Sugar Cookies

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For some reason sugar cookies just seem to evoke the feelings of childhood in adults. Maybe it's because I only can remember eating sugar cookies when I was barely tall enough to see over the table, or because stamping out sugar cookies reminds me of small hands. But for whatever reason, sugar cookies just seem to mean childhood.

A while back I worked for a bakery and learned some fun things about baking cookies, which when combined with what I learned during my food science classes in school, hopefully let me make a good recipe for you.

First off, let's discuss the sugar cookie and some problems I have with it. From what I understand, sugar cookies are typically made from a dough, assembled via the creaming method, which is chilled, rolled out, stamped, and baked. They are often frosted, but can be eaten plain. To me, the ideal sugar cookie is light, soft but not crumbly, flavorful, and moist. However, too many sugar cookies fall short of this standard and are instead dry, hard, dull, and lacking in flavor. It is as if bakers use sugar cookies as an excuse to frost something, and don't care at all about how the cookie actually tastes.

It is time to put a stop to this madness! It is time to reclaim the evocative sugar cookies of our childhood, to take back the joy of baking from grocery stores and overpriced bakeries. The perfect sugar cookie is only a short way away. What follows is a picture tutorial on how to make these cookies.


Skip the tutorial and go straight to the recipe.

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Step 1:

Bring 1 cup butter to room temperature.

Step 2:

Cream together butter and 1 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
This will take a few minutes at medium to medium-high speed. You want it to be almost white and really fluffy. After creaming, the mixture should only feel mildly gritty when rubbed between two fingers.

It should look similar to this when you are done.

Step 3:

Add the eggs, one at a time.Wait until the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next egg.
This is actually important. Up until now you have been mainly working with fat, and you are trying to add a whole lot of water-based ingredient. The eggs contain lecithin, a powerful emulsifier, but it will still take time, and it will make your cookies that much better.

Step 4:

Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 3/4 tsp hot water.

Step 5:

Sift together 3 3/4 tsp cornstarch, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 3/8 tsp baking soda with 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour.
Okay, here is where I explain the dry ingredients. First, the cornstarch. Many bakers make cookies with a combination of all-purpose and pastry flour because it makes the cookies softer. I don't EVER have pastry flour on hand, but I always have cornstarch. Adding additional starch will mimic the effects of the lower-protein pastry flour. Next, why baking powder and baking soda? Baking powder is our main source of leavening in this recipe. The soda is serving the purpose of controlling the spreading. Dough containing more baking soda will spread less than a dough with less, all other things being equal.

Step 6:

Add the sifted dry ingredients in 3 installments, mixing completely on low speed  before adding the next installment.

The dough will look like this after all the dry ingredients are in.
The reason for adding the dry ingredients in portions is twofold: it prevents a huge cloud of powder from filling your kitchen, and it allows the dough to be more thoroughly mixed with less mixing time, preventing the formation of too much gluten, which would make the cookies too tough. This dough may be slightly stiffer than other recipes, but that is okay.

Step 7:

Dump the dough onto a sheet of parchment, waxed paper, or plastic wrap. Form the dough into a disc or square and wrap completely. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour and up to overnight.
Even though this dough is pretty stiff, it is not still enough to roll and stamp yet. Some time in the fridge will solve this problem. If you are refrigerating the dough longer than a couple hours though, you will probably want to use plastic wrap to make sure it doesn't dry out.

Step 8:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to an even 3/16 to 1/4 inch.
I differ from many bakers in this step because I roll out my cookies on a floured surface instead of on powdered sugar. I don't feel that a little flour will make the cookies tough, but if you do, than by all means roll on sugar.

Step 9:

Here is the best part: stamping out the cookies!
I know that you know how to cut out cookies, but I will offer only this point of advice; choose a cutter that is relatively simple in shape. Even though this dough doesn't spread much, no dough can hold tiny nooks and crannies. Personally, I like circles because they cook evenly, but I realize they aren't much fun. Oh, and another tip: if your put a piece of latex between the cutter and the dough your cookies will have perfect beveled edges instead of sharp ones.

Step 10:

Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
People have a tendency to overbake sugar cookies because they take them out of the oven when the edges start to turn brown like chocolate chip cookies. If you cook sugar cookies the same way they will turn out overcooked every time. With sugar cookies, you want to pull them right before they turn brown. If you follow this advice your cookies will stay soft.

In the meantime, what to do with the scraps from cutting out your first cookies?

Just lightly press the scraps together, roll them out and stamp like before. The dough will have warmed up since the first stamping, so it will be a little easier than the first time.

Step 11:

When the timer rings, take the cookies out, let them cool a couple minutes on the pan, and then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.
Believe it or not, your cookies will be infinitely better if you let them cool.


You have baked an entire batch of delicious sugar cookies. Feel free to frost the cookies once they have cooled, but don't feel that you must. They are tasty enough to hold their own.

Sugar CookiesYields: 4 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 tsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 3/4 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/8 tsp baking soda
3 3/4 tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 3 3/4 tsp cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs, at room temperature 1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp hot water 3/8 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, allowing the egg to be completely incorporated before adding the next egg.
  3. Add the water and vanilla.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients, and add to the creamed mixture in 3 installments, mixing briefly between each addition.
  5. Wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  6. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface 3/16 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies and bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 10 minutes.
  7. Cool on a wire rack before eating or frosting.

This recipe was printed from Dinner in the Life of a Dad (
Sugar Cookies 48 cookies Soft, buttery-vanilla sugar cookies, similar to Lofthouse-style 1 cup butter 1 cup sugar 3 Eggs 1 3/4 tsp hot water 1 tsp Vanilla Extract 3 3/4 cups Flour 3 3/4 tsp cornstarch 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder 3/8 tsp Baking Soda 1/2 tsp Salt

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