You can’t really improve on the sugar cookie…
Trust me, I’ve had plenty. As someone who loves sweets, and dislikes most chocolate, I’ve tried my fair share of sugar cookies. I scoured the internet, cookbooks from the last 35 years, and family recipes to perfect my sugar cookie game. It all came back to the basic recipe.
I live in a house of sweets-lovers; if things aren’t made from scratch, we more-than-likely know the best place in town to procure them in-a-pinch. That’s why I stuck to a classic recipe. You’ll find this recipe all over, in various forms. Give or take a teaspoon here, plus or minus half a cup of one thing or the other… it’s out there. If you find a new innovation in sugar cookies, let me know.
I’ve found, through trial and error, the best way to secure a delightful version relies in the bake time. Yes… again, timing is everything. Just like the real brownies recipe I created, patience and timing make the difference. You have to mix then wait to cool, bake then wait to cool again. They are delicious as is, but as a cherry on top, you can make a warm icing, in batches so it doesn’t harden before you can finish, to ice these sugar cookies. It’s a labour of love, but you’ll be loved to the utmost for sharing.
Sugar Cookie Dough:
Makes 30-40 1 1/4″ cookies.
- 3 cups of cake flour*
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
- Another 1 – 1 1/2 cups of cake flour for thickening and rolling
*You can make an almost identical cookie with 2 3/4 – 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Most recipes call for all-purpose, but I default to cake flour as it’s always light and airy when baked. If you see a recipe that calls for all-purpose and you substitute cake flour, you’ll need to up your amount just a tad. Always start with the smaller amount because you can always add more; it gets tricky trying to add wet ingredients.
In a mixer bowl, whisk 3 cups of flour, baking soda, and baking powder together. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter to blend until the mixtures is in small, clumps and pieces, then scoop into a KitchenAid Mixer bowl.
In a separate bowl beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla until mixed. With the mixer on low, slowly pour into the dry mixture. On medium speed, mix until all wet and dry ingredients are combined. It should look and feel like slightly tacky play-dough. If you can put your finger in without any sticking, you’re good to go. If not, this is where the extra flour comes in handy. Add a tablespoon at a time until you can use your hands to form dough into a ball. Once it’s the right texture, cover in plastic wrap, and pop into the fridge for 30-40 minutes.
Wait. Really, wait. If you need something to do, clean off a large space of counter, and lay out a sheet of wax paper. Take some flour and sprinkle on the surface and spread it into a fine coat. You’ll roll out on this, and save on clean-up later. In the last 5-10 minutes, preheat the oven to 375°.
Once your dough is stiff and cold, grab a handful sized hunk and leave the rest in the fridge. Roll the dough to roughly 1/4″ thick, and cut into with a round cutter. Mine stuck in the cutter long enough to move onto a parchment lined baking sheet where I pushed it out with a fingertip. I spaced them roughly 1/4-1/2″ apart, because they didn’t grown much. continue until your batter is gone or your sheet is full. I had a TON of leftover batter by the time the first sheet was filled, so prepare to make these in batches.
Pop the tray into the oven for 5-7 minutes. Too long, and they’ll brown and harden too much when cool. This can vary by your oven, so keep an eye on them. Most people say until the bottoms are brown, but I disagree… If they look like puffier, same color versions of when you put them in, they’re good. This is the ultimate test to get good cookie texture. They’re still soft when you bite into them, but also firm and cakey.
Take the cookie tray out of the oven, then slide the parchment paper with cookies onto a cooling rack, while you get the next batch ready. Repeat the same process as before. When you get the next batch in the oven, you should be able to take the first batch off the rack and set aside for icing later. Once all your cookies are baked and cooled, you can either take a break or move on to the icing process. If you wait too long, someone might eat what you’ve already made.
Here comes the fun part…
If you’re generous, you’ll want to double this recipe.
- 3 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp of corn syrup
- 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp of Himalayan pink salt
- 1-2 tbsp hot water
- 1 vanilla bean pod scraping*
Heat butter and water in a saucepan on low heat until all the butter is melted. In a glass bowl, put in all other ingredients, and make a well for the butter/water mix. Pour in the liquid, and with a hand mixer, work until smooth. It should still be warm when you’re done. Using a small icing spatula or a butter knife, ice away, friends! Be quick about it… I used a small tablespoons worth of icing per cookie, quickly moving from one to the next until the icing started to stiffen. If it starts to pull up with the knife and away from the cookie, it’s getting too hard. Instead of adding more water, put your bowl of icing into the oven on warm for 5-10 minutes, then take out and stir vigorously before continuing to ice the rest of the cookies.
Once they’re iced, set them out on the cooling rack or another sheet of parchment paper for at least an hour. The icing should be hard to the touch when you’re ready to store them… that is, if they make it that long. When they’ve sat long enough, you should be able to stack them without any sticking or smudging the icing.
This recipe makes plenty for sharing… and you can always forego the icing and dust with powdered sugar, or many other things. I’ve heard of people adding lemon zest to their dough, and that might be perfection, but my household loves these as is. Feel free to get creative with your cookie cutters and frosting. I always feel that simplicity compliments a good recipe. This is one of those classics that can stand on it’s own.