- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Decorating icing
- Various food colorings *
- Special equipment: 2- to 3-inch alphabet cookie cutters**; several sealable plastic bags (not pleated)
- Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl.
- Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a standing mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 6 minutes with a handheld, then beat in egg and vanilla.
- Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
- Form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 6-inch disk.
- Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F.
- Roll out 1 piece of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into an 81/2-inch round (1/4 inch thick) on a well-floured surface with a well-floured rolling pin.
- (If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm.)
- Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with cutters and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging about 1 inch apart.
- Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely.
- Gather scraps and chill until dough is firm enough to reroll, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once) in same manner on cooled baking sheets.
- For each color (you can make up to 7), transfer 1/4 cup icing to a separate small bowl and tint with food coloring.
- Snip off 1 corner of each plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening, then spoon each color icing into a bag, pressing out excess air.
- Twist each bag firmly just above icing, then decoratively pipe (or spread) colored icing onto cookies.
- Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour, depending on humidity) before storing cookies.
- *Wilton Paste Food Coloring available at wilton.com.
- **Available at some bakeware shops and Sweet Celebrations (800-328-6722).