I think it’s fair to say that with everything I cook or bake, I have certain ‘expectations’ – I guess you could say. You know, expectations of how the end result should be. Sugar cookies are no exception to my rules. Those rules being that I like my sugar cookies two different ways. I like a sugar cookie that is soft, thick and billowy. One that you can frost with the best vanilla buttercream frosting and that has amazing flavor. (sans almond extract and/or other oddly named extracts that don’t belong in my sugar cookies). I also like a sugar cookie that is specifically meant for holiday decorating. Where the imprint from the cookie cutter doesn’t disappear when you bake it but rather stays into a lovely shape that doesn’t lose its shape and each cookie stays the exact same size.
And keeps the design of the cookie cutter perfectly imprinted on it.
I also like my holiday sugar cookies to still be soft, have amazing flavor and a tiny bit of crunch on the outside. But only a tiny bit. So, this recipe is that sugar cookie. It has taken me years and years to perfect this recipe. I finally got it down last year around Halloween. So, I thought it would be the perfect time to add it to my blog.
With sugar cookies, I feel like the flavor profile of the ingredients come out really strongly. You can generally taste the butter in a sugar cookie quite well. So use a fresh, good quality unsalted butter. (I prefer Land O’ Lakes brand). Also, about more than half of the sugar cookie recipes do not have vanilla extract. I’m not sure why but I say yes, let’s add that in to compliment the butter and sugar. This recipe is pretty easy and there are no special techniques needed.
Make sure you make your sugar cookies well in advance before you have them ready to frost. These cookies do require a full two hours in the refrigerator for the dough to rest.
To get started on this recipe, let two 2 sticks (16 Tbs) of unsalted butter and one large egg sit out at room temperature. Read through your recipe and measure out all of your ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the 3 cups of all-purpose unbleached flour, 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp fine kosher salt together. Set aside. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy.
Turn the mixer to low speed and add the large egg and vanilla and mix until combined. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the 1 T of milk and mix again. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator and refrigerate for two hours.
Preheat your oven to 350º. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle the surface with flour or powdered sugar where you plan to roll out the dough. Remove one pack of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and place on the floured surface. Sprinkle your rolling pin with a small amount of flour. Roll out dough to at least 1/4 of an inch thick.
I like to move the dough around to ensure that it won’t stick. I also like to work as quickly as I can to ensure that the dough stays cool.
With your cookie cutters, cut out your cookies. The cookie cutters I used for this post, are plastic. I find that if I dip the edges of the cutter in flour initially, then the dough won’t stick to the cutter. I also like to use a thin, metal spatula for transferring my cookies from the work surface to the cookie sheet. Space the cookies at least 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet. My cookie cutters are pretty big, so I get about 22-24 cookies from this recipe. Bake the cookies rotating halfway through, for 9-10 minutes. I like my cookies lightly golden on the bottom, with no hint of browning on the tops. You can bake them a few minutes longer if you prefer a crispier cookie. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Then remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
At this point you can frost the cookies as desired. They will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Happy Halloween!