It’s hard to beat a good butter cookie. It’s also hard to find one that is just the right combination of crispness, tenderness and a good buttery flavor. Bakeries – even otherwise good ones – are filled with bland “butter cookies” topped with a variety of colorful sprinkles to lure you into giving them a chance. I stick to making my own butter cookies these days, especially since I found a recipe that makes the best butter cookies I’ve ever had.
The recipe is from Pam Anderson, a food writer who is a former editor of Cook’s Illustrated, whose work is regularly published in USA Weekend, and the author of several cookbooks. Her all purpose butter cookies are simple, delicious and very versatile, so hers has been my go-to recipe since I first clipped it out of the paper years ago. The dough is very easy to put together and makes a great batch of slice-and-bake cookies that you can decorate with sprinkles or nuts. There is no leavening in this dough and the cookies will spread slightly, but hold their shape well, during baking. This means that the dough also works well as dough for spritz cookies, which are made by putting cookie dough through a cookie press (common around Christmas) and pressing it into different designs.
The dough can be made a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer. The dough is sticky when it is warm, so you need a well-floured surface to work on. That said, this is a good feature because it means that you can work with the dough quite a bit (if you want to try making cutout cookies, for instance) without the dough toughening up. I usually stick with the slice-n-bake cookies, rolling the edges of the cookie logs in sprinkles or nuts before slicing them into individual cookies on the cookie sheet. The cookies above have been rolled in sprinkles and in shredded coconut.
Pam Anderson’s All Purpose Butter Cookies
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
chopped nuts, coconut, sprinkles or sugar, for decorating
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg, egg yolk, vanilla and salt and mix well. Gradually, with the mixer on low speed, blend in the flour until a smooth dough comes together.
Divide dough in half and shape each piece into a log roughly 2-inches across. Wrap in wax paper or parchment paper and freeze for about 2 hours, or until firm. Dough can also be stored for several days in the fridge (several weeks in the freezer, well-wrapped).
Preheat oven to 375F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take the logs of chilled dough and cut each in half. Dough may need to soften for a few minutes. Roll each smaller log in finely chopped nuts, coconut, sprinkles or coarse sugar. Cut logs into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer cookie rounds to prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cookies just begin to brown around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies