Simply the Perfect Sugar Cookie! A Soft & Tender Center, Crisp Edges, No Spreading, and CHOCOLATE! Roll Out, Cut Shapes, and Decorate for happy Holiday memories.
How was your Thanksgiving?
Mine was great! I worked my heiny off, you guys. I mean, wow. Like, 3 straight days on my feet. One recipe after another, nonstop. I was a machine! Everything was made from scratch, right down to the French-fried onions on the green bean casserole. It was awesome, and there was TONS of food. I had a great time in the kitchen with my mom and brother-in-law, and it was great to see everyone, especially my brand-new baby niece!
We got home on Friday evening, just in time to have a day and a half with the other side of my family. So nice. And Sunday I was all over town looking for the Christmas tree, and then setting it up and decorating it. I’m so happy we are now officially in the Christmas season!
Cookies are my favorite thing ever to bake, and I wish I posted more cookie recipes than I have been. I’m going to try to make that up to you guys over the next few weeks. Starting with these:
What do you call this kind of cookie? Is it a sugar cookie? A butter cookie? A roll out cookie? A cut out cookie? A decorated cookie? I wasn’t quite sure what to call it but hopefully you get the idea.
Last year at this time I got waaaaaaay into these. I’m sure you can imagine that it was a perfect outlet for my complete compulsion/neurosis/obsession with pretty food. They are so much fun, I loved coming up with unique designs and perfecting my decorating skills. You can waste all sorts of time playing with icing and toothpicks and sugars and sprinkles. But today I’m keeping it simple and sharing my favorite recipe for the cookie part.
And this is more than just a recipe, friends. While in the throes of my cookie obsession, I did a lot of research and experimentation with different techniques, because I’m sure you can imagine, I wanted the most perfect result. So here’s everything I learned. There’s no one I’d rather share it with than you 😉
The flavor of the cookie is very chocolatey. I am not one to shy away from bold chocolate flavor. If you’ve read my Simply Perfect Chocolate Cupcake post, or my Simply Perfect Brownie post, then you already know this about me. This cookie has a deep, dark, chocolate flavor from all the cocoa (almost like an Oreo). It’s a little less sweet. I do enjoy eating this cookie plain, but I think it’s even more important not to overdo the sugar when you’re dealing with a cookie that’s going to be iced and/or sprinkled with sugar. (If you need an icing recipe for them, I’ve got one right here.) It’s all about balance, yo. Also, the texture of the cookie is tender, yet sturdy. They come out of the oven with a little softness in the center, and a little more crunch around the edges. After a few days, they tend to lose the soft quality, so if you prefer a crunchy cookie, you will like that. They make a great gift, because of how sturdy they are. You can pack them up and ship them, and rest assured that they will arrive in one piece.
The dough is great to work with. It holds together so nicely, so you don’t have crumbly crumbs all over your kitchen floor. You don’t need to sprinkle your work surface with flour (hallelujah!). Not only does this cut down on the cleanup, but it allows you to re-roll the scraps without them getting tough. And they bake up so beautifully, without spreading, AT ALL. This is the whole key, people. The edges are PERFECT.
- ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon oil (light/neutral flavor such as canola, grapeseed, or light olive oil)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1¼- 1¾ cups all purpose flour
- Cream the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, just until the mixture is smooth. Do not over beat, as this will incorporate air into the dough, which may lead to spreading.
- Add the egg and mix just until incorporated.
- Add the cornstarch, cocoa powder and flour. If you will be rolling/cutting the cookies right away, you may need a little more flour. The dough becomes drier as it sits, so if you are planning to chill and roll/cut later, be sure to use less flour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch, between two sheets of parchment paper. Rolling pin rings will help you to achieve an even thickness.
- Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 9 to 12 minutes, depending upon the size of the cookie. The cookie should look dry on the surface, and be firm around the edges and soft in the middle.
- Cool completely before decorating.
