Easy Sugar Cookies

by Sara on September 6, 2009

easy sugar cookies

When my brother and I were little, we referred to the sugar cookies my mom would make around the holidays as “Cookie Dough Cookies.” We understood that all cookies came from dough, but none of those other cookie doughs were quite as special. This particular dough had to be made the day before and chilled overnight, allowing us to sneak little bites any time we passed the refrigerator. I probably drank more glasses of milk during that time than any other, simply as an excuse to open the refrigerator. Because these cookies were associated with the holidays, and because we prized this particular dough above all others, the cookies were aptly named Cookie Dough Cookies.

I made those cookies in college a few times, inviting friends over for decorating parties. We always seemd to have a kitchen layout that favored it, but then as an adult, I moved into a small condo that simply didn’t allow for any kind of kitchen or dining table. Instead, I had a breakfast bar that’s too high to do any prep work on, and I had little counter space. I then aquired a kitten who loved to follow me around, and particularly loved running across the counters. Not wanting a trail of floured footprints around the house, I abstained from making my favorite holiday cookies. I didn’t want to give up making sugar cookies completely, so when I came by this recipe that didn’t involve rolling out the dough, I had to try it.

It’s been my go-to recipe ever since. I’ve taken these cookies in to work, where they have always been popular. As an experiment, one holiday season when I was working for a small company (less than 20 employees), I took a batch of these cookies into the office, left the container out on my desk, and sent an e-mail to my coworkers to alert them of the cookies. The cookies disappeared in less than an hour. And yes, I’m quite aware that keeping track of how long your cookies last in the office makes you an uber-dork, but I’m okay with that.

These cookies are crisp and cracked on the outside and chewy on the inside. They also form some hollow pockets on the inside, so don’t let that alarm you. They freeze very well and are equally tasty served plain or frosted.

Easy Sugar Cookies
adapted from The Complete Book of Baking

1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300*F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until softened. Add sugar and cream until fluffy, about four minutes. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.

In a small bowl, add the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Stir to combine. On low speed, slowly add the flour to the butter mixture. (A stand mixer should be able to mix most of this for you, but a handheld mixer will likely only be able to do part of the flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix any remaining flour into the dough.)

Shape dough into small balls, about an inch in diameter. If desired, roll in colored sugar for decoration. Place balls two inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cookies from sheet and cool on wire racks.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze for up to one month. If desired, frost and decorate.

Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter
3 2/3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
milk, if needed

Remove butter from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to making the frosting.

On medium-low speed (using paddle attachment if using a stand mixer), beat the slightly cool butter until it’s smooth. Add the confectioners sugar and beat on low until mixed. Add vanilla and beat on low until mixed. If tinting the frosting, add the desired amount of food coloring. If the frosting needs to be thinned, add milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen @ MaplenCornbread September 6, 2009 at 2:20 pm

These are so lovely!

Sara September 6, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Thanks Jen! Also, I remember that your husband can’t tolerate gluten, and I wanted to let you know that these cookies are very tasty if you substitute almond flour for the all-purpose flour.

jillian September 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm

These look so pretty and delicate!

Michelle September 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

These look so pretty. I love the shade you chose for the frosting.

sippitysup September 6, 2009 at 7:49 pm

These cookies are so pretty, but I can yell from the recipe they are more than just a pretty face… GREG

lala September 6, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Hi,
Beautiful colour, did you use green or blue?

ABowlOfMush September 6, 2009 at 10:29 pm

These are so elegant looking! Such a pretty color!!

Natalie September 7, 2009 at 3:32 am

Oh yes, I agree wholeheartedly. These cookies are indeed addictive. I found the recipe a couple of years ago on Allrecipes.com and everyone I’ve baked them for is hooked on them. Love your blog :-)

Natalie September 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

These are so lovely. Sometimes less decoration is more! I have to bake for a baby shower next week and I think this has been my inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

Sara September 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Jillian, Michelle, Greg, Natalie, abowlofmush: Thank you!!!

lala: I used blue food coloring, but the blue color combined with the brown from the vanilla extract resulted in this sort of robins-egg shade of blue.

Natalie: I hope you enjoy these cookies. I’ve found they are perfect for parties because they are so easy to make and decorate, and they transport very well.

Dina September 8, 2009 at 11:10 pm

very pretty!

Debbie September 9, 2009 at 11:02 am

These cookies are lovely! I’ll try this recipe for a fundraiser I’m doing this weekend. :) Thank you!

Just wondering, does the frosting get hard enough to be able to stack the cookies for transport?

Sara September 10, 2009 at 7:23 am

Debbie, it really depends. I’ve transported these cookies with this frosting by placing sheets of waxed paper in between the layers of cookies, but if the temperature is warm where you are…it might not work. This is a fairly soft frosting recipe that I also use for cakes/cupcakes. If you’re worried, you could always use royal icing, which will dry to a hard finish.

I suppose you could always refrigerate the cookies before transporting them, to harden the butter in the frosting (if you use the frosting recipe I posted). I would still do the waxed paper between layers of cookies.

Mmmmm October 10, 2009 at 3:31 pm

These look gorgeous. I’m wondering, though. Are these soft cookies or hard cookies?

Sara October 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm

These cookies are hard, though the texture is different from a roll-out sugar cookie.

Shannon December 5, 2011 at 11:24 am

I don’t understand when it says to beat the butter with cream? Is that the cream of tartar? Because then it says to add that later on with the salt and stuff…?

Karin Vail August 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm

oh, these cookies look yummy! I went to pin it on Pinterest, and the cookie pic must be on your flickr set to private or something, it wouldn’t allow me to pin :(

Jessica Seaman February 13, 2014 at 7:22 pm

It doesn’t say how much cream to add to the butter and sugar mixture in the directions:0/

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