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  • Writer's pictureFay Walsh

Classic Sugar Cookies

Adapted from A Good Bake by Melissa Weller and Carolynn Carreño



This is a large batch recipe, so you will have enough cookies to gift to friends and family during the Holiday Season. I like to ice the cookies myself with white icing and let my husband top them off with colorful sprinkles to make them feel festive.


Be Mindful of Your Dough


This dough is a bit sensitive because it contains a lot of butter and you need to refrigerate it for no less than two hours before baking. You will want to roll out the dough before refrigeration it to the exact right thickness. Once chilled, you'll be able to simply cut out the dough and immediately bake in the oven.


Crispy or Soft Cookies


I like my sugar cookies a bit on the denser, softer side, so I roll out my dough to be just under a centimeter thick, or 3/8 inch, and just bake them for 12 minutes - absolutely no longer! They will set up more out of the oven as they cool. If you prefer a thinner, crispier cookie, just roll out the dough to be a bit thinner and keep an eye on them as you bake. Remember to take them out of the oven before they start to turn golden! I promise they will firm up as they cool. You don't want them to have any burned or over cooked flavor.


To Ice or Not Ice?


I recommend not using store-bought icing and mixing up your own royal icing for more control and better flavor. Icing these cookies properly with royal icing requires a bit of patience and a steady hand. You already put so much work into making the dough, you might as well top them off with the real thing. However, if icing cookies is not your jam, know that my favorite sugar cookies growing up were simply decorated with colorful sugar (sans icing). This is a totally fine option if icing cookies is just one too many steps for you. The choice is yours :)





 

CLASSIC SUGAR COOKIES

Adapted from A Good Bake by Melissa Weller and Carolynn Carreño



THE DOUGH


4 1/2 cups AP flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 sticks plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


ROYAL ICING


16 oz confectioner's sugar

6 tablespoons pasteurized egg whites

water as needed



 



  1. To make the dough, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

  2. Fit a paddle attachment onto your stand mixer. In the bowl for the stand mixer, combine butter and sugar, beat on medium speed for a couple minutes until the mixture is light and airy. If the butter and sugar are flying out of the bowl, reduce the speed a bit and try again until the mixture combines better. Then increase the speed to achieve the light and airy result we are looking for.

  3. Add an egg and beat until just blended remembering to scrape down the sides. Repeat with the second egg. Scrape down the sides well between each egg and add the vanilla extract until just incorporated. Always be sure you don't over beat your eggs because that can really affect the final result of the cookie.

  4. On low speed, carefully add the dry ingredients to the mixer in a few batches so that the flour doesn't ball up on the paddle attachment. Again, we are looking for that just mixed in consistency taking care to scrape down the sides so that everything is nicely incorporated.

  5. On a smooth work surface, lay down two strips of plastic wrap or cling film and dump half the cookie mixture on top. With your hands, try to shape this crumbly dough into a solid block as best you can. Take your rolling pin (I actually put a little water on my pin so that it doesn't stick) and apply gentle pressure on top of the dough block, rolling it out in all four directions until you have a lovely, flat dough about a quarter inch thick. Wrap this up carefully and transfer the flat dough onto a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours. Repeat this process with the remaining half of the dough.

  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, making sure that one oven rack is positioned toward the top third of the oven and a second toward the bottom. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper and get ready to bake these babies!

  7. Remove your first dough block from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap from the top of the dough. do a last gentle roll with your rolling pin to achieve the perfect thickness you are looking for. Make sure the dough is evenly thick and the surface is very smooth. I simply cut the cookies out with my cookie cutters while the dough is still resting on the plastic wrap and move them onto the baking sheet with a metal spatula. Just be sure you don't accidentally cut thru the plastic when cutting the cookies! If you want to completely unwrap the dough, you can, just be very careful handling the dough when doing so. Take the second block of dough and repeat the process on a second baking tray. Once you have cut out all your cookies, take the left over scraps, roll them up like you did before, flatten it out and put them back in the fridge for another batch, later.

  8. If you are not using icing, go ahead and sprinkle the sugar onto the cut cookies now before baking. If you are using icing, skip this step.

  9. Place one tray on the top rack and another on the bottom, and bake for six minutes. After six mintues, switch the top tray to the bottom position and vice versa. Bake them another six minutes and remove both trays from the oven, do not let the dough turn golden. With a metal sptautla, transfer the cookies from the tray onto a cookie rack to cool. They will firm up nicely in a couple minutes. These cookies will last at least a week!

ROYAL ICING

  • In your now cleaned stand mixer, fix the stand with the paddle attachment and combine the sugar and egg whites into the mixing bowl. Beat on medium high for thirty seconds.

  • Check the consistency of the icing. We want the first batch quite stiff for the outline of the cookie. If it seems too watery, add more sugar and mix again until you achieve the consistency you feel comfortable with to create a sturdy outline.

  • Fold the edges of a piping bag half way down, and spoon in the frosting with a spatula. Tie the ends of the bag up or use a twisty tie so that the icing doesn't spill all over your hand as you squeeze. Cut a very small opening at the tip of the bag.

  • Carefully outline the perimeter of the cookies with this thicker frosting. This creates a firm edge for us to be able to "flood" our cookies with a more watery icing (see the video here, sorry you can hear Louis growling at me as I work)










  • Once you have completed this with every cookie, you will add a few teaspoons of water to your icing mixture (stirring it up) so that the icing is a bit runnier (think of maple syrup texture). This will allow us to flood the cookies, starting in the center of the cookie, and carefully spreading the icing mixture out to the edges of that now hardened icing perimeter. I used a spatula for this and it worked fine. You can also use the spatula to clean up any messy edges or mistakes. These are cookies friends, they don't need to be perfect! Just have fun.

  • If you are using sprinkles or colored sugar, now is the time to make those final touches. Let the icing dry completely, it must harden over night before gifting to friends and fam. To store them, I placed them carefully in a wax paper lined Tupperware and added wax paper on top for each layer of cookies I stored.



Weller, Melissa, et al. A Good Bake. Alfred A. Knopf Publishers, New York 2020. All images © Faymous

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