1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. (No mention of a sifter here.)
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the beaten egg and vanilla mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour (or overnight) or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter. Cut out shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shapes while baking.
Note: if you are not going to frost the baked cookies, you may want to sprinkle the unbaked cookies with colored crystal or sparkling sugar.
Bake cookies for about 8-10 (depending on size) or until they are just beginning to brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Frost with royal icing and sparkling sugar, if desired. Be sure to let the royal icing dry completely before storing. (This may take several hours.)
Frosted cookies will keep several days in an airtight container. Store between layers of parchment paper or wax paper.
Makes about 20 - 3 inch cookies.
For Royal Icing with Egg Whites:
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
Thanks to Joy of Bakinghttp://www.joyofbaking.com/ValentinesSugarCookie.html