This basic recipe is wonderful as is, but you can vary it to make Almond Five-Spice, Lemon Poppyseed, Mexican Chocolate, and Maple Brown Sugar Butter Cookies as well. See below for details. There’s also this similar recipe for Lavender Butter Cookies.
See this post for how to make the checkerboard pattern.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Decorations such as colored sugar, jimmies, silver balls, and icing (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until smooth. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a 3/4-inch thick round. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment.
Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into various shapes. Gather up the scraps and roll out the dough again. Use cookie cutters to make another set of cookies. Discard the scraps. If you like, decorate the cookies with colored sugar, jimmies, silver balls, etc. (Or don't roll the dough out and, instead, shape it into a log and slice the dough into cookies. Or make checkerboard cookies following the instructions here.)
Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 1/2-inch apart. Bake until just beginning to turn golden at the edges, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly before decorating with icing, if you like.
ALMOND FIVE-SPICE BUTTER COOKIES Follow recipe above, adding 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder and 1/2 cup sliced almonds to the dry ingredients, and substituting almond extract for vanilla.
LEMON POPPYSEED BUTTER COOKIES Follow recipe above, adding 2 tablespoons poppyseeds to the dry ingredients, and substituting 2 tablespoons lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest for the vanilla extract.
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE BUTTER COOKIES Follow recipe above, adding 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder to the dry ingredients.
MAPLE BROWN SUGAR BUTTER COOKIES Follow recipe above, reducing butter to 7/8 cup (1 3/4 sticks), and substituting packed light brown sugar for sugar and maple flavoring for the vanilla extract.