2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 T vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Powdered Sugar Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
To make the shortbread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, or grease generously with butter or cooking spray. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture slowly to the butter mixture, stirring on low speed. Stop beating as soon as the flour mixture is completely incorporated. (Overbeating will produce a tough cookie)
Form the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out. On a flat, smooth floured surface, roll the chilled dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out the cookies Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, placing them ½ inch apart. Combine the dough scraps and reroll the dough to cut out more cookies. Roll any subsequent scraps into a thick log, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes. Cut ¼ inch thick rounds of the log to make round cookies.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until light brown around the edges. Cool the cookies for 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Remove with a spatula and cool completely on racks about 5 minutes before icing.
To make icing: Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and extract. Divide the icing into parts for different colors. Use food coloring to tint. Can brush on or dip cookies face down into icing, being sure to cover the whole cookie.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temp up to 1 week or tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap for 1 month in the freezer.
Iced Sugar Cookies from Rebecca Rather’s “The Pastry Queen”