snowflake sugar cookies

each year i set aside a little time during the holiday season to decorate sugar cookies with frosting. there were many many childhood  [and college...and maybe also some post-college] years of smearing store-bought icing, m&ms, red and green sprinkles and gumdrops onto our cookies. it's just so festive, the kind of things you remember as being special to christmastime.  

things changed a little last year when i graduated onto using royal icing on my sugar cookies, and this year i was feeling some kind of minimalistic snowflakes done in muted, neutral colors. and much like the real deal - no two turned out exactly alike.

regardless of your decorating plans, this sugar cookie dough is the perfect base! last year i happened upon a recipe for cookies that would hold their shape when baked, and which i loved...until i found this recipe, which i love even more. it doesn't need to be chilled, the dough holds it's shape when baked, and the cookies don't puff or spread. the dough also features a little almond extract, which admittedly i'm not a huge fan of within baked goods. almond extract is especially popular down here among the south texas bakeries and 90% of the time i find the flavor to be kind of artificial tasting and overwhelming...just gimme some plain jane vanilla. but in the interest of the holiday season, and having a little faith in humanity and all that jazz, i gave it a go with this recipe. it ended up being so worth it. i kind of see what all the fuss is about now. (and  i'll take my tiny christmas miracles wherever i can get them!) so if possible use the almond extract, it definitely enhances but does not overpower the flavor of the cookies. 

here's the current reigning champion sugar cookie recipe [as of 2015], and happy holiday baking!

| ingredients |

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder*
2.5 cups - 3 cups all purpose flour**
optional - sprinkles/nonpareils for decorating

*omit if you wouldn't like your cookies to bake or spread
**start with 2.5 cups of flour, and add more as needed. i find that 2.5 cups usually works best, and some additional flour will be worked into the dough as i roll and re-roll it out.

| method |

preheat oven to 350 degrees. line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

in a medium sized mixing bowl, combine flour and baking powder and set aside.

in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. beat in the egg and extracts until combined. 

slowly add in the flour mixture a little at a time. the dough will be relatively stiff. you do not need to chill this dough, so separate into 3 small batches, and working one batch at a time,  roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/4" thick. 

cut with your cookie cutters and place onto your cookie sheet. these cookies don't spread when baking so you can fit quite a bit on each baking sheet.

bake the cookies for 6-8 minutes, then let rest for several minutes on your sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

decorate with royal icing, or however you'd like!