(While these cookies may not look "perfect", I think they are just that because my 4 year old decorated them.)
Thank goodness for the people at Cook's Illustrated. Do you know this magazine? It comes every other month and is very slim because it has no advertising. It also doesn't have color photographs or super trendy recipes. What it does have is tested-to-death recipes for relatively basic things. It also has equipment and ingredient testing. It's a great place to read about whether $200 is a good investment for a saute pan (turns out - yes, but they also give good moderate priced recommendations.) The magazine is anything but snobby.
I have had a like/dislike relationship with Cook's Illustrated. There is a lot of meat in it's pages so 75% of the recipes are ones I don't use. Sometimes the recipes are too basic for me - I most often looking to wow my clients after all. But the things I have made turn out great and I appreciate all the testing they do and the explanations of what they do and why. I have bought some equipment on their recommendation and have not been sorry. And now this cookie recipe.
I have written here before about how much I dislike making holiday cookies. After reading that post, my sister-in-law passed on her recipe (which she got off All Recipes), saying that she never had problems with the dough sticking. She gave me a couple for Randy to try and he didn't really like the flavor. (Sorry Amy.) I thought I was going to have to struggle with my dough again when I got the Holiday Baking issue of Cook's Illustrated. There, in among lots of recipes I would like to try, was a recipe for Easier Holiday Cookies.
The ingredients are slightly different than my very-tasty-but-pain-in-the-neck recipe. The biggest difference is that they stress the need for superfine sugar. I always use superfine in my baking but if you don't, you can easily find it in the grocery store (C & H makes it in a milk carton). If you don't want to buy different sugar, you can put regular sugar in the food processor for 20 seconds. The method here is quite different. And the result is fabulous. Amazing rich buttery taste and no sticking! This will forever by my go-to recipe for this type of cookie. Don't get me wrong, there is still quite a bit of fuss with this type of cookie, but when the result is this good and pain-free, I don't really mind.
Glazed Butter Cookies
Holiday Baking from Cook's Illustrated
Makes 3 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies
They give a recipe for frosting which I didn't use - I just feel back on my trusted one. They also give you other options of what you can do with this dough, like Toasted Almond Cookies with Honey Glaze. Yum.
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, cool room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. cream cheese, cool room temperature
1. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer running on low, add butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until mixture looks crumbly and slightly wet, about 1 minute longer. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
2. Remove bowl from mixer; knead dough by hand in bowl for 2-3 turns to form large cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto countertop; divide in half, pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up 20-30 minutes. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out 1 dough disk to even 1/8 inch thickness between 2 large sheets of parchment paper; slide rolled dough on parchment onto baking sheet and chill until firm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, repeat with second disk.
4. Working with first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters and place shapes on baking sheet, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Repeat with second portion of rolled dough. (Dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and re-rolled once.) Cool cookies on rack to room temperature. Glaze and decorate as desired.