Last fall, one of the many children I have the pleasure of cooking for requested cookies to decorate for Halloween. Now that Halloween is nearly here again, this seems like a good time to share my favorite cookie recipe.
This one is from my “go to” baking cookbooks, Baking Illustrated.
Yields about 40 2½-inch cookies
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12.5 ounces)
¾ cup superfine sugar (5.5 ounces) or ¾ cup granulated sugar, that has been processed in a food processor for 20 seconds
¼ teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 16 ½-inch pieces, at cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With mixer on low, add butter one 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.
Remove bowl from mixer; knead dough by hand in bowl for two or three turns to form a large cohesive mass. Turn out dough onto counter top; divide in half, pat into two 4-inch disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, 20 to 30 minutes. (Dough can be refrigerated up to three days or frozen up to two weeks; defrost in refrigerator before using.)
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out one disk to an even 1/8-inch thickness between two 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.
Working with the first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters and place shapes on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1½ inches apart.
At this point, I decorated my unbaked cookies with black, orange, white, and purple sprinkles (see photos), then put them in the oven.
Bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating 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 wire rack to room temperature.
Another option is to glaze the cookies after they have cooled. You might add food coloring to the glaze (below), then top with sprinkles before the glaze sets.
1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar (6 ounces)
Whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons milk in medium bowl until combined and no lumps remain. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar until smooth, adding remaining milk as needed until glaze is thin enough to spread easily. Drizzle or spread scant teaspoon glaze with back of spoon onto each cooled cookie, as desired.