Everyone loves sugar cookies, especially closer to the holidays. But sugar cookies don’t always turn out right. We’ve compiled this list of tips and techniques to help you make the very best sugar cookies.
Measure ingredients accurately, especially the flour. Too much flour will make your cookies hard and dry. If you scoop the flour with the measuring cup instead of spooning sifted flour into your cup, you are likely to have 20% too much flour. Use a kitchen scale if you have it. In our recipes, we use 5.2 ounces of flour per cup.
Use pastry flour for your sugar cookies. Avoid bread flours with their high protein content because it will make a tougher cookie.All-purpose flour is an acceptable compromise between pastry flour and bread flour.
Sugar cookies are made by the creaming method. This is the most important step in making sugar cookies—it incorporates the air into the dough, acting as a leavening agent. Use the paddle attachment of your electric mixer to cream the sugar, salt, and spices with the butter or shortening. Cream the ingredients together at low speed, not high. For light cookies, cream the mixture until it is light and fluffy. For a denser, moister cookie, cream only until the mixture is paste-like.
Add the eggs and liquid after creaming, beating these in at low speed. Mix the flour into the creamed mixture only until it is combined. If you over-mix, you will develop the gluten and make a tougher cookie.
If the dough is too soft to work easily, chill it until firm. The dough should be pliable but not squishy soft.Handling the dough with warm hands will make the dough soft.
Use no more flour than necessary to dust the counter. The extra flour will work into the dough for a drier, tougher cookie.
Most recipes call for the dough to be rolled to 1/8 inch in thickness. This creates a crisp cookie. For a moister, less crisp cookie, roll the dough to 1/4 inch only.
Too much re-rolling will make for tougher cookies. Not only does successive re-rolling work the dusting flour into the dough, but the continued working of the dough also develops the gluten. When cutting shapes, make the cuts as close together as you can to minimize the amount of dough that will be re-rolled.
Prepare the pan properly. We prefer parchment paper, so we can quickly remove all the cookies from the hot pan by picking up the sheet or dragging it onto a cookie rack, Many sugar cookies have enough butter in the recipe that you don’t have to grease the pan.
Drop the decorations from a height of eight or ten inches for more even distribution when garnishing cookies with sprinkles.
The size of the cookies will affect bake times. Put like-sized cookies on the same sheet.
Do not over-bake cookies. Thin cookies will bake in seven or eight minutes at 350 degrees. Thicker cookies will take ten or twelve minutes. Cookies on darker pans will bake in less time.
When done, the cookies will still be a pale golden color with just a tinge of brown at the edges as shown in these images.
Use a timer that counts down the seconds. Seconds matter. Some of our most popular cookies take eight minutes and 45 seconds in our oven. When I make cookies, I set the timer on the microwave and then hang a timer around my neck and set it for one or two minutes less. That gives me a few minutes to get back to the kitchen and take the cookies out when the microwave timer goes off.
Cool cookies on a wire rack. Do not frost them until they are completely cooled.
Learn More About Sugar Cookies
Turn your sugar cookies into fun for the whole family. Learn how to paint your sugar cookies, decorate the edges, and more so the fun never stops. Just tell us where to send it.
Try Our Favorite Sugar Cookies
Now that you know the techniques to make the best sugar cookies, it’s time to test out your new skills. Try one of our favorite sugar cookie mixes or either of the recipes below: