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One dough, 5 cookies: The only holiday cookie recipe you'll need

This simple cookie dough recipe can be transformed into 5 different flavors—and shaped 5 different ways!—with just a few pantry additions.
Casey Barber

Sugar cookies, chocolate cookies, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies, candy-stuffed cookies… the holidays are a great excuse to indulge in all of your favorite cookie flavors. It's great to sample and taste them all, but it's not always as easy to find time to make every Christmas cookie you're craving.

Related: 7 holiday cookies that will help you win the cookie swap

Until now.

This one simple cookie dough recipe can be transformed into 5 different flavors—and shaped 5 different ways!—with just a few additions from your pantry. Whether you're new to holiday baking or a cookie enthusiast who needs a little time-saving help this month, this recipe is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Flavor variations

Chocolate Dough: Reduce the amount of powdered sugar to 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) and whisk 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder into the flour mixture.

Related: 47 decadent desserts to make your Christmas the sweetest ever

Peanut butter dough: Reduce the amount of butter to 8 tablespoons (1 stick) and beat 6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (do not use natural peanut butter that might separate into the dough before adding the egg. Add 1-2 tablespoons milk after stirring in the flour to moisten the dough as needed and prevent it from crumbling.

Oatmeal-orange dough: Whisk 1/2 cup quick oats into the flour and replace the vanilla extract with orange extract.

Crunchy peppermint dough: Replace the vanilla extract with mint extract, and stir 6 crushed candy canes into the dough after adding the flour.

Shaping and decorating

To make cookie icing: Stir 4 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together until the sugar is completely incorporated. Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the icing reaches a still-thick but spreadable consistency. Divide into smaller bowls to add food coloring, if desired, and use immediately. Once spread on the cookies, the icing will harden in about an hour.

Related: How to avoid the most common cookie mistakes

To make slice and bake cookies: Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a rough log shape on a long piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to roll the dough into a 2-inch log. Freeze for 1 hour or refrigerate overnight for best results when cutting. Slice the cold dough into 1/4-inch rounds and bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

To make snowballs: Roll pieces of dough between your palms to form 1-inch balls. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cookies are matte and just starting to crack at the tops. Pour about 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a medium bowl. One at a time, coat the warm cookies in the powdered sugar, then cool completely on a rack. Toss the cooled cookies in the powdered sugar one more time to give them a final coat of sugar.

To make linzer-style sandwich cookies: Roll out the chilled dough as noted above for the decorated sugar cookies and stamp out circles with a round or fluted cookie cutter. For half the circles, stamp out an opening in the center of the cookie with a smaller round or fluted cookie cutter. Bake for 8-10 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. Spread 1/2 to 1 teaspoon icing, jam, or melted chocolate on the flat cookies. Top with the cutout cookies and gently press together.

To make crosshatch cookies: Roll pieces of dough between your palms to form 1 1/2-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet and flatten with a fork, using the tines to press down on the cookie. Press the fork into the cookie perpendicular to your first set of lines to create the signature crosshatch pattern. Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until the cookies start to turn golden on the bottoms. Cool completely on a rack.

Love this recipe? Add it to your holiday cookie Pinterest board!

One dough recipe makes five different holiday cookies!Casey Barber / TODAY