cookies on holiday plates

12 Days of Cookies - Butter Dough Basics

In the whirlwind of the holiday season, where time seems to dance at an accelerated pace and to-do lists grow longer by the minute, having a reliable ally in the kitchen is a must for maintaining sanity. Enter the fundamental yet extraordinary Basic Butter Dough—a dessert staple that not only elevates your seasonal baking but, more importantly, transforms the chaos of holiday preparations into a cake-walk (pun intended). In the spirit of making life a tad bit easier during this bustling time of year, this versatile dough serves as a time-saving, stress-relieving companion, allowing you to effortlessly craft an array of delectable treats without sacrificing an ounce of festive elegance. Let this basic Butter Dough do the heavy lifting so you can spend more time enjoying the season and less time stressing. 

12 different types of cookie dough
12 different types of cookie dough

Crafting Perfection: The Butter Dough Magic

Let's begin by gathering the ingredients that will lay the groundwork for our cookie creations:

  • 18 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour (this works out to be a typical 5 pound sack)
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 12 sticks (or 48 oz) of cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt ( If you're making these cookies on their own, add one more tsp to this. Many of our mix-ins that were going to add also have salt, so if you're going to use one of the “12 days of cookies recipes”, keep it to 2)
  • 24 large egg yolks
  • 6 teaspoons vanilla extract

This is for a total of 12 servings that yield about 15 cookies each. To divide the dough equally, I used a kitchen scale. My math looked like this :

Total weight of dough = 10 lbs and 1.6 oz.

162 oz divided by 12 comes out to be 13.5.

That means each dough ball should be 13.5 oz. and you'll end up with 12 perfectly equal batches.

Of course, if your'e not concerned with that kind of precision, simply roll the butter dough into a loaf and divide in half, continue dividing each piece in half until you end up with 12 pieces.

Now that you have your 12 equal parts, roll them into neat little balls, wrap them in plastic wrap, and pop them in the freezer. They will last several months in the freezer. This butter dough recipe is great for keeping around for when you're in a pinch, or if you have ambitious plans for an extravagant Christmas cookie display. If you freeze them, make sure to transfer them to the fridge the night before, so the dough is workable the following day.

The Positives of Prep: Making Ahead for Effortless Elegance

Now, let's delve into the art of foresight, the magic of making our Butter Dough ahead of the festive rush. In the world of holiday preparation, efficiency and elegance go hand in hand.


1. Time, the Ultimate Luxury: In the midst of holiday chaos, time becomes the most precious commodity. By preparing our Butter Dough in advance, we gift ourselves the luxury of time – a rare treasure during the bustling holiday season. Imagine a serene morning, a cup of tea in hand, and the knowledge that your base dough is patiently waiting in the refrigerator, ready to transform into a myriad of cookie delights.


2. A Versatile Canvas: This Butter Dough isn't merely a means to an end; it's a canvas awaiting the stroke of culinary creativity. By preparing the base dough ahead of time, we open the door to a world of possibilities. From Pretzel and Chocolate Chip to Millionaire Bars, Miso Sesame, and beyond – each day brings a new masterpiece without the stress of starting from scratch.


3. Stress-Free Entertaining: The doorbell rings, unexpected guests arrive, and the aroma of freshly baked cookies fills the air. With our pre-made Butter Dough, you become the hostess with the mostest – effortlessly offering warm, homemade treats without breaking a sweat. Martha will be proud.


4. Freeze-and-Bake Brilliance: For those who relish the thrill of planning well in advance, consider shaping the Butter Dough into logs and stashing them in the freezer. When the moment calls for it, a simple slice-and-bake transforms your kitchen into a haven of holiday delights, leaving you with more time to revel in the joy of the season.

basic butter dough

The Art of Butter Dough: Where Simplicity Meets Splendor

It's my opinion that simplicity is never a compromise for sophistication. The Butter Dough serves as a testament to this philosophy. 

As we prepare to embark on our "12 Days of Cookies" journey, let the Butter Dough be your guiding star. A foundation of perfection, a canvas for creativity, and a time-saving ally in the holiday hustle – this culinary basic is the key to transforming your kitchen into a haven rather than a hell this season. 

Stay tuned as we delve into the 12 recipe lineup of Pretzel and Chocolate Chip, Linzer, Millionaire Bars, Miso Sesame, White Chocolate Macadamia, Cranberry Orange, Maple Pecan, Ginger Molasses, Eggnog, Checkered, Hot Chocolate Marshmallow, and Tiramisu cookies. Until then, may your Butter Dough be ever ready, and the holiday odds be in your favor. 

Basic Butter Dough

  • Prep: 15 Minutes
  • Cook: 0 Minutes
  • Total: 15 Minutes 
  • Serving: 1/12th of total dough
  • Yield: 12 Batches


  • 18 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 12 sticks (or 48 oz) of cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 24 large egg yolks
  • 6 teaspoons vanilla extract

Basic Butter Dough

Directions for Butter Dough

  • Place flour, sugar, butter, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. 
  • Separate the yolks from the whits into two bowls.
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla; with the motor running, add to the food processor. Process just until a dough forms.


  • One of the things I love about this Butter Dough is that it's very forgiving. Don't sweat it if your'e short on butter by a few tablespoons or you only have 22 eggs. You don't have to sift your flour or powdered sugar either. 
  • You can also cook the Butter Dough by itself and it'll make a great cookie. 
  • I used the left over egg whites to make meringues. Of course, if you choose to do that, make sure there is absolutely ZERO yolk in the whites. Otherwise, just cook them up in an omelette for a high protein meal. 
  • Depending on the size of your bowl, you'll most likely have to split this recipe in half, to fit it into your mixer. If that's the case, you don't have to be super exact since both halves are going to be mixed together anyway. I just eyeballed it.
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