Butter cookies are good for company, for Christmas Eve, after mass, after dinner. They are a gloriously simple rolled cookie. And this recipe is the one perfect recipe to have in your stash of Christmas cookies for giving and sharing, or just eating alone.
This is an opportunity to rummage through my stash of cookie cutters; I especially like stars and half-moons. Take care to add only the amount of flour called for in the recipe; too much flour in the dough will make it a lot easier to roll out, but inedible when baked for being so hard. So with a light hand and light heart, work carefully and with patience.
Then, before baking, decorate each by topping each cookie with a maraschino cherry half (I get a jar and pour out the liquid, replacing it with Amaretto, keeping it in the refrigerator indefinitely); a perfect pecan, almond or walnut half; a fan of sliced almonds; or sprinkle with colored decorator sugar. This type of decoration always reminds me of when I was young and my grandmother Nanny Smith used to have a cookie tray on the sideboard during the entire Christmas season. Talk about temptation for a young soul. I ate a lot of cookies and she, compassionately, let me have my fill.
They are a great gift accompanied by some cookie cutters and the recipe. To vary the flavor, I sometimes add the grated zest of 2 to 3 large oranges to the dough. This recipe comes from my friend and former baking teacher, Barbara Hiken, who found this cookie at a buffet and immediately asked for the recipe after tasting it. She cuts them out into a bevy of hearts in varying sizes. This makes a large batch, so you can make it once and have plenty on hand for the holidays.
Makes about 4 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies
- 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons each baking soda and cream of tartar
Cream the butter and sugar until smooth with an electric mixer; beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir together the flour, salt, soda, and cream of tartar and mix into the creamed mixture until blended. Divide into 3 portions and wrap in plastic; refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line baking sheets with parchment or silpat. Divide the dough into quarters. With a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough, 1/4 inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Using a 3-inch heart-shaped, star, or other shaped cutter, cut out as many cookies as possible, dipping the cutter into flour only if the dough sticks. Place 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Refrigerate the filled baking sheets while one is baking.
Bake the cookies until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2011
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.