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Favorite Sugar Cookie Dough

Yield Makes about 45 2 1/2-inch cookies
This sugar cookie dough recipe is one of our readers' all-time favorites. Notes: Keep the dough cool as you roll and cut cookies; if it becomes too soft to handle, freeze briefly until firm. Store cookies airtight, layered between sheets of waxed paper, for up to 3 days. Prep Time: about 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Royal Icing

How to Make It

  1. In a bowl, with an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat room-temperature butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Stir or beat in flour until well blended. Flatten dough into a 1-inch-thick disk. On a lightly floured board, roll dough about 1/8 inch thick. Follow directions below to make cookies.

  2. Ornaments

  3. With a floured cookie cutter, cut ornament shapes from cookie dough.

  4. Make an imprint in the center of each cookie by lightly pressing a star-shape cookie cutter into dough, making sure not to cut all the way through.

  5. Use a drinking straw to poke a hole in each cookie. Transfer to baking sheets lined with cooking parchment.

  6. Bake in a 300° oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

  7. Serve when cool, or thread a ribbon through each hole, tie, and hang from a tree or in a window.

  8. To make them special: Prepare cookies as above, but skip step With a small offset spatula, spread a thin layer of tinted Royal Icing on each ornament.

  9. To make them spectacular: Follow directions above for special version; let icing dry. With a pastry bag fitted with a #2 plain tip and filled with icing, create raised accents. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the still-wet piping, then tilt and tap cookie to remove excess. Add dragées.

  10. Wreaths

  11. With a floured 3- to 4-inch fluted-edge cookie cutter, cut out large circles from cookie dough. With a floured 1- to 2-inch cutter, cut out a circle in each cookie. Transfer cookies to baking sheets lined with cooking parchment. Gather scraps, reroll, and cut out more wreaths.

  12. Bake in a 300° oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

  13. Serve when cool, or thread a ribbon through each wreath and hang from a tree or in a window.

  14. To make them special: With a pastry bag fitted with a #2 plain tip and filled with green Royal Icing, pipe "branches" onto the wreath. Or with a small offset spatula, spread a thin layer of tinted icing on each wreath.

  15. To make them spectacular: Follow directions for special version; with a pastry bag fitted with a #2 plain tip and filled with red Royal Icing, apply "berries" to each wreath. Sprinkle sanding sugar over the still-wet icing, then tilt and tap cookie to remove excess.

  16. Cutout Cookies

  17. With a floured square cookie cutter with a fluted edge, cut out 20 cookies from cookie dough. Transfer to baking sheets lined with cooking parchment.

  18. With smaller floured cookie cutters (we used a pear shape), cut out 20 top pieces from dough. If necessary, gather scraps, reroll, and cut out more top pieces.

  19. Brush the back of each top piece with a little water and press gently onto squares.

  20. Bake in a 300° oven until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

  21. To make them special: With a small offset spatula, spread a thin layer of tinted icing on each top piece.

  22. To make them spectacular: Follow directions for special version; use a pastry bag fitted with a #2 plain tip and filled with Royal Icing to create dots and leaves. If desired, apply a bit of gold leaf while icing is still moist.