Nothing says “Christmas” like these delectable sugar cookies with icing. Bake them for the family or offer them as small holiday gifts to friends and coworkers. Enjoy the sugar cookies plain, or dress them up for Christmas with Royal Icing.
Classic Sugar Cookies with Optional Icing Recipe
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes; 2 hours cooling time
Yield: Thirty-six 3-inch cookies
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Sugar or colored sugar (optional)
Beat the butter in a mixer until it’s creamy. Use a flat paddle attachment on medium-high speed. With the mixer running, add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Beat in the salt and the eggs, one at a time. Mix well after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
Use large eggs, or the balance of the recipe will be thrown off.
Turn off the mixer and add about one-third of the flour. Incorporate the flour on low speed, adding the rest of the flour in two batches. Beat just until blended.
Scrape the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to help shape a large, flat disk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or until it’s firm enough to roll.
At this point, the dough may be refrigerated for up to two days or frozen for up to one week. (If you freeze the dough, allow it to defrost overnight in the refrigerator. If it’s very firm, allow it to sit at room temperature until it’s the proper consistency for rolling).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness; cut out cookies with the cookie cutters of your choice. Transfer the cookies to the prepared sheets. Sprinkle with plain or colored sugar, if desired.
Bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges have just begun to turn golden.
For even baking, rotate the sheet pans once while the cookies are baking.
Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on pans set on cooling racks, and then transfer the cookies directly to the racks to cool completely.
Repeat with your remaining dough, cooling the pans between uses.
Decorate with Royal Icing, if desired.
Store the cookies at room temperature for up to two weeks or freeze for up to one month. If you’re going to freeze them, then freeze them undecorated.
Make sure to use real vanilla extract in this sugar cookie recipe. You should almost always use real extract instead of imitation vanilla. Here, where vanilla is the principal flavor, using the good stuff is all the more important to making delicious sugar cookies with or without icing.