My go-to cookie recipe for nearly 20 years. Very simple, not overly sweet, delicious. Feel free to gussy them up with the decoration of your choice (suggestions below).
Makes at least 3 dozen cookies, depending on size.
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to roll out the dough
Generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. In a separate small dish, combine the milk and vanilla extract.
2. Separately, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until it is fluffy and light (patience, please; this could take up to 5 minutes). Beat in the egg.
3. Gradually add a portion of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and use a spatula or large spoon to combine. Add a dash of the milk/vanilla mixture and combine. Continue to alternate adding the flour mixture and milk/vanilla mixture, mixing to combine each new addition, until everything has been added and thoroughly combined.
4. Transfer the cookie dough to a plastic storage bag. Shape it into a log if you plan to slice cookies from it, or flatten the dough into a disk if you plan to roll it out and use cookie cutters. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to several days, or freeze indefinitely (wrapped very well). (If you're in a hurry, 15 minutes in the freezer will work nicely, especially if you've flattened the dough into a disk.)
5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Line your cookie sheet with parchment if needed (see notes).
6. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with any cookie cutter (or if slicing, slice the log into 1/4-inch thick disks). Transfer the cookies to the lined or greased cookie sheet.
7. If you are decorating the cookies with sugar (as in the picture), carefully spoon or sprinkle sugar onto each cookie.
8. Bake for 5-12 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. They are done when they are turning slightly golden brown at the edges.
9. Allow cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for a minute or so, then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
I am absolutely in love with my new Oxo cookie sheet! I'm including a link in case you are in the market for one. It's non-stick, and it's got nubby little raised bits across the surface that elevate the cookies and allow hot air to circulate underneath, giving you a more evenly-baked cookie in the end (so you don't burn the bottoms waiting for the tops to cook!).
If your cookie sheet is not non-stick, you'll need to line it with parchment. I'm including a link to that too, so you'll be all set while you wait for Santa to bring you the cookie sheet. ;-)
And - in case you don't have cooling racks, I'm giving you a link to my favorite kind. These are the ones I use - they have little legs that fold up for storage, and they're stackable so you can cool dozens of cookies at one time.
Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe for Refrigerator (Rolled) Cookies in How to Cook Everything, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks.