1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter*
2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
2 tablespoons (1 3/8 ounces) light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baker's ammonia
3 1/2 cups (14 7/8 ounces)King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
*Reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream together the butter, confectioners' sugar, and corn syrup until light and fluffy. Beat in the flavoring and salt. Add the baker's ammonia to the egg and water, and stir to dissolve. Add this mixture, along with the flour, to the ingredients in the bowl, and beat until smooth. (When you first add the egg, the dough will look coagulated; but don't worry, the flour will smooth everything out.)
Divide the dough in three pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it's been chilling for 1 hour, give it about 20 to 25 minutes to warm up a bit. If it's been refrigerated overnight, let it rest at room temperature, covered, for about an hour and 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Roll the dough 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface (a silicone rolling mat works well here). Cut out shapes, and transfer to ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. This dough is very forgiving, and re-rolls nicely; so gather the scraps as many times as it takes to use them all, and keep rolling and cutting. If desired, whisk 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon water, paint the cookies with this egg wash, and sprinkle with colored sugar.
Bake the cookies just until they're slightly brown on the edges, or until they feel firm, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for several minutes, or until they're set. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Cookies may be frosted after baking, if desired. Yield: about 6 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies.
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