Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sugar cookies

Cookie bake-off: White vs. Brown sugar

Last weekend was an experiment in sugar cookies. I took two recipes (one for brown sugar cookies and another for angel sugar cookies made with white sugar) to see which came out on top. There wasn't really a winner — just two different types of sweet deliciousness. And there was a batch of "oops!" cookies in there, too, which I'll get into at a later date. For now, let's stick with the success stories, starting with the traditional white sugar cookie. 

The key to these cookies is chilling the dough and cooking them for exactly the right amount of time (no browning!). Also, I learned the value of a good baking sheet (more on that tomorrow). But back to the cookies themselves, I halved this recipe and got about 30 3-inch-diameter cookies out of the dough. I can tell you right now: You're going to want to make the full recipe. 

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2 large eggs
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups plus 2 TBS flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream together eggs, oil, butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate dough one hour. 

*Note: I refrigerated mine for two hours and it was perfectly fine. I'm guessing you could refrigerate overnight even — if the dough is too stiff to work with, just let it come to room temperature for 15 minutes or so. 

2. Onto an ungreased cookie sheet, drop balls of dough (you can use a cookie scoop, or I just used a TBS measure and rounded out the dough with a spoon). On the bottom of a round, flat drinking glass, smear a dab of butter, then dip the glass in granulated sugar. Use the glass to flatten the remaining balls of dough, dipping it in sugar for each cookie as you go (I fit 10 cookies per baking sheet). If desired, sprinkle each with white or colored sugar before baking.

3. Bake for 8 to 11 minutes, until cookies are just barely turning brown. I set my timer for 4 minutes, turned the baking sheet around in the oven, then baked for another 5 minutes exactly. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Be careful! The cookies are rather crumbly.

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I think my search for the perfect traditional sugar cookie is over, and the search had hardly even begun! These cookies aren't insanely sweet (unless you douse them in sanding sugar or frosting, of course) and the texture is so nice. I really think that taking the cookies out of the oven when they're just barely turning golden (like, really barely) makes a huge difference in the taste. Too-browned sugar cookies, to me, have a very distinct flavor — like those Pillsbury slice-and-bake sugar cookies, which I don't care for at all. Avoiding any real browning on these cookies does the trick!

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