There are many things I love: my parents, my boyfriend, my grandma, my wonderful friends, Kitten (my cat), sunshine, writing, Audrey Hepburn movies, high-heeled shoes, Michael Bublé’s singing voice, the Food Network, water, Scrabble, Betsey Johnson, hippos, peanut butter, CNN, the LA Times, San Francisco, sleep, chocolate chip cookies (obviously), modern art…
…the list goes on and on, but you know what is not included in this lengthy list? Sugar cookies. Yep, that’s right. I said it. I am not a fan, and never have been, really. I suppose I’ve just never had one that really knocked my socks off. Yes, they’re adorable if you cut them into shapes and frost them accordingly. Yes, they’re just about as universal as chocolate chip. But when I look at sugar cookies, I see a mess of flour, and a hilariously awful image of me rolling out the dough, but not quite quick enough so it starts to get sticky, attaching itself to my hands, face, arms, shirt, pants, the floor, and possibly even the ceiling after I throw my hands up in surrender. In addition to that, I am not quite the artist I wish I was. Frosting cookies is hard! *sigh*
Guess whose boyfriend wanted sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day?
When he mentioned sugar cookies, his eyes lit up like a little boy’s on Christmas morning. How could I say no? So I sucked it up, agreed to take on the challenge, and hit the books. This little baker doesn’t give up!
One of the best things about sugar cookies is all the ingredients are usually sitting my pantry, which means that the recipe is super easy. Can’t go wrong with that, right? I considered making the recipe that usually seems to go over pretty well with my cookie consumers, but I wanted to try something different. I wanted a softer cookie. So I found this recipe and voila! It is exactly what I was looking for. They are pretty darn good too, if I do say so myself. If you don’t believe me, ask my boyfriend and his friend who ate the majority of them.
Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies
(recipe from Baking Illustrated)
I omitted step 3 entirely because I made cut-outs and frosted them. But in the future, I will probably try step 3, so I kept it in there. I added instructions for making cut-outs at the end of the recipe.
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar, plus ½ cup for rolling dough
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
I made two batches of this recipe. For the sake of experimentation, I added 1 1/2 tsp of lime juice to the second batch just to see if it would add a little ‘something’ that would make me like the cookie more. I will definitely do that again.
1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Cream the butter, the 1 cup granulated sugar, and the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.
3. Place the ½ cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip your hands in the water and shake off any excess (this will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that the sugar sticks to the dough). Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a 1½-inch ball between moistened palms, roll the ball in the sugar, and then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, moistening your hands as necessary and spacing the balls about 2 inches apart (you should be able to fit 12 cookies on each sheet). Butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in the remaining sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ¾ inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking (after every 2 or 3 cookies).
4. Bake until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and their center are just set and very lightly colored, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 3 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
For cookie cut-outs:
– Complete steps 1 & 2
– Shape the dough into a compressed disk. Refrigerate for at least one hour. I recommend more, it’s easier to roll out later.
– Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit in room temperature for about 5 minutes.
– Flour the counter, dough, and rolling pin. You will regret it if you miss this step!
– Place dough on floured counter and begin to roll the dough to 1/4″ thickness.
– Flour the cookie cutter(s) and start cutting! Place on the baking sheet with parchment paper, and put in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
– Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the edges are slightly brown. If you are baking two sheets at a time, rotate the sheets half way through baking time. You really don’t want to over-bake these; they won’t be soft! However if you prefer a harder cookie, leave them in the oven for another minute or so. Remember, these are sugar cookies, so they don’t have much color. Just because they don’t look done, doesn’t mean they aren’t done.
– Cool on wire rack, if you so desire. I usually transfer mine to a wire rack after I let them cool on either a paper towel, cutting board, or any other flat surface that doesn’t let the air circulate the cookie. For me, this usually ensures a softer cookie in the end.
If it was up to me, it would be time to eat. But since it’s up to everyone else when it comes to this cookie, there are a few more steps to complete. It’s time to make the frosting! Don’t worry, royal icing is just about the easiest frosting in the world, seriously.
2 large egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice (I didn’t have lemon, so I used lime)
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
With an electric mixer, blend the egg whites and juice until well combined. Blend in the powdered sugar. You’ll know it’s done when you drizzle the icing and it takes a few seconds to sink into itself.
Want to color the icing? No problem! Just stir in icing coloring until it’s even. I use Wilton’s Icing Colors, which I highly recommend. There are a ton of colors to choose from, and they give the best color I could ever ask for. Just remember that a little bit goes a long way with this stuff! Also, try not to get it on yourself – it will stain not only your clothes, but your skin too. (…this didn’t happen to me or anything…*ahem*)
That’s it! But let ye be warned: this icing gets hard fairly quickly, so if you’re not frosting your cookies right away, put the icing in an airtight container.
I can’t give you tips on how to decorate the cookies, because it’s really up to you! So switch on your creative juices and go for it!
I think the sugar cookie and I have reconciled our relationship. 😉