When Nick and I got married, his mom gave me a little blue notebook, The Bell Family's All Time Favorite Christmas Cookies. The book was compiled by his mom and his sister, Cindy. Cindy typed most of the recipes on white bond paper; some of them were Xeroxed from newspaper clippings. Cindy was a professional secretary, before people started to call them "Admin Assistants", "Executive Assistants", or (I hate this one, but I can't tell you why... "Admins".)
The book has several versions of Sugar Cookies, and I like this one best.
Here's the recipe (adaptations or comments by me in italics).
Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs (Tender Crispy Favorites)
3/4 cup butter or margarine (I always use butter. Butter is better.)
1 1/2 cups sugar (I sometimes use less...this amount makes them very sweet.)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I also add 1 teaspoon almond extract to this).
3 1/4 cups sifted flour (I measure 3 cups, and then sift that right into the bowl when the time comes to add flour.)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I usually use a bit more, as I usually bake with unsalted butter,and I think this recipe was probably designed with salted butter or margarine in mind).
With electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer..and beat the heck out of the butter at this stage.) Beat in sugar and vanilla (and almond extract). Beat in eggs (I always put the baking powder and salt in before the eggs and beat the heck out of the mixture.) Gradually stir in dry ingredients (for me this is only flour...I add one sifted cup at a time, this time using the 'stir' function on the KitchenAid...no desire to get those gluten molecules kickin'! - best to keep them unspringy, so as to make for a more tender cookie.)
Chill three hours (in refrigerator, duh... I guess they felt they didn't need to tell you that...then again, sometimes when it's cold outside, I use my cold garage for cold storage...I wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap).
Roll to 1/4 inch thickness (I like them thinner). Cut with cookie cutters. Arrange 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets (No way Jose...I put mine tight as soldiers in formation. These babies don't spread when heated, so no need to put distance between them.) Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 15 minutes. (I preheat my oven, of course, and bake about 6 minutes, then switch the sheets (top to bottom) and check frequently thereafter...usually mine are done in 10 to 12 minutes because I make mine thinner. Cool on racks. Decorate with frosting. (I don't use frosting. Instead, I sprinkle colored sugar crystals on the cookies before baking. My mom always did it that way, and that is what I do too.)