1½ cups butter (do not use margarine)
½ cup granulated sugar
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4 cups all-purpose flour
1 package (12 ounces) white or semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
Use a stand mixer to mix butter and sugar thoroughly. Add flour and mix on low to medium speed or work in flour by hand. Mix only until dough forms a ball. Do not overwork. Dough will feel dry similar to pie dough but will be fine after chilling. Chill several hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll dough 1/3- to ½-inch thick. Cut into small shapes (this is a tender cookie, large cutouts tend to crack). Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes. Edges may brown slightly, tops should not brown. Cool on newspaper or racks. Decorate when cool or store in an airtight containers.
To decorate: Combine chocolate chips and shortening and melt in a microwave at medium heat for 2 minutes. Stir and continue to melt in 30 second increments if necessary. With a 1-inch pastry brush, paint half the cookie lengthwise with melted chocolate. Immediately sprinkle with seasonal decors or colored sugar. Let dry. Store up to one month in an airtight container or cookie tin.
Makes 4 dozen cookies.
Cooks note: Never add water to melted chocolate. Water causes chocolate to harden. If chocolate thickens, melt again in the microwave for 30 second increments, adding a small amount of shortening if needed.