1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cups (6 ounces) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups (12 ounces) sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Milk for brushing on cookies
Sanding sugar for sprinkling on cookies
For chocolate sugar cookies:
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa, sifted
In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter; gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift together the flour, (cocoa, if making chocolate cookies), baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to the creamed mixture. If using, blend in the cooled chocolate until no streaks remain. Divide the dough into four portions. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For rolled cookies: Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator and roll to a thickness of about 1/8-inch onto the back of a rimless baking sheet or silicone baking mat. (If dough sticks to rolling pin, dust rolling pin with a little confectioners' sugar. (Dough may also be placed on a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit the size of your cookie sheet. Cover dough with plastic wrap and roll, pulling the plastic as necessary to eliminate wrinkles.) Cut out shapes, as desired, removing the dough scraps between the cookies. (You may re-roll the scraps to make more cookies, but do not overwork dough or cookies will be hard.) Brush tops of cookies lightly with milk, then sprinkle with sugar. (If you plan to frost the cookies with ornamental frosting, skip this step.) Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned, or feel firm when lightly touched. (Watch chocolate cookies carefully. It's hard to tell if they're browning too much.) Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet several minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
For drop cookies: Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheet. May stir in up to 1 cup of finely chopped nuts or candied fruits into the basic dough. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool a few minutes on baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.
To make rolled cookie balls: Shape chilled cookie dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet several minutes before removing to wire rack to finish cooling. Once completely cool, cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Yield: 4 to 6 dozen, depending on the form and size of the cookie.
The dough for delicious sugar cookies can be cut into shapes, dropped from a teaspoon like a drop cookie or simply rolled into1-inch balls for baking. For ease of handling, chill dough before rolling, then roll in sections directly onto the back of a rimless baking sheet, a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. While these cookies are not overly fragile, keep in mind that the thinner cookie dough is rolled, the crisper and more delicate the cookie will be.
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