I love this recipe because it's so simple. It has so few ingredients, but the cookies are insanely delicious and they keep their shape beautifully when baked. And it's a large batch recipe, so you can get a ton of cookies from it.
Technique tip: Don't over work the dough. Stop mixing just before the flour is completely incorporated and finish incorporating the flour as you pat the dough together into a disk with plastic wrap.
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups unbleached pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 pound, plus 1 ounce unsalted, cultured European butter (high butterfat), room temperature
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt and zest. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Mix until smooth and just beginning to lighten. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and add the egg yolks. Mix until incorporated and then add the vanilla and lemon juice. Mix until just combined.
3. Add the flour with the mixer on low until just barely combined and transfer to a large sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to shape the dough into a disk while continuing to incorporate any unincorporated flour. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes before rolling.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
5. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and cut as desired. Place cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges just begin to lightly brown.
For checkerboard mittens: Divide the dough in half before incorporating into a disk. Place one half of the dough back into the mixer along with 1/2 teaspoon of powdered red food dye. Mix until uniformly red. Transfer to plastic wrap and refrigerate both the red and plain doughs.
Break off a small piece of the plain dough. Wrap and set aside. Roll both out into a 12" square, about 1/4-inch thick, and cut 1/2-inch strips from both doughs. Place the plain strips right next to each other. Weave the red strips in a basket weave, as you would a lattice crust, making sure you keep the basket weave very tight so there are not gaps. Place a piece of parchment over the finished dough and gently run a rolling pin to compress and "glue" the dough strips together.
Stamp out mitten shapes and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roll out the remaining plain dough and cut into 1/2-inch deep strips that are as wide as the base of the mitten. Gently press the plain strip to the bottom of the mitten for form a cookie "cuff." Bake as directed above.
For piped cookies: Make floodable and pipeable icings according to the directions on the back of the packaging of Wilton brand powdered meringue. Allow the flooded cookie to dry completely and then pipe.
For stained glass ornaments: Place colored hard candies (separate them by color) in Ziploc bags and smash them into smaller pieces. Stamp out rounds from the middle of your cookie shapes before baking (snowflakes are perfect) and fill the hole with the colored candy glass and bake as directed above.
For embossed cookies: Using a springerle (embossed) roller or letter cookie presses, gently press relief shapes into the cookies and then bake as directed above.