Here's a vanilla cookie (plus a chocolate variation) for all of your holiday cookie-decorating needs. These cookies are buttery and chewy and can be flavored with anything from spices to coffee to citrus zest -- or even a little booze. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Test Kitchen Notes
These chewy cookies have a rich buttery base (to really cream the butter, make sure to mix for at least 4 minutes on medium-low speed), can be made chocolate by a simple cocoa powder addition, and take beautifully to marbling by combining the two doughs.
These cookies are simple, so it's important to pay attention to the details. To cut perfectly shaped cookies, you need to do a couple of things:
Relax (the dough): To keep the dough from shrinking when it’s rolled, cut, and baked, the protein strands that developed during mixing need to relax in the refrigerator. Plus, if you’re using a cookie cutter with lots of nooks and crannies, cold dough is more likely to hold the shape. Erin also cools her cookies for 5 to 10 minutes in the freezer (or 15 in the fridge) after cutting to reduce spreading.
Cut with care: It’s best to cut cookies from the same evenly rolled sheet of dough. Make sure to lightly flour your cutter and cut as close together as possible. Don’t forget you can change your cookie cutter’s angle or direction to get the most out of your roll-out.
These cookies taste so good that they don’t even need frosting, but if you do want a little more magic, simply dip your cookies in melted chocolate and add any fun toppings you like—we like lots of colored sugars, sprinkles, candy pearls, toasted nuts, or crushed peppermints (not only do they add some sparkle, they'll also cover up any mistakes). Just make sure the cookies are completely cool first or your decorations will melt off. —The Editors
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Makes About 2 dozen cookies
3 1/4 cups
(15 ounces; 390 grams) all-purpose flour (or 2¾ cups all-purpose flour and ½ cup cocoa powder, for chocolate cookies) (330 grams flour and 42 grams cocoa powder), plus more for rolling
1 1/2 teaspoons
(6 grams) baking powder
(2 grams) kosher salt
sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
(6 ounces; 200 grams) granulated sugar
(57 grams) egg
(5 grams) vanilla extract
(8 ounces; 226 grams) dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate chips (or the equivalent in bars, roughly chopped), optional
Sprinkles, crushed candy canes, flaky sea salt, crushed nuts, chili pepper, shredded coconut, optional
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon to combine.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for 4 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine, scraping well after everything is incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture all at once (unless your mixer physically can’t handle that) and pulse the mixer a few times to avoid a floury cloud from poofing up out of the bowl. Mix on low speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, just until the flour is incorporated. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to ½ inch thick. Cut the dough using your favorite cookie cutter and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway through. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely before decorating or serving.
- If you're dipping the cookies in chocolate, melt your chocolate of choice over a double boiler or in the microwave in increments of 10 to 20 seconds until melted. Dip the cookies half in the chocolate, sprinkle with desired toppings, and lay on wax paper until cool.
- NOTE: To make chocolate sugar cookies, reduce the flour to 2¾ cups and add ½ cup cocoa powder. To make marbled cookies, make one batch of vanilla dough and one batch of chocolate dough and mix to desired ratio.