5 Secrets to Making the Best Sugar Cookies Ever
Whether you make our sugar cookie recipe or the one you've been baking for years, these tricks will help ensure that your sugar cookies are better than ever this holiday season.
It's holiday baking season, and this year I invite you to try something a little different than your usual sugar cookie recipe: our Do-It-All Sugar Cookies. This easy sugar cookie dough really is versatile: You can use it for cut out sugar cookies, thumb print cookies, snow ball cookies, and slice-and-bake cookies. But even if you stick to the recipe you've been making for decades, there are a handful of tips to keep in mind to make sure your cookies don’t crumble. Follow these tips to make the best sugar cookies of all time, and get ready for Christmas cookie success!
1. Give the Dough Plenty of Time to Chill
Trying to roll out freshly made sugar cookie dough is nearly impossible. It’s too soft, too sticky, and totally unwieldy. It can be tempting to just stick the soft dough in the freezer to speed things up, but that won’t work either: The dough will be frozen on the outside and too soft on the inside. To get your dough to ideal rolling temp, place it tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for two hours. Colder (but not cold) dough is easier to roll out than dough at room temperature. It also makes it easier to punch out shapes with a cookie cutter. Plus, this chilling process gives the gluten in the dough time to relax which makes for a more tender cookie.
2. Take Your Time Rolling the Dough
That said, trying to roll just-out-of-the-fridge dough can be super frustrating. Even with all your weight and good intentions focused on the rolling pin, the dough can crack from the edges inward. Instead of battling the fissures, pull the dough out about 15 minutes before you’re ready to roll. Unwrap the dough, place it on a lightly floured surface, and give it a few whacks with your rolling pin to encourage the dough to soften. Then, roll on. If at any point the dough gets super soft (i.e. holds an indent when pressed with your finger) transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stick it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Repeat as often as necessary until all your cut outs are cut out.
3. Use A Bench Scraper
A bench scraper ($10, amazon.com) or great big spatula is a dough-rollers best friend. Use it to gently get under and lift up the dough so you can keep it from sticking to the surface. This allows you to use a lot less flour on the surface (excess can make for tough cookies), and moving the dough as you roll makes an evenly rolled sheet of dough more accessible. Chances are you’re consistently putting more pressure on one area of the dough (it’s OK, we all do it). Rotating as you roll helps you compensate for any irregularity (or superstrength) in your rolling.
4. Chill Again After the Cookies Are Formed
Whether you’re making simple snow ball cookies or plan to decorate cut out shapes, a quick chill in the freezer after your cookies are formed or punched out will help your cookies hold a well-defined edge even after baking. Cold dough means cold butter. The colder the butter, the slower it melts helping cookies of all shapes—especially ones with more intricate details (looking at you, Rudolph)—hold their edge.
5. Set a Timer While Baking (and Watch It)
A friendly reminder from your resident recipe-writer that all ovens are not created equal. Neither are all cookie sheets, or eggs, or cups of flour. All those little variations can mean big differences in your finished product. Those are just a few of the reasons we give you a range for the finished cooking or baking time. For the best odds, set your timer at the low end of the range, say 12 minutes for a 12 to 15 minute cookie. Take a look at the cookies. Now look at the recipe. What are you looking for? Golden Brown? Dry and firm to the touch? Remember, you’re baking to the indicator, not the time. If you have to add a few more minutes (even if it's longer than the recipe says), keep going. Your cookies will thank you for it.