There are basically two kinds of sugar cookies - Old-fashioned sugar cookies and rolled sugar cookies. Most modern rolled "sugar cookies" are actually a butter cookie, not the kind of sugar cookies our grandmothers made. But if I am decorating a bunch of cookies (and especially if I am shipping them), I prefer a more modern butter cookie recipe - it is sturdier, and I like the butter taste.
Old-fashioned sugar cookies, on the other hand, are a softer, less sweet cookie. This dough, which lacks an assertive butter flavor, is more versatile than a butter cookie. You can still roll it and cut it into shapes, but you can also use it as the base for any number of other cookies. Here is my personal recipe, which was my great-grandmother's: Old-fashioned sugar cookies
Here are some of the different things I do with old-fashioned sugar cookie dough:
Rainbow Sugar Cookies:
Roll dough into balls and roll in sprinkles. Bake as usual.
OR, cut into circles, brush with water and sprinkle with colored sugars:
Almond Tea Cookies:
roll and cut into circles. Bake and then top with an almond milk glaze (1 Cup confectioner's sugar, 1 Tbsp milk, 1/4 tsp almond extract) and sprinkle crushed
almonds on top:
Roll dough and cut into circles. Cut a smaller "window" circle in half of the cookies. Bake and then sandwich two cookies together with seedless raspberry or apricot jam inside:
Decorated Rolled Cutouts:
Roll dough out and cut into shapes. Bake as directed and decorate with royal icing or glace icing.
Soft Tea Cookies:
Bake as a drop cookie and dust with powdered sugar. Note: I also like to add 1/2 tsp almond or anise extract to the dough for a nice flavor if I am making tea cookies.