- 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3 teaspoons vanilla paste
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 4 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Confectioners' sugar
- For Quick Buttercream Frosting
- 1 pound (box) confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 cup, plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 1/3 cup (2/3 stick) unsalted butter, softened
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and lemon zest.
Sift in flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir to blend.
Roll the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk 1-inch thick. Cut into 4 pieces. Chill the dough between sheets of parchment paper for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight. Allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out. (Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a log before chilling. When ready to bake, slice the log into 1/2" discs.)
Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F. Line anodized baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a surface sprinkled with confectioners' sugar, roll the dough out a 1/2-inch thick and cut with cookie cutters. Pull away the excess dough from around the cookies. Gently re-roll the dough scraps and cut out more shapes. (Take care to not over-handle the dough or the cookies will get brittle.)
As the cookies are cut, transfer them to prepared baking sheets and space them 1 inch apart. If the kitchen is unusually warm, work in batches: keep all unused dough in the refrigerator and chill cut dough on baking sheets before putting them in the oven.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, just until the centers mound and the edges turn light golden brown. Remove the sheets from the oven and cool for 3 minutes before moving the cookies to wire racks.
Bake one batch at a time and cool baking sheets completely before transfering the next batch of dough onto them.
After the cookies have cooled, have guests decorate them with buttercream frosting, sprinkles, nuts, etc. Let cookies rest until frosting hardens, approximately 4 hours. (Cookies can be prepared 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, in single layers between parchment.)
Quick Buttercream Frosting
Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer or with heavy spoon until smooth and creamy; scrape bowl often. (If frosting is too stiff to spread easily, beat in a few driops of milk. If too thin, add confectioners' sugar.)