Cookie recipes are just about infinite, because almost anything can be shaped into a circle and baked: hence gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free “cookies.” But the basic cookie contains three key ingredients: butter, flour and sugar. That combination has not been bettered, and it can be varied in so many ways that, really, it’s the only recipe you need.
Flavor this dough (it can be doubled, tripled, etc., and refrigerated up to two days in advance or frozen for longer), then spoon it out and fill it for thumbprints, chill and roll it and frost it, turn it into “sandwiches” or press and spread it into bars. Master those options, and you can create pretty much any cookie you can dream of. Unless you’re not open to those with butter, sugar and flour.
The Basic Dough
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed.
1. Heat the oven to 375. Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and egg and beat until well blended.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add half the dry ingredients to the dough, beat for a moment, then add the milk. Beat for about 10 seconds, then add the remaining dry ingredients and a little more milk, if necessary, to make a soft dough.
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen.