For my family, sugar cookies in all the familiar shapes are a must. We love them as is, but a simple powdered sugar frosting tinted in Christmas colors is often added. This year I will be frosting some because our little Ella loves frosting.
Cut butter into flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt with a pastry cutter until the butter is well incorporated and has a crumbly texture as if making a pie crust. Mix together the sugar, eggs and vanilla and add to the flour mixture. Mix until it is a smooth, thick batter. A paddle attachment on your mixer is best. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
Work with half of the dough at a time. Roll out on a floured bread board to about a 1/8" thickness. Cut out shapes and transfer carefully to a non-greased cookie sheet. My preference is to use parchment paper on the baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for about 8-10 minutes. Edges should be slightly golden. Makes about 48 cookies, depending upon size of cutout shapes.
Baking hints... if using a dark coated cookie sheet, reduce the oven temperature to 325°. The darker surface absorbs more heat and cookies bake faster and burn easily. Let cookies cool before removing from cooking sheet. This helps the cookies bake through and retain their delicate shape. Cool pans completely between batches to keep the baking time accurate. If you frost the cookies, they must be completely cool. If you make ahead of time and freeze, frost just before serving. These kind of cookies take a little more attention than others, but so worth it and possibly the reason they are so special for the holidays.