Makes about 4½ dozen
After years of making my mother's sugar cookies the way she did — rolling them into balls and flattening them with a glass dipped in sugar — I completely changed the method. Here, the dough is rolled between sheets of parchment paper sprinkled with sugar, marked into rectangles, and baked. The end result is cookies that are incredibly crisp and look so professional that everyone will ask you if you bought them. The old ball-and-flatten version is easier than the new.
|1||cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature|
|1||teaspoon vanilla extract|
|1||egg, lightly beaten|
|Extra sugar (for rolling)|
1. Have on hand 3 rimless baking sheets and plenty of parchment paper.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until it is thoroughly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and salt.
3. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat in the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until it is incorporated.
4. Set a piece of parchment paper on the counter and sprinkle generously with sugar. Turn the dough out onto the paper and using your palms dipped into sugar, flatten the dough and shape it into a rough rectangle. Sprinkle the top with more sugar and set another piece of parchment on top. Roll the dough to the edges of the parchment, turning the sheets often for even rolling. Peel off the top parchment. Trim the edges of the dough and set scraps aside to reroll later. Make 7 vertical cuts and 7 horizontal cuts in the dough. Slide a baking sheet under the parchment paper; refrigerate for 30 minutes. Use more parchment paper and more sugar to reroll the scraps; score and refrigerate on the second baking sheet.
5. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line the third baking sheet with parchment paper.
6. Use a narrow metal palette knife or spatula to lift the scored rectangles one by one and transfer to the third baking sheet, setting them 1-inch apart. Sprinkle with more sugar. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes (watch carefully; thinner cookies from the edges of the dough will bake faster than thicker rectangles from the middle) or until they are lightly browned at the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Bake the remaining cookies in the same way. Store in an airtight container.