Let me start by saying I love cookies. Growing up my mom made the best chocolate chip cookies on the first day of school each year. She did this through college and picked that habit back up when I became a teacher. She continued this tradition mostly because I would constantly remind her or "ask" her if she would be making cookies this year.
Being that it is the holiday season and the best thing to give friends and family, in my opinion, is a cookie tray. This time of year, everyone gets in the spirit if they have a good sugar cookie. I'm going to share with you my sugar cookie recipe. It is a relatively easy recipe, and it has not failed me yet, even with the most ornate shaped cookie cutters.
The key to most sugar cookie recipes is to chill the dough, but this is a pain. I mean, come on, you have to chill the dough for 30 minutes. Once the dough has chilled, it is too hard to roll out, so you have to wait 30 more minutes to roll it out. For this reason, my recipe does not call for chilling the dough before you roll it out.
In my recipe, you will prepare the dough then roll it out to about 1/4 thick. Next, cut the dough into your shapes and chill the cookies before baking them. Sugar cookies should never be, rolled out, thinner than a 1/4 inch thick. If you roll them out thicker, you will have a beautiful cookie; that is crisp on the edges and just the right amount of soft in the middle. Be sure to bake the cookies all the way through. There is a difference between soft and raw in the middle.
Sugar cookies have a higher sugar content, so they tend to brown, which will infuse a beautiful flavor but can quickly turn to burnt. I believe a sugar cookie, should be baked between 325 degrees and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I like my sugar cookies less crispy, so I bake them at a lower temperature for a few more minutes.
Once your cookies are baked and completely cooled, it is time to start decorating them. Typically sugar cookies are decorated with royal icing. Which, can be made by using convenience products like a royal icing mix or the semi-homemade version using meringue powder and powdered sugar. It can also be made pretty easily, with egg whites and powdered sugar.
This cookie is extra sweet. So, I like to replace the vanilla extract that is traditionally used with lemon or peppermint. This gives a nice contrast to the intense sweetness of the cookie and icing. The great thing about sugar cookies is they are a blank slate that allows for creativity to flourish.
Yields about 12 cookies depending on the cutter.
½ cup butter
½ cup of sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups flour
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Beat in egg and extracts. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time. Mixing after each addition.
Divide dough into 2 pieces. On a floured surface, roll each piece into a circle approximately 1/4 inch thick.
Dip cookie cutter in flour before each use. Cut using the desired shape, minimize reusing the dough by cutting shapes close together.
Place cut cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Bake cookies on the same sheet pan at 350 for 8-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on the bottom.
*Tip: use a spatula to lift the cookies and check the color of the bottom of the cookie, once it is evenly browned, your cookies should be done. Sugar cookie bake times vary, based on the size and shape of the cookies. Time frames in this post are my best guess on average.
Chef Amanda Rose has been working in the culinary arts industry for over 10 years. She has a passion for this business and now includes teaching in her culinary tool box.