This tutorial answers all your questions about making the perfect sugar cookies from how to measure the flour, to how thick to make the dough.
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It’s that time of year again. As soon as October hits, it’s practically already Christmas. Normally I try to send out packages of baked goods to family and friends, but this means I need extra room in my freezer, a lot of butter, and some patience.
I love making sugar cookies, but I have to admit, about half way through decorating them, I’m kinda over it. It’s a lot of work and it’s quite messy. But I still love it.
When I was a kid, I looked forward to decorating sugar cookies every year! I helped my mom cut out all the shapes and roll the dough. My brother and I would wait patiently for her to make all the frosting colors and then we would sit down and decorate them together.
Let’s be real, the best parts are eating the cookies (or the dough!). I love the cookies with sprinkles. I know, shocker, right? Almost all of my cookies are decorated with buttercream, I am not really a fan of royal icing, but I do love the look of royal icing. Lucky for you, part two of this post will be some tips and tricks to decorating with buttercream.
Today let’s talk about Tip and Tricks for Perfect Sugar Cookies. It’s going to be messy. Have a glass of hot chocolate or wine on hand and let’s get through a few of these helpful hints together.
Tip #1: Start your dough with cold butter.
If your butter is too soft, then your dough will be softer and you will have to refrigerate the dough for longer. I like to take my butter out of the refrigerator and soften it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds max. It takes longer to soften in the mixer, but once you mix it with the sugar, it will be good to go.
Tip #2: Measure out dry ingredients if possible
One of the reasons your cookies are too dry or crisp may be because you added too much flour to your dough. I have an inexpensive scale that I use to measure out my flour and my sugar by weight. If you can sift your flour, that’s even better.
You aren’t making a frosting that needs to be whipped to perfection. Beat your dough at a low-speed until the flour is incorporated. This is a common tip for any baked good. Don’t try to mix in the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need it! Since you will be handling the dough as you roll it out, you don’t want it overworked from the start. It will result it tougher or drier cookies.
Tip #5: Don’t skip out on the refrigeration time
A good dough needs at least 45 minutes in the refrigerator. This allows the dough to stiffen, which in turn makes it easier to roll out. The good thing about sugar cookie dough is that you can actually prepare it in advance and freeze it!
Tip #6: A well-floured surface
I always use a silicone baking mat or a large piece of parchment paper (and I tape down the corners). I use a handful of flour on top of the parchment paper, because as your roll out the dough, it will absorb the flour and prevent the dough from sticking to the parchment paper. BUT, after I cut the shapes out and transfer them to a baking sheet, I use a pastry brush to brush away any excess flour. I bake my cookies on a silicone baking mat (preferred) or parchment paper.
Your dough may need about 10 minutes to rest after you take it out of the refrigerator. Pack and roll it into a disc. It is always easier when you have a manageable amount of dough. I recommend about a softball size or less. You can roll it out two, maybe three times before it get’s too soft.
Helpful tools: Rolling PinTip # 8: Flatten, Roll and Rotate
I treat my cookie dough like I treat a pie crust. Slightly flatten the dough in the center, flip it over and rotate to flatten the other edges and continue this process 2-4 times until the dough starts to thin out. This also allows you to see if you need more flour on the surface. Always roll from the center to edge.
Once my dough becomes to soft, after I roll it out 2-3 times, I set any leftover dough aside, and wait until the end to use it again. All those leftover scraps make a lot of good cookies! It just becomes difficult to mix cold dough with soft dough.
Tip #9: Test the cookie dough
This one is just for fun. I always say the total yield of my recipe will vary on how much cookie dough I eat. Eat the cookie dough at your own risk, I know some of you are probably thinking I’m crazy, but that’s ok.
Tip #10: Thicker is always better
I don’t know about you, but I like a good thick sugar cookie that is still soft! I roll out my dough quite thick because when I eat a sugar cookie, I don’t want just the frosting. If your dough is thinner on the edges, don’t use it. Roll it into the next batch
Tip #11: Use your space wisely!
I lay out my cookie cutters over my dough until I don’t have any more room left. I just want to be efficient with my space. I have some mini cookie cutters. I love these mini cookies because when I give away plates of cookies, I use these to fill space, usually unfrosted. Or sometimes I send a little container of frosting a long with it and then it becomes Dunkaroos. Do you remember Dunkaroos? The best.
Do you have a cookie that is sticking to the edges? I have seen some people recommend sticking the cookie cutter in flour, but I usually don’t do this. Instead I just give the cutter a gentle wiggle to get the cookie cutter out.
If the dough comes out sticking to the cookie cutter, I hold my cookie cutter over my sheet pan and tap my wrist until the dough comes out. If the cookie is ruined, just put it back into your soft dough and re-roll it.
Tip #13: Know your dough!
It can take a while to find the right dough, the one that works for YOU. Know how much your dough will rise after it bakes. This way, you will know how far apart to place your cookies on the baking sheet, what is the right baking time and how to store them.
Tip #14: Keep it moving
I only bake one tray at a time, on the top shelf. If I bake 2 trays at a time, my dough doesn’t bake the same. Yes, it is slower. But we are talking about making perfect cookies right?
Helpful tools: Wilton Recipe Right 3 Piece Cookie Pan SetTip #15: Slightly under baked
If the edges of my cookie start to brown, they are over cooked. The recommended baking time on my cookie dough is 10-12 minutes. I always bake it for 9 minutes, because as the cookie cools, it is still sitting on a hot pan.
Once one pan goes in the oven, I have another one ready to go. Always keep it moving. It does help things go faster.
Helpful tools: 3-Tier Cooling RackTip # 16: Bake ahead and freeze
Once my cookies are completely cooled, I freeze them on a sheet pan, and once frozen, I transfer them to a freezer-safe container. When I want to pull some out to frost and serve, I thaw them flat on a baking sheet.
Now I would love to hear from you! What are some tips and tricks that work for you?? I’ve shared my Nana’s sugar cookie when I made these Flower Pot Sugar Cookies for Mother’s day and this is the cookie recipe we have made since we were kids.
Stay tuned for part 2 where we are going to talk about decorating with buttercream!
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- ½ C Butter
- ½ C Sugar
- ½ tsp Baking soda dissolved in 2 tbsp milk
- ½ tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 Large egg, beaten
- Pinch of salt
- 2½ C Flour
- Beat butter and sugar on medium high speed until sugar is dissolved and creamy.
- In a small glass, dissolve ½ teaspoon baking soda in 2 tablespoons of milk.
- Add baking soda/milk, vanilla, eggs and salt to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.
- Slowly add flour ½ C at a time and mix until a stiff dough forms.
- Chill in the freezer for at least 45 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
- Grab a handful of dough and roll dough out on a well-floured surface about ¼” thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut the shapes and transfer to a lined baking sheet. Use parchment paper or a baking mat to help prefer browning on the bottom of the cookie.
- Keep dough in the refrigerator to keep the cold.
- Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. All to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
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