Butter cookies

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Why You May Want to Ditch Your Bulging Folder Full of Recipes
The holidays are stressful enough, so make things easy by appointing this the season of one basic butter-cookie dough. Then, you can customize it based on the occasion, whether you're going to a bake sale or cookie exchange, throwing a dinner party or just having a late-night craving for a little something sweet. This brilliant recipe calls for just five ingredients: salted butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and flour. No matter how you shape them or upgrade them with flavors, they're wonderfully buttery, crispy, light and rich.

Get the recipe: Holiday Butter Cookies

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Inject It with Flavor
Keep the same format, pressing each cookie with the bottom of a decorative glass, but step up the taste with one of these tweaks to the dough:

Almond: Decrease the vanilla to 1 tsp., and add 1 tsp. of almond extract

Cinnamon: Add 1 tsp. of cinnamon

Citrus: Add 2 tsp. of finely grated lemon or orange zest
Holiday cookies

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Roll It Up
The basic dough is a bit crumbly, so if you aren't up for forming it into circles, as the original recipe instructs, take the lazy (but no less delicious) way out, and turn it into a slice-and-bake cookie. Form the dough into a log, using plastic wrap or wax paper to help round it into a cylinder. Refrigerate for a half hour, then unwrap and brush the outside with egg yolk thinned with a teaspoon, or so, of water. Roll the dough in coconut or sanding sugar and slice it into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Bake as usual. (You can also store the rolled dough in the freezer and slice off rounds as you want them, baking slightly longer.)
Jam thumbprint cookies

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Use Your Thumbs
Jam-thumbprint cookies never go out of style, and they're ridiculously easy to make. Spoon off teaspoon-sized chunks of dough, roll each into a ball with your hands and set them on the baking sheet. Press each one with your palm to flatten it lightly, then make an indentation with your thumb. Fill with any kind of jam (hint: a small amount goes a long way), or a variety of jams for a rainbow-like array of cookies.
Iced cookies

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Cover It with Icing
A little frosting can hide a multitude of sins (or cracks, or slightly burnt edges). Instead of stamping each cookie with the bottom of a glass, bake them plain. When they're cool, mix 1 cup of confectioners' sugar with 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (start with one, and add more if you want a thinner glaze). Drizzle the icing over the cookies, topping with a sprinkling of sanding sugar for extra shimmer, if you'd like.