You may notice that this recipe looks a little different from a lot of other cookie recipes out there. Without getting too long-winded, here’s a quick rundown of why I do what I do:
- Cold butter: Chilling the dough helps prevent spreading. Using cold butter and working quickly eliminates the added step of chilling. Cutting it in small cubes helps it to incorporate more easily.
- Oil: Oil keeps the cookies moist/soft. If you prefer a crunchier cookie, you can replace the oil with an additional 1/4 cup of unsalted butter.
- Mix on low speed for the minimum time required to incorporate the ingredients. Make sure the mixture is smooth (no lumps of butter), but don’t cream until fluffy. Whipping in a lot of air will contribute to spreading.
- Leave out the leavening: there is no need for baking powder and/or baking soda. Leaveners make baked goods rise, puff, and spread. Omitting the leavening allows the edges to remain neat and clean, and the cookie lays flatter. The texture is still tender because of the ratio of fats to sugar and flour, but the cookie is sturdier.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch lends tenderness and a softer texture, and helps the cookies to hold their shape during baking.
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Gives a deep, chocolatey flavor. Use the best quality you can get your hands on. I prefer natural cocoa powder to an alkalized/Dutch process, such as Hershey’s Special Dark. This brand will yield a darker color, but a less intense chocolate flavor.
- Flour quantity may vary. The longer the dough sits, the more it will dry out, so use more flour if you’re rolling/cutting right away; less if you plan to keep the dough in the fridge for a while before baking. I usually roll and cut right away, so I put in a cup and a half to start, then add more by the tablespoon until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Rolling the dough between two layers of parchment is cleaner and prevents toughness. Bench flour is not necessary with this method, and scraps can be re-rolled and utilized.
- Baking at a higher temperature “sets” the edges, allowing the cookie to hold it’s shape better.
And just a few words about bake times and yield:
- Baking times will vary based upon the size and thickness of your cookies. For this post, I rolled the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch (using rolling pin rings) and cut 2-inch diameter cookies. They baked for 9 minutes. Larger or thicker cookies may require a longer bake time. The cookies are done when the tops take on a dry appearance, and the edges are firm. The centers may still be slightly soft.
- Yield will vary based upon the size of your cookies. For this post, I rolled the dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch (using rolling pin rings) and cut 2-inch diameter fluted circles, and the batch yielded 46 cookies.
If you want to read more about how to make the most perfect roll out, cut out, butter/sugar cookies for decorating, check out this post I wrote last year. Also there’s a really great vanilla cookie recipe there.
I hope you enjoy making these cookies with your loved ones! I was intimidated by roll out/cut out/butter/sugar/decorated cookies, for the longest time, until I figured out this method for making it all much more manageable.
PS- If you are looking to stock your recipe box with some really stellar basic recipes, you came to the right place! I’ve been baking for, ahem, 20-some odd years, cough-cough, so I’ve played with lots of recipes. Check out these other recipes from my “Simply Perfect” series:
Simply Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies
Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Simply Perfect Vanilla Buttercream
Simply Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes
Simply Perfect Chocolate Buttercream
Simply Perfect Pizza Dough
Simply Perfect Brownies from Scratch
Simply Perfect Pie Crust
Simply Perfect Apple Pie
Update: This recipe has been getting mixed reviews from my readers. I apologize if you’ve made this recipe and been less than thrilled with the result.
I just want to reiterate- these cookies are LESS SWEET. This is intentional, to balance the sugariness from royal icing.
Also, please note that the texture is NOT soft and chewy! As stated in the head notes, they are more tender in the middle and crunchier around the edges. The longer they hang around, the less soft they become. They are a STURDY cookie, suitable for decorating and giving as a gift or favor.
Finally, please follow the instructions and start with the minimum amount of flour. You can always add more, if needed, but it’s more difficult to moisten up a too-dry dough.
*This post was featured on the Moonlight & Mason Jars Link Party*