For more than 50 years, Clarice Cox has made these decorative cookies for family, friends, cooking classes, and fund-raising events. And she often makes use of her collection of more than 60 cookie cutters to cut them out. The cookies are firm, so they stack neatly when packed for gifts.
1 cup (1/2 lb.) butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
Food coloring (4 choices)
How to Make It
Cut butter into chunks and put in a large bowl; add sugar. Beat with a mixer to blend, then beat on high speed until mixture is fluffy.
Add whole egg and vanilla and beat to mix thoroughly.
Add 3 cups flour and beat on low speed until dough is well mixed.
Divide dough in half, shape into balls, and flatten each into a round cake. If desired, wrap dough airtight and chill up to 1 day.
One portion at a time, roll out dough on a floured board to 1/4 inch thick. With flour-dusted cookie cutters (2 to 3 in. wide), cut out cookies.
With a wide spatula, transfer cookies to baking sheets, spacing them at least 1 inch apart.
To make patterns on cookies, if desired, make impressions with a flour-dusted spoon tip or fork tines. Gently brush flour off cookies.
Mix egg yolk with 1/2 teaspoon water to blend. Divide mixture among 4 small bowls. Tint contents of each bowl with a different food coloring, mixing in a drop at a time to get desired intensity.
Using small brushes, paint surface of cookies with colored mixtures.
Bake in a 325° oven until cookies are golden on bottom, about 16 minutes (if using one oven, alternate pan positions after 8 minutes). Cool on pan about 5 minutes, then transfer with a wide spatula to racks to cool.
Serve, or store airtight at once for up to 5 days. Freeze to store longer.