25 mins, plus 2 hrs freezing and baking time
Makes:About 30 (3-inch) cookies
Butter, sugar, eggs, salt, and flour—that’s the short ingredient list for these versatile sandy-textured sugar cookies. For simple round cookies, form the dough into a log, then slice it into rounds. For shaping with cookie cutters, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick and cut it into cool designs.
Game plan: The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) and beat on medium speed until smooth and very creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt and beat on medium speed until smooth and velvety (not fluffy and airy), about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg yolks, beating until incorporated, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
3Add the flour to the bowl. Drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and make 5 (2-second) pulses on low speed to start to incorporate the flour. Remove the towel and mix on low speed just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks soft, clumpy, and moist, about 30 seconds. (If you still have some flour in the bottom of the bowl, stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to work it into the dough. The dough will not form a ball.) Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half.
4For round cookies, shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it’s easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs tightly in plastic wrap and chill them for about 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer. Slice each log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. Place the rounds 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake, rotating them halfway through the cooking time, until light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges, and pale on top, about 17 to 20 minutes. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula.
5For shaping with cookie cutters, place a ball of dough between 2 large pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Flatten the ball with your hands into a disk, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough, turning it over frequently so that the paper doesn’t cut into it, until it’s 1/8 inch thick. With the waxed paper or plastic wrap intact, transfer the dough to a baking sheet; set aside. Repeat with the second ball and place on top of the first piece. Refrigerate or freeze until the dough is very firm, about 1 hour in the refrigerator or 30 minutes in the freezer.
6Remove a round of dough from the refrigerator or freezer and place on a work surface. Remove and discard the top sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using a cookie cutter, stamp out as many shapes as possible. (Reserve the scraps in a pile to reroll later.) Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheet and space them 1 inch apart.
7Bake until the cookies are light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges, and pale on top, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula.
8Gather the scraps, press into a disk, and roll between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until firm. Repeat cutting, baking, and cooling with the remaining dough. (You can reuse the parchment.)
9If you choose, decorate the cooled cookies with royal icing.