Most decorated cookies — essentially just butter cookies — suffer from one of two basic problems. Either they’re so tender that they crumble as they’re being decorated, or they’re so tough they’re barely edible. A happy medium must therefore be found, for holiday and/or special occasion cookies need to look good AND taste good. This recipe is it. The formula is:
13 ounces all-purpose flour
5 1/2 ounces superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces soft butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ounce cream cheese at room temperature
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all dry ingredients and stir them together on low. With the mixer running, add the soft butter about an ounce at a time until the dough looks moist and crumbly, about one minute. Add the vanilla and cream cheese and continue to stir another 30 seconds or so until a soft dough forms.
Remove the dough to a floured wood surface. Separate it into two pieces and pat it into disks about six inches across. Refrigerate for half an hour until it’s firmed a bit (or keep in the refrigerator up to three days). When ready, roll the dough out into a sheet just under 1/4″ thick and cut into desired shapes. If the dough is very cold you’ll need to knead it a bit until it’s pliable.
Bake shapes in a 375-degree oven for five minutes, turn and bake another five-to-seven minutes until the dough until just barely golden on the edges. Cool and decorate as desired.