I do love The Cookie Platter. The platter is a perfect hostess gift. It is a personal reflection of the baker. It is sweetness, comfort and joy in however many ways you can imagine it, all in one place. The Cookie Platter is paradise for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Gospel Truth: there is no star for the Cookie Platter like a sugar cookie. It is versatile–it can be crunchy or chewy, crispy or tender. Frosted or not. Professionally executed or amateurish. In sum, sugar cookies are the best.
There are innumerable recipes for sugar cookies. The pivotal differences are doughs that need to be chilled-or not, cookies that use baking soda-or not, and whether the recipe uses powdered sugar, super fine sugar or regular sugar. All of these make a big difference in how your cookie will turn out, most notably in overall flavor, tenderness and ease of rolling and cutting.
The King Arthur Flour and Cooks Illustrated test kitchen bakers have dozens of sugar cookie recipes, lessons and tutorials for all sorts of cookies. I especially like KAA, mostly because you don’t have to pay for a subscription and also because their reputation for consistent perfection is stellar.
Sugar Cookie Tips
- If you use unsalted butter, increase the amount of salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.
- Flavor cookies more intensely with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon almond extract, or a combination. You can also add 1/2 ts cinnamon and 1/4 ts nutmeg, or 1 ts pumpkin pie spice.
- Roll the dough slightly thicker (3/16-1/4″) for a chewier, tender cookie. Roll about 1/8 inch for a crispier cookie.
- Spread when cooking is caused by moisture in the ingredients, i.e. butter and sugar. Don’t substitute butter for shortening or vice versa, or switch in and out other types of sugars unless you are prepared to accept a different result from the original recipe.
- Cookies can be colored before baking: Mix 1 egg white, beaten, with 1 tablespoon water. Lightly paint the cookies with the egg white/water, sprinkle with colored sugar, and bake.
My favorite Go-To Sugar Cookie recipe is from Domino Sugar. It is ridiculously easy to mix, roll and cut, and it is so tender, so delicious, it can be breakfast on the run with coffee or tea, a fun afternoon treat for the kiddos, or a lovely gift when packaged in some sort of cute way.
Domino’s Classic Sugar Cookie
4 cups – sifted all-purpose flour (sift flour before measuring)
2 tsp – baking powder
1 tsp – salt
1 1/2 – sticks (12 tbsp) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups – Domino® Granulated Sugar
2 – eggs
1 1/2 tsp – vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
- In a large bowl, (I use a stand mixer) beat the softened butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Stir in dry ingredients, a third at a time, until all is incorporated for a smooth, stiff dough.
- Divide the dough into two equal portion and form into discs. There is no need to chill this dough, but you can certainly make this dough several days ahead of time and chill it until you need it.
- There are two ways to roll out the dough. Either way, you want to end up with about 1/4 inch thick dough. #1: use a little flour to dust the surface of the table and the rolling pin, roll to a uniform thickness. #2: lay one disc on a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper. Cover the disc with another sheet of paper. Roll out the dough between the two sheets.
- Cut out shapes. Trim away, roll and res-use excess dough.
- Gently lift cut out cookies from waxed paper and place on light colored cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.
- Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are firm and light. I do not like an overcooked sugar cookie, so don’t wait until these are golden brown, which is just a minute or two too far.
- Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool completely before decorating.
Hands Down one of my favorite cookbooks is The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. There is an entire chapter on sugar cookie variations, and another on Decorated Cookies. This is a book I will bequeath to my children and their children.
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup + 2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, or flavor of your choice (see “tips,” below)
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- To make the cookies: Combine the sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt, and flavor, beating until smooth. Add the flour, mixing until smooth. The mixture will seem dry at first, but will suddenly come together. If it doesn’t, dribble in a tablespoon of water.
- Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a flattened disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight. When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let it soften for about 20 to 30 minutes, until it feels soft enough to roll. It should still feel cold, but shouldn’t feel rock-hard.
- Sprinkle your rolling surface with flour, and flour your rolling pin. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it 1/8″ to 3/16″ thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes. Re-roll and cut the dough scraps. Place the cookies on ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets. They can be close together; they’ll barely spread.
- Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for 12 to 14 minutes, until they’re set and barely browned around the edges.
- Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right on the pan. If you’ve used parchment, you can lift cookies and parchment off the pan, so you can continue to use the pan as the cookies cool.
- Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, rolling, cutting, and baking cookies. When cookies are completely cool, ice and decorate.Yield: about 5 dozen 2″ cookies.
Soft Sugar Cutouts
These cookies by Chef Jen Shelbo are cakey and tender. They have a little height and a golden color. This recipe is from the book One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes by Tracey Zabar.
- 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ts baking soda
- 1 ts baking powder
- 3 large eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup sour cream
- 8 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ts salt
- 1 ts vanilla extract
- 1 ts almond extract
- Combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside
- Mix together the eggs and sour cream. Set aside
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, salt, and extracts.
- On low speed, add in the flour mixture, about 1 cup at a time, adding the sour cream mixture intermittently.
- Repeat alternating flour and sour cream until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Divide into discs. Wrap in plastic and chill about 3 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to very thin, about 1/4 inch thick.
- Bake 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn a very light brown. Cool completely before frosting.