I found a delicious, relatively cooperative cookie dough recipe. This dough doesn't spread too much, is made from everyday ingredients and is tasty.
Many recipes for "pretty" and "highly decorated" cookies are made with shortening. I veer away from shortening, unless it is absolutely necessary (like on wedding cake flowers, etc). I don't like using hydrogenated oils. The strength to shortening -if you can call it that- is that because it isn't a dairy product, it doesn't need to be kept refrigerated. It maintains it shape as it has a higher melting point and it stays where you put it.
This is evidenced by the fact that when I use pastry bags with shortening buttercream, I have to designate them for that purpose only. The shortening never truly washes out and can't be used for royal icings or meringues. Also, have you ever tried to clean a bowl with shortening in it? The shortening has a mind of its own and doesn't want to leave, unless you use hot, hot water, detergent and lots of both!
So, I was happy to find this recipe from the book "Cookie Craft". This is a recipe for rolled sugar cookies. It is tasty, easy to make and fairly easy to roll and cut.
I learned to make the dough, form it into discs about 1/2" thick and refrigerated them between sheets of waxed paper.
Then, when cutting them with cookie cutters, take out a disc at a time, let it "soften" for less than 3 minutes, roll to the proper depth and cut with cutters. Remove the cookie, re-rolling the scraps and then chill the scraps again, immediately.
If the dough softens, it tears and doesn't cooperate.
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Whisk together flour and salt and set aside.
In a bowl beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment.
Add egg and vanilla. Then work the flour into the dough.
Divide dough into 2 or 3 portions and pat into discs.
Place each disc between sheets of wax paper and refrigerate.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350.
Take out one disc and roll, cut out cookies and place on parchment lined paper.
Bake for 9 - 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie.
Cool the cookies for 1 min on the sheet and then immediately remove from sheet onto cooling rack. Allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.