1 Mix the butter with sugar: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, place the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon zest, baking powder, and kosher salt in the bowl. Cream at low speed until the butter starts to become pliable, then increase speed to medium. Mix until a paste forms that sticks to the side of the bowl, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
Add the cream cheese and beat until incorporated. Repeat with the egg, scraping down the bowl between additions. Don’t worry if the batter looks broken or “curdled” after adding the egg. It will come together with the flour.
2 Add the flour: Add 1 cup of the flour and mix on low speed until absorbed. Repeat two more times, adding 1 cup of flour each time.
3 Roll the dough out: Divide the dough in half. Place half the dough on a large piece of parchment paper (do not flour the paper). Press down with the palm of your hands to form a disk. Place another piece of parchment paper over the dough. Begin rolling the dough out gradually with a rolling pin.
As you roll the dough, flip the parchment papers with the dough sandwiched between them to create an even layer. If you find the paper starts to “wrinkle” just peel back the paper and then lay it back down, smoothing it out with your hands. Continue to roll and flipping the dough, until the dough is 1/4-inch thick.
Repeat with the second half of the dough.
4 Chill the dough: Stack the thin sheets of dough, still sandwiched in parchment paper, on top of each other, then place on a baking sheet. Move to the freezer and chill for 15 minutes or until the dough is cool and firm to the touch. Alternatively, let the dough chill in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight.
5 Prepare the baking sheets and pre-heat the oven: While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
6 Cut out the cookies: Once the dough has chilled and firmed up, transfer one of the dough sheets to your counter. Gently peel away the top layer of parchment paper.
Place 1/4 cup all-purpose flour in a shallow bowl or pan. Dip the cookie cutter in the flour, then firmly cut out cookies (plastic cookie cutters may be stickier than metal ones). Repeat, cutting out cookies until you can’t fit any more onto the sheet. Flip the entire sheet over and peel away the “edge scraps” of the dough. Gently move the cookies to the prepared baking sheet, leaving about one inch around each cookie.
Gather all the scraps together and press to form a disk. Roll the scraps out between the parchment paper (you can reuse the same paper). Move to the refrigerator or freezer and chill as you repeat the process on the second sheet of chilled dough. This will allow the scraps to cool down and firm up.
Repeat with cutting cookies for the second sheet of dough, then refrigerate the rolled out scraps. Repeat until you’ve used up as much cookie dough as you can. (Note: If you only have one baking sheet, only cut out as many cookies as will fill one baking sheet, then chill the remaining dough until you’re ready for the next batch.)
7 Bake the cookies: Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar (if using), then bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size, shape, and thickness of the cookie. Watch the cookies starting at 8 minutes. Once the edges of the cookies start to turn brown, that’s when the cookies are done. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack.
If desired, frost or ice the cookies once they are completely cool.
8 Store: If frosted, wait until the frosting or icing is completely dry before storing. Store in an airtight container at room temperature between sheets of parchment or wax paper for up to 5 days.