Sugar cookies are very easy to make, but even more important, they are so easy to change, so you have a dozen kinds of cookie from one basic recipe. This includes lemon, orange, spice, almond, and lots of colours to make pink hearts for Valentines Day, orange pumpkins and black cats for Halloween, Green shamrocks for St Patrick's Day, and of course, tons of Christmas shapes and colours. You are only limited by your imagination - or the cookie cutters you can find.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
What you need: 2/3 cup shortening, 1 and 1/2 cups sugar; 2 eggs; 1 and 1/2 tsp salt; 2 tsp baking powder; 1 tsp vanilla - clear vanilla if you have it. (food colour is optional, depending on the season)
What you do: Cream shortening with sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla.(Add colour if using) Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add in small amounts to the sugar mix, until just blended. Over mixing makes for tough cookies. Chill dough for 30 minutes. Roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookis cutters into desired shapes. If you want to use them for decorations on the Christmas tree, use a straw to make holes in the cookies before baking.
Bake 12 - 15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.
Can be decorated with icing, and other toppings - non-pareil, sprinkles, candy dots, stars, silver balls, etc.
To adapt this for other flavours, substitute the vanilla for other flavours as below.
Lemon cookies - use 2 tsp lemon extract,add 2 tbs lemon juice, 2 Tbs lemon zest, and a few drops of yellow colouring. Roll, cut and bake as above.
Orange cookies - use orange in place of lemon extract, juice and zest, and add yellow and red colour to create the orange you like best. Bake as above.
Spice cookies - to basic recipe, use 1 tsp rum flavouring in place of vanilla, and add 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg, allspice, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Bake as above.
Almond cookies - to basic recipe, use almond flavouring in place of vanilla, add 1/2 cup slivered almonds.
Peppermint cookies - to basic recipe, use peppermint extract in place of vanilla, and colour with red or green. You can add 2 tbs of crushed candy canes, or top with crushed candy canes after baking.
Chocolate cookies - to basic recipe add 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and a little water or milk if need to make a good rolling consistancy. Bake as above.