When it comes to making a gorgeous cookie tray, you want a little something for everyone’s palate – an appetizing assortment of flavors and textures – one that looks as good as it promises to taste. But producing that kind of variety can be an overwhelming order, especially during such a hectic season when we all have a zillion things on our to-do lists. Believe me, for years, I used to tackle the daunting task of creating holiday gift baskets for our clients as an end-of-the-year “Thank you for your business” gesture (shameless self-promotion, really). But after setting the bar so high that first time way back when, well, their expectations became higher every following Christmas. And, honestly, as much as I enjoyed dropping off the final product and seeing their delighted faces, the process of selecting so many different recipes, making and baking them, was plain exhausting.

I still wanted to deliver the pretty diversity as before – but without so much fuss. What I needed was one beautiful, all-in-one, genie of a dough that could crank out all the variables I wanted: slice-and-bake cookies, drop cookies, cut-out cookies, thumbprints, linzers or rolled into balls. A chameleon fundamental recipe with flavor combinations that were only limited by my imagination.

Well, folks, hang on to your oven mitt. This one’s the game-changer!

Pictured in the lead photo above: Cut-out cookies, Slice-and-Bake Almond-Walnut Coins, Lime Meltaways and Chocolate-Cherry Thumbprints. (See below for recipe variations.) Get those creative juices flowing! Roll a slice-and-bake log in pecans to completely coat the outside before slicing for a nutty addition. Take balls of chocolate dough, roll them into ground nuts and bake. Using a wooden spoon, make a hole in the center while it’s still warm; cool and fill with your choice of jam. Make the citrus dough; roll into balls and flatten slightly to make coins. Toss the warm cookies in confectioner’s sugar; allow them to cool before tossing in the sugar a second time.

Have fun decorating! Dress them up! Bling them out! Glazes, icing, decorative toppings add holiday sparkle to your confections.

The Stock Pot: Fundamental Recipe – Indispensable Vanilla Cookie Dough

Author: Cheryl Beverage Barnes
Recipe type: Cookies, Sweet and Desserts
Serves: yields about 1-1/2 pounds of cookie dough
Indispensable Vanilla Cookie Dough
Indispensable Vanilla Cookie Dough

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the egg and mix well until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.
  2. With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. Pat the dough into a ball and divide into two or three portions. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape and bake the cookies according to the variations below; most cookies will bake in 10 minutes, with a general window of 10 to 12 minutes baking time. The cookie yield will depend on the kind and size of cookie you make – but a good rule of thumb is about 3 to 4 dozen cookies per batch.

Notes

…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:

Planning: The dough can be made and refrigerated overnight and up to two days or frozen for one month.

Product Purity: Please, please, please use real vanilla extract. Nielsen-Massey (along with my homemade version, see below) is always in my cupboard.

Presentation: Check out the tweaks below for an appealing selection of tastes and textures for your cookie extravaganza! Flavor Variations: -Almond Dough: Add ½ teaspoon almond extract along with the vanilla. -Chocolate Dough: Replace ½ cup of the flour with unsweetened natural cocoa powder. -Citrus Dough: Reduce the vanilla extract to ½ teaspoon; add 1 tablespoon citrus zest – either orange, lemon or lime – and 1 tablespoon fresh citrus juice. -Mint Dough: Reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add in ½ teaspoon pure peppermint extract. -Spice: Add 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice and ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves to the flour mixture. Shape and Bake the Dough: -For Slice-and-Bake Cookies: Shape the dough into a 12-inch log. Cut into ¼-inch slices, rotating the log a quarter turn with each slice to help the dough keep its shape. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the edges are golden brown (or a darker brown for chocolate), about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; let the cookies cool in the pan for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. -For Cut-Out Cookies: Divide the dough in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to an ⅛-th inch thickness. Cut out cookies with desired shapes; place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the edges are barely golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; let the cookies cool in the pan for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. -For Drop Cookies or Balls: Roll pieces of dough into 1-inch balls (you can do this by hand or use a mini ice cream scoop for uniform cookies). Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 11 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; let the cookies cool in the pan for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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