Buttery Sugar Cookies

Makes4 dozen cookies
  • Active time: 1 hr
    Total time: 5 hr (includes chilling)
When it comes right down to it, the simplest holiday cookie is, hands down, this sugar cookie. No rolling pin or sheets of wax paper are required. Just roll the dough into balls between your palms, then coat them with decorative coarse sugars. This is the perfect cookie for children starting out in the kitchen, by the way. They’ll have loads of fun mixing up different colors of the sanding sugar, and messy kitchen aside, everyone will be happy when they sink their teeth into the first ones warm from the oven.

Although this dough makes a delightful cookie on its own, it also serves as the base for four more surprisingly different yet super delicious holiday confections, from Caramel Cheesecake Bites and Chocolate Peppermint Stars to Raspberry-Almond Linzer Cookies and Chocolate-Dipped Spritz Washboards with Pistachios. Make one recipe, or make all five. You’ll be the hit of the neighborhood cookie swap.
Published in Gourmet Live 12.14.11


For Dough:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For Decoration:

  • 1 cup coarse sanding sugar (see Cooks’ Note)


  • Wax paper; 2 large baking sheets; parchment paper


Make Dough:

  • Beat together butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 6 with a handheld. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour.
  • Halve dough and form each half into a disk, then wrap in wax paper. Put each disk in a resealable plastic bag and chill until firm enough to roll into balls, about 1 hour.
  • Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bake and Decorate Cookies:

  • While oven heats, work with 1 piece of dough (keep remaining dough chilled). Roll 1 level tablespoon of dough into a ball, then roll in coarse sugar in a shallow bowl to coat completely. (If dough becomes too soft to roll easily into balls, quick-chill in the freezer or chill in the refrigerator.)
  • Place balls 2 inches apart on a lined baking sheet. With the flat bottom of a glass, flatten balls into 2-inch rounds.
  • Bake cookies, one sheet at time, until bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes total. Cool on sheets 2 minutes, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.


  • Coarse sanding sugars come in many different colors and are available at specialty foods stores and New York Cake & Baking Distributor. Use one color or mix up several colors. The most important thing is to have fun.
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