The Mother of All Butter Cookies (With Endless Variations)

Total Time
Prep 10 mins
Cook 11 mins

Originally published in the NYT with THE MINIMALIST; One Batter, Many Cookies, by Mark Bittman, December 16, 1998

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse once or twice. Add butter, and pulse 10 or 20 times, until butter and flour are well combined. Add vanilla and egg and pulse 3 or 4 times. Add about half the milk and pulse 2 or 3 times. Add the remaining milk a little at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition, until the dough holds together in a sticky mass.
  2. Remove the dough from the machine to one or more bowls. Make cookies as described in Step 3, or make any of the variations below.
  3. To make cookies, drop rounded teaspoons of dough (you can make the cookies larger or smaller, if you like) onto a nonstick baking sheet, a sheet lined with parchment paper or a lightly buttered sheet. If you want flat cookies, press the balls down a bit with your fingers or the back of a spatula or wooden spoon. Bake 11 minutes, or until the cookies are done as you like them. Cool on a rack, then store, if necessary, in a covered container.
  4. VARIATIONS on the flavor of these butter cookies are limitless. Here are a few suggestions:.
  5. Butterscotch cookies: Substitute brown sugar for half or more of the white sugar, or simply add 1 tablespoon of molasses along with the egg.
  6. Citrus cookies: Omit the vanilla, and add 1 tablespoon of lemon or orange juice and 2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange rind along with the egg. A couple of tablespoons of poppy seeds can also be added.
  7. Chocolate chip cookies: Stir in about 1 cup of chocolate chips. (The butterscotch variation is good with chocolate chips.).
  8. Other chunky cookies: To the finished batter, add about 1 cup of M& M's (or similar candy), roughly chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews, slivered almonds, raisins, coconut, dried cherries or cranberries. Or combine any chunky ingredients you like.
  9. Ginger cookies: Add 1 tablespoon ground dried ginger to the dry ingredients. For even better flavor, add 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger to the batter by hand (this works well in addition to or in place of the ground ginger).
  10. Spice cookies: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each ground allspice and ground ginger and 1 pinch ground cloves and mace or nutmeg to the dry ingredients.
  11. Or you can make rolled cookies by freezing the dough for 15 minutes or refrigerating it for at least 1 hour. Working half the dough at a time, roll it out on a lightly floured surface; the dough will absorb some flour at first but will soon become less sticky. Do not add more flour than necessary. Roll about 1/4 inch thick, and cut with cookie cutters; decorate as you like. Bake as above, reducing the cooking time to 8 to 10 minutes.
Most Helpful

5 5

These were really great cookies, and soft and yummy! I took it to the potluck brunch today, and several people enjoyed them. I used the chocolate chip variation but didn't use any brown sugar to substitute.