I won't call this recipe the best since there are so many out there, but it is MY absolute favorite and I have been using it for over 10 years. This recipe makes nice, thick, and SOFT sugar cookies -- so if you are one of those weirdos that likes thin, cripy sugar cookies, you can just take a hike.
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add sour cream and mix well again. Slowly add in your dry ingredients until combined. If your dough is too sticky, refrigerate for awhile to make it easier to handle.
The next part is very important to the quality of your cookies. Separate your dough into two balls (just to make it easier to roll out). Form into a round disk and start to roll out. DO NOT use too much flour when you roll your dough, using too much will make your cookies tough (darn gluten). You can even use powdered sugar to roll out your dough which will not make your cookies tough. Roll out your dough to 1/4" thick - No thinner! Use a ruler if necessary. Cut out your shapes however you like, being mindful to use your dough space as you're cutting wisely. You really only want to roll out your dough twice since working it and rerolling it and adding more flour will start to affect the quality of your cookie.
Your oven needs to be preheated to 350 degrees. Leave about 1-2 inches between your cookies on the sheet. Bake your cookies for FOUR minutes, rotate your pan, then bake for an additional TWO minutes (sometimes my first batch needs 3 minutes after I rotate the pan, but my oven gets a bit warmer the longer I leave it on, and 2 minutes usually does the trick). Take the cookies out even though they may not look done - they are! Do not be fooled. I pity the fool that leaves these babies in too long. Transfer your cookies immediately to a cooling rack, then use your spatula to swat your kids hands away.
Me and my kids can eat these cookies by the dozen just as they are - bare. However, if you must frost, frost with this:
1 cup softened butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbs. whole milk or whipping cream
I start beating my butter and slowly add in the powdered sugar, then vanilla, then milk. I like to warm my milk just a bit so its coldness doesn't affect my nicely softened butter. Whip that up until it is your desired consistency. Frost away.
Pictures are from valentine's day 2009 - we have yet to make these for Christmas yet, but we will, oh yes, we will.