You know when you see a sunset so smackingly gorgeous you can help smiling? Or the smell of summer flowers that takes you to three different places–or just the exact right one–in a single exhale? The ticklefest with a toddler that turns into an exhausted bear hug? The combination of spicy basil, acidic tomato and rich, luscious mozzarella with a dash of earthy balsamic vinegar? I don’t believe in perfect partners or jobs or books. My idea of perfection is just a moment that lives larger than itself. It’s a kind of perfection that’s fleeting and immeasurable.
Cue segue to butter.
These cookies with a cup of tea and rain sluicing down the windows, or late afternoon sun hitting your shoulders–these cookies are a moment. Simple, crisp, buttery and nostalgic.
They’re also my go-to for cutting out shapes for any occasion–Easter, birthdays, Halloween, Christmas–you can dress them in all manner of icing and decorations and they can be baked slightly soft or golden and crispy. A doubled batch of dough keeps in the freezer for weeks, probably months, which is the way I like to do it because going from dough to baked cookies is so much better than starting from scratch.
These come from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, by way of another cookbook, The Family Baker, with a few tweaks from me.
Butter Roll-Out Cookies
175g unsalted butter, softened
180g white sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
300g white flour
100g whole wheat flour (pastry flour if you have it)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together in a standmixer until light and getting fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix slowly. You can add a few tablespoons of flour if it looks too sticky to be rolled out, but be careful because adding too much makes the cookies tough. Anyway, after it’s chilled in the fridge, the dough will be easier to handle. Form the dough into two portions and flatten into round discs, wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. Put them in the fridge for 45 minutes or the freezer for about 20.
When ready to roll out, sprinkle the counter with flour and take out one disc of dough. Lightly coat it with flour and roll out to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. These don’t spread very much, so they can get a little friendly on the sheet.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until they’re getting golden on the edges. Cool on a rack.
1 tbsp butter, very soft
3 tbsp milk, plus a little more in reserve
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
Cream softened butter in the bottom of a bowl with a wooden spoon (or in a standmixer if you like) until smooth. Add a little milk to thin, then vanilla, then 3/4 cup of icing sugar. Blend with a flexible spatula or your tool of choice until combined and smooth, then add a little more milk, then more icing sugar and so on, until you get the consistency and quantity you want. For piping onto cookies (I use a squeeze bottle–so much easier than a bag!), you want the icing to be just barely pourable; when dropped from the spatula into the bowl, it should ribbon slowly and keep its shape for a few seconds before sinking into the rest of the icing. Test the consistency on a cookie so you can adjust the thickness if need be.
Ice cookies as desired. Give most of them away.