The Best Go-To Sugar Cookies for the Holidays (and How to Make Them Perfectly)
If you love to bake, Christmas time is the best time of the entire year: It’s cookie baking season.
Each year we swap cookies with friends, co-workers, and family, and I’m here to lay out some tips that will help you to blow the competition out of the water. Here is what you need to know to make the best sugar cookies out there:
1. About Those Eggs
Eggs are surprisingly the most important ingredient in cookie baking — beating out sugar and even butter (gasp!) in my opinion. They act as the binder and play a significant role in the structure and chew of the cookie. In fact, Stella Parks of Serious Eats wrote a very interesting article about the role of egg yolks and egg whites in sugar cookies (for all those food science nerds out there).
You’ll notice that many cookie recipes call for the dough to (annoyingly) rest and chill overnight. Don’t be too frustrated with this, however, because the payoff is well worth it. Resting the dough allows the egg to fully absorb into the dough help the cookies retain moisture and ensuring you get that irresistible balance of delightfully crispy edges with knee-weakening chewy centers. Plus, chilling even a little will help the cookies spread less, earn deeper flavor, and brown just a little more. (Brown is flavor, friends.)
When mixing the eggs into the batter, try to use room-temperature eggs. This may take some forethought, but the warmer temperature does help the eggs to mix into the dough better. Also, when a recipe calls for multiple eggs, add one at a time and fully incorporate the egg into the dough before adding the second. Otherwise, your butter, sugar, and egg mixture can curdle and your cookies will lose volume (see why this is bad below).
2. About That Sugar
According to America’s Test Kitchen, the perfect sugar cookie uses superfine sugar. Using superfine sugar in your recipe will give your cookie a crispier texture because the tiny sugar crystals dissolve more quickly and contribute to a fine, even crumb. You can buy superfine sugar at the grocery store, or just pulse the sugar you have at home in a food processor for 30 seconds.
3. About That Butter
Room temperature butter, people. I’m serious. (See why in the mixing tips below).
4. Some Mixing Tips
With cookies, ingredient order is everything. Butter and sugar first need to be creamed together — whipped on a medium speed until pale, light, and fluffy — before the eggs are added. This incorporates air into the mix (aka contributes to the volume to the cookie) and makes for a softer, more tender cookie. Specifically, room-temperature butter is the most efficient at trapping those air molecules. Butter that is too cold means no air gets trapped and results in a flat, hard cookie. Inversely, if you use butter that is too warm, the cookies will indeed be soft but won’t have the structure to hold the air.
Now that you are armed with the secrets for making a perfect sugar cookie, apply them to your favorite sugar cookies or click here to check out our favorite sugar cookie recipe for the holiday season.