorn in some nook in my parent's house where you inevitably stumble upon it (see the photo below of the popcorn in a sneaky spot at Christmas). Before you know it, you have eaten 10 cookies or many handfuls of said popcorn. It is both a curse and a blessing.
This past Christmas, my mom's holiday cookies were particularly good so I requested the recipe. Something about the cookies set them apart - they have a bit of a zing that I attribute to the freshly-ground nutmeg. My grand plans for decorating sugar cookies at the holidays did not materialize, but when we hosted two football parties, I had a chance to put the recipe to use.
My dear friend L sent me an ingenious Christmas present that made the cookies even better - an alphabet cookie press set from Fred & Friends. I made "P" and "B" cookies for our Patiots vs. Broncos party (in addition to football helmet cookies) and I am already envisioning using these for bridal showers, baby showers, and any party where cookies are appropriate (when aren't they?). I didn't decorate my cookies at all, but they'd look great with either the letter or the background filled in with a solid color or if you made them with colored dough. And the cookie cutters are so simple to use - you use one side to cut the shape of the cookie and flip the cutter over to press the appropriate letter into the cookie. The best part about this recipe, however, is that you don't *need* to do anything to these cookies - they are delicious on their own.
Simple Sugar Cookies
Yield = approximately 45 2-inch cookies
2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks), room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsps vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly-ground nutmeg
Make the dough
In a large bowl using a hand mixer set on medium speed or a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add granulated sugar and beat until combined. Add 2 eggs, the 2 egg yolks, and the vanilla and mix thoroughly. Reduce speed to medium low, add the flour, salt, and nutmeg, and mix until combined. Divide dough in half, shape each piece into a 6x4-inch rectangle, and wrap in plastic. Chill for 4 to 24 hours. At this stage, you can also freeze the cookie dough for future use - just defrost the dough in the refrigerator when you want to use it.
Bake the cookies
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes of choice and, using a spatula to transfer them, place cutouts 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Rotating pans halfway through, bake until cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Gather up the dough scraps, form into a disk and rechill. Repeat until all the dough is used. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.