I don't go overboard in my holiday baking. I hear of those who make 25 or 30 varieties of cookies... Not me. I limit myself to five, maybe six. They are cookies that I very rarely make any other time of the year and the only criteria I use, in deciding which cookies to bake, is they must be exceptional.
Two cookies that always make the cut and are greatly-anticipated by my family are Vanilla Rolled Cookies and Rolled Gingerbread Cookies, both of which are either dipped in chocolate after baking, or iced.
The other three or four cookies are favorites that rotate each year, or a new recipe that has caught my eye. What they all have in common is - they are delicate cookies with lots of butter. This Vanilla Shortbread Cookie reminds me of the buttery French Bretons I load up on whenever I visit France. You bite into it and you taste, well... butter... and lots of it! The recipe actually calls for European-style butter, but I have made it with a range of butters, from European to an unsalted, U.S.-made butter sold at Costco; all with exceptional results. Whatever you choose, the cookie will be extremely good. I like to dress-up the cookies a bit with coarse sugar. This time around, I used my German Hagel Zucker. Other times I've edged the cookies in coarse red or green sugar. And they are certainly acceptable left unadorned.
Vanilla Shortbread Cookies
adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit
• 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted European-style butter, room temperature
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Sift flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in granulated sugar and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing until just blended each time. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Roll each half into a 6-inch-long log; wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Position racks in top third and center of the oven. Preheat to 325˚F. Cut each log crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices (see NOTE below). Arrange slices on 2 heavy large baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing cookies 1/2-inch apart. Bake cookies 9 minutes. Reverse baking sheets; bake just until cookies turn golden brown at edges, about nine minutes longer. Watch cookies closely at this point. Cool cookies on sheets 1 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. NOTE: If you decide to roll the cookies in sugar, mix 1 egg white with 1 teaspoon cold water; brush over the entire log before slicing. Fill a small dish with the coarse sugar and rotate the edge of the sliced cookie in the sugar completely coated; place on cookie sheet and proceed the same way with the remaining cookie slices.