1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for the work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
Green and red colored sugar
Green and red hard candies
Green and red gumdrops, cut into tiny pieces
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar for two minutes or until creamy with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.
In a large sifter, measure the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Sift this over the egg mixture and beat on medium speed until a soft dough forms. If the dough seems a little sticky, beat in two to three additional tablespoons of flour. Scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl and form it into two balls. Cover and chill for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to use it. Knead briefly on a floured work surface. When the dough is fairly pliable, roll it out with a floured rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thickness.
Cut out cookies using a tree-shaped cookie cutter. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the baking sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with red and green colored sugar.
Bake the cookies for eight to 10 minutes, rotating the pan once, or until the bottoms of the cookies are golden and the tops are barely firm. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.
9. Continue rolling, cutting out, and baking cookies until all the dough is used.
For variation, frost the cookies with a plain vanilla icing and sprinkle colored sugar on top of the icing.
For a slightly different taste, substitute almond or lemon extract for the vanilla extract.
For thumbprint cookies, roll the dough into 1-inch balls, place on baking sheets and make an indentation in each cookie with your thumb or the bowl of a spoon. Fill with a dab of your favorite jam, and bake for about 6 to 8 minutes.
For chocolate kiss gems, roll the dough into balls as for thumb print cookies, place on the baking sheets, and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately place a chocolate kiss in the center of each.
You can make this dough up to four days ahead and refrigerate it. Let it sit out at room temperature for about one hour before beginning to roll out. The dough may also be frozen for up to two months. Thaw frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight.
These cookies will keep for a week in a tightly covered tin at room temperature.
1 hour and 40 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Baking Time: 20 minutes