These simple shortbread cookies are quick to make, fun to bake and a little bit addictive. They're delicious just as they are, but if you want to dip them in dark chocolate or decorate them using store-bought icing or the slightly fancier flooding method below, don't let me stop you.
cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
cups all-purpose flour*
Preheat oven to 325°F with a rack in the center.
Cut the butter into small pieces and place it in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) with the sugar. Beat on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beat to incorporate.
Add the flour and stir in gently with a spatula or wooden spoon until incorporated. Gather dough into your hands and squeeze it together until it forms a cohesive dough. Shape into a ball.
Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour and gently roll dough into a 1/4-inch thick disk. Cut into shapes using a cookie cutter. You can re-roll any scraps and use them to make a few more cookies.
Transfer cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to help cookies retain their shape in the oven.
Bake about 12 minutes, until very lightly golden.
Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Decorate if you like.
* Measure the flour using the spoon and level method. Spoon flour gently from the container into the measuring cup without tamping it down at all. Then run the back of a knife across the top of the measuring cup to level it off. This prevents those of us who bake with volumetric measurements rather than kitchen scales from adding too much flour to our recipes. I'm not a big fan of "shoulds," but I'll make an exception here. This is how you should always measure your flour unless a recipe specifically states otherwise.