HOLIDAY SUGAR COOKIES (adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook):
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste*
1 teaspon salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
any kind of sprinkles
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down sides after each addition.
Add the vanilla extract or vanilla paste. Mix just to combine. Scrape down sides.
Whisk together flour and salt. Add flour in 4 batches to butter/sugar mixture. Scrape down between each addition. Don't overmix.
Dump out dough and split into 3 or 4 piles. Gently gather and flatten each pile into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least a few hours or up to a week. You can freeze the dough for a really long time.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove a disc from the fridge and let it soften for a few minutes. Using flour to keep the dough from sticking, roll the dough out to desired thickness (not too thin because it's nice to have a crisp outside and a less cooked center). Place parchment or a silpat on a sheet pan. Cut out shapes with cookies cutters. Place cookies on sheet pan. Decorate with nothing, a bit of sugar, or unbelievable amounts of sprinkles. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes before baking.
Bake until edges just start to get golden and the center is still uncolored, about 8-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully slide the cookies onto a cooling rack. Or just slide the parchment or silpat off the tray onto a cool surface.
*My new favorite ingredient: vanilla bean paste. One tablespoon is equivalent to an entire vanilla bean.