It is not a holiday in our family, especially Christmas, without sugar cookies. It is a wonderful recipe to make with children and the memories of baking with my grandmother for the holidays are some I still cherish. These sugar cookies make great gifts and freeze really well so you can make them well in advance.
NOTE: When making cookies for gifts, I typically triple (3x) this recipe. When you multiply the batch, it is best to make the single recipe multiple times, not increase the ingredients and make a single larger batch. Takes a little more time, but guarantees consistency.
2 cups Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 stick (114 g) Unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Vanilla
2 Egg Whites, beaten
Toppings: Colored Sugar or Frosting
Take butter out of the refrigerator well in advance so that it softens.
In a mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer on high beat the softened butter and the sugar and cream until well incorporated and the mixture is pale.
On low add in the egg and vanilla and then gradually increase the speed to medium high and mix until well incorporated.
Slowly add in the dry ingredients.
Turn out the dough on to a well floured board and kneed until the dough is smooth.
Divide the dough into 2 balls, pat down the dough and shape it into a disc. Wrap it in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
After chilling and once you are ready to roll out the dough, preheat oven to 375F (185C; 165C Fan).
On a well floured board with a floured rolling pin, roll out on of the dough disks until evenly 1/4" thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Crumple the parchment before laying it down flat - this will help it fit the baking sheet better.
Take the beaten egg whites and brush the tops of the cut out cookies cookies. If you are decorating with colored sugar add the sugar now but lightly sprinkling it on top of the egg washed cookies. If you are decorating with frosting you can put the trays straight into the oven.
Bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven at 375F (185C; 165C Fan) between 5-10 minutes.
The baking time ranges greatly due to a number of factors including (but not limited to) the size, thickness, and shape of the cookies, the intensity of your oven, hot spots in the oven, and personal taste - do you like the soft or crunchy. The best bet is to keep an eye on them and pull the trays when the cookies start to turn golden.
Remove the cookies from the trays and leave to cool on a rack. If you are adding frosting, the cookies need to be cooled completely. I like to make them the day before and then decorate with frosting the next day.