Hey guys! Today I’m back with another post in my serious of – Let’s talk about – baking basics, sugar cookies! Which just so happens to be my fav cookie. Not only are sugar cookies my favorite on the yumminess scale, I really have fun making them. They are so popular this time of year, so I thought this would be a good time to share.
I’ve spent the past few years experimenting with my process and getting them just right. I know I’m not alone here because sugar cookies are always at the very top of my most asked questions, everybody wants to know how I get them to keep their shape, and how they are so soft and light in color. The answer is a routine of little tricks, and a great sugar cookie recipe! Once you’ve got it down, it doesn’t take much extra time, and it’s not hard at all. It’s just a matter of combining a great cookie dough with a few special steps and attention to detail. Of course there are lot’s of different variations of how to get great sugar cookies, this is just how I do of course. Alright now let’s get rolling…(cheesy pun intended). ;)
First we’ll start with a great recipe. I’ve tried a lot of rolled sugar cookie recipes. And I use a few different depending on what I am doing…but my all time favorite rolled sugar cookie recipe is from Glorious treats found here. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and light, rolls perfectly, bakes nicely, stays soft, freezes well, decorates great,…and of course it’s pretty easy!
**UPDATE! While I’ve gotten many many successful comments from these cookies, I’ve received a handful of comments stating their cookie dough was super dry or crumbly. No bueno! I have made these cookies for years, in multiple states, and dozens of ovens…without a single problem so I was a little puzzled! So I did a little playing around to see what could be the problem. I believe the biggest culprit is properly measuring flour! Technically speaking, flour should be “scooped” into a measuring cup with a spoon and then leveled off. I have found however, many bakers are packing it in or using the cup to scoop out the flour getting far more flour then is needed. It really can make a BIG difference!**
Here’s what you will need:
3 cups flour (do not firmly pack)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I use clear)
**I GENERALLY AM ABLE TO MAKE 18-24 COOKIES PER BATCH OF DOUGH. HOWEVER, THIS VARIES WITH EACH PERSON DEPENDING ON THE THICKNESS OF DOUGH THEY USED AND THE SIZE OF THE CUTTER**
**THIS RECIPE WORKS BEST MADE IN A KITCHEN MIXER, BUT CAN BE MADE WITHOUT**
About a half hour before I pull out my butter and egg and let them sit on the counter. You don’t want to over soften your butter. If you forget do not stick it in the microwave. Just chop it up in several little pieces before starting…because I tend to not plan my baking, I do this a lot :).
Step 1: In a separate mixing bowl whisk together flour and baking powder.
Step 2: In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, beat together unsalted butter and sugar. Once mixed well, add in egg. Mix again, then add in vanilla. I like to use my Kitchen aid and paddle.
Step 3: Slowly add in flour mixture about a cup at a time. Mix until dough forms and begins to clump together. If your dough is still crumbly, keep mixing! My dough starts out crumbly and then comes together to form a really nice dough!
Step 4: Gather up dough and knead it with hands until it’s nice and smooth (if needed). Roll it into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and place in fridge to chill. I like to let min chill about 20 minutes. You will want it to be kind of firm but not hard. If it’s too hard…just leave it out on the counter for just a little bit until it softens up. Then you can work it a little bit to soften it back up. Even if it’s rock hard it will come back to a nice workable dough – you can speed up the process by breaking it in two and kneading it until it gets softer.
Now that you have your dough it’s time for the fun part!
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 and line a large cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper. Another option is to use the silicone baking mats made especially for treats like this! I personally have had them on my list forever, but just haven’t baked with them yet! Many bakers I know swear by theirs…but parchment paper will do the trick. Maybe santa will bring me some this year ;). **update- I santa did bring me one! I do use it and it works great, but since I only have one I also rely on my good old parchment paper!**
Step 2: Roll out the dough. I like to do so in between a lightly flour dusted sheet of parchment paper (on bottom) and wax paper (on top). You can use two sheet of wax paper or parchment paper if you would like. The purpose of the papers is it keeps the dough very smooth, leaving no marks from the rolling pin. The reason why I use one of each is I like the flexibility of the wax paper on top and I like the parchment paper on bottom because it’s heavier and if I am cutting a difficult shape I can bake right on the paper that it was cut on after removing excess dough.
The other thing you will notice is my rolling pin. I adore this rolling pin. The spacers allow my dough to roll perfectly even, and there are three different thicknesses to chose from. Before I bought this rolling pin however, I simply laid two dowel rods on each side of the dough and rolled the rolling pin over them to make a guide, cheap and works like a charm. If I want a thick cookies (like these) I use the 3/8 guide (or dowel rods) or for a bit thinner cookie I use the 1/4 guide (or dowel rods).
Just one more thing. The wax paper can wrinkle and leave marks on the dough. When I first lay my ball of dough down I use my hands and push it flat just a bit, then lay my wax paper over, so my rolling pin can then roll it out smooth. Whew…did you catch all that?
Step 3: Cut out cookies. Once my dough is rolled out I use my cookie cutters to cut out the shapes. If the cookies are sticking in the cutter you can lightly dust it with flour to help. For the most part the cookies will stay right in the dough where you cut them. Once your done cutting all the cookies, tear away the excess dough. Then you can gently lift the cookies by pulling up the edge of the parchment paper and gently transferring the cookie from the paper to your lined baking sheet with my hand. Another way of doing this is simply cutting the shapes out where they will need to be to bake, then remove the dough and bake right on the sheet. This keeps the cookies from stretching at all BUT it limits the amount of dough you can use the first round. And the less times a dough has been rolled the better. So unless I’m cutting a really delicate cookie, I just carefully transfer them.
Step 4: Once cut out and laid on a cookie sheet place the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 2-4 minutes depending on the size. This really helps the cookies keep their shape. Once they have chilled for a few pop them in the oven. Baking times really really depend on size of cookie. These cookies were about 2.5 inches and baked perfectly at 7 minutes. Simply turn your oven light on and start the timer for six minutes. Check them then and add a minute or two as needed. I like my cookies to be really soft so I pull them about just when I notice the very the “moist” look of the dough is gone on top or if I notice any bit of golden on the bottom. I am a burn-a-phob so I like to pull them out when they are just baked.
Step 5: After removing them from the oven I let them sit on the warm pan for a minute or two. This gives them a minute to firm up and bakes just a bit more…which helps since I pull them out so soon! Then I carefully grab the edges of the parchment paper and slide them off, parchment paper and all, onto wire cooling racks. It helps SO much to pull them off still on the parchment paper. Using a spatula often squishes them, or even breaks them.
Step 6: Once the cookies are cool I use a spatula and gently stack them as I bake more.
Once you’ve got this process down it won’t seem complicated at all. Those extra steps are completely routine for me now. It’s important to get a “grove” down if your baking lots and lots of them. This past week I baked over 12 dozen sugar cookies. When doing this many I bake while the kiddos are sleeping of course and I find a rhythm. When the timer on the oven hits 2 minutes I would pop the next tray of cookies in the freezer. Then when the time went off I would pull the baked cookies out, let them sit on the stove a minute to firm up, pull the cookies out of the freezer, place them in the over, reset the timer, arrange the previously cooled cookies on the cooling rack to make more room, pull the hot cookies off the pan and onto the cooling rack…..then I would go back to rolling out cookies and placing them on cookie sheets. Until the timer hit 2 minutes…then I would start the process again. It might seem a little crazy to read but it’s really not that complicated. Like I said just a few extra steps and a routine. Soon you’ll be cranking out beautiful perfectly shaped sugar cookies. This time around every single cookie in my 12 dozen turned out, no over baking, no breaks, not even a kind of misshapen one. My husband, quality control, was devastated. Poor guy. You should have seen his face when he learned they were all going straight to the freezer…oh man.
A few more things.
Bake similar sized cookies together. If you have a tiny cookie and a large cookie the smaller one is sure to over bake.
Less flour is better. With this process there is really no need to go crazy on flour (yay!) just dust your parchment paper/wax paper lightly and your good to go.
If you have a cutter that’s sticking especially due to small parts, rub a little bit of flour on it.
If your in a time pinch, you can let the dough chill in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
New dough is best. Try to cut out as many as you can each time you roll the dough out.
It’s best to wait a day after they are baked, as sometimes oil leaks through to the icing.
Store cookies in an airtight container, and decorate within a week.
To freeze cookies simply stack in an airtight container and freeze for up to a month.
There are many awesome cookie decorators out there, for more information and lot’s of help decorating visit some of these sites:
The Decorated Cookie
If you have any awesome tricks that work for you, please share…I’d love to give them a try!
- 3 cups flour (gently leveled NOT packed firm)
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- In a separate bowl whisk together flour and baking powder.
- Beat together unsalted butter and sugar. Once mixed well, add in egg. Mix again, then add in vanilla. I like to use my Kitchen aid and dough hook.
- Slowly add in flour mixture about a cup at a time. Mix until dough forms and begins to clump together.
- Gather up dough and knead it with hands until it's nice and smooth. Roll it into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and place in fridge to chill. I like to let min chill about 20-40 minutes. You will want it to be kind of firm but not hard. If it's too hard...just leave it out on the counter for just a little bit until it softens up. Then you can work it a little bit to soften it back up.
- Bake at 350, time will depend on cookies size and thickness. Normally between 7-11 minutes.