Creating firm cookies with a perfect surface for cookie icings can be challenging. This recipe will help, yielding cookies with a simple, subtle sweetness that hold their shape when baked and are enhanced with icing.
Baked cookies, with or without icing, taste best when eaten within seven to ten days. When mixing the dough, a stand mixer with a flat beater attachment is ideal, but a hand mixer may be used.
Important Recipe Tips
Always use high-quality ingredients. Butter is superior to margarine. While low-fat ingredients may produce cookies that are better for you, the taste and baking properties will be compromised. Allow refrigerated ingredients such as butter or cream cheese 30 minutes to 1 hour to come to room temperature before mixing.
Be sure to properly measure when mixing dough. Not enough flour can make the dough difficult and sticky to roll; too much flour will cause the cookie to be tough and dry. When measuring flour, scoop the flour into the measuring cup so that flour is overflowing. Use the straight edge of a knife or spatula to scrape the excess flour.
Buttery Sugar Cookie Recipe
1 cup (2 sticks [225 g]) of unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces (85 g) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (170 g) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
3 cups (330 g) all-purpose flour
- Mix the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 or 3 minutes or until the butter and cream cheese are blended. Scrape the bowl.
- Add the sugar. Continue to blend on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla.
- Add the egg, mixing on low until thoroughly blended. Scrape the bowl.
- Add the flour, 1 cup (110 g) at a time. Scrape the bowl after adding each cup. Mix until just incorporated. Do not overmix, or the dough will toughen.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Flatten the dough into 2 patties that are approximately 1 1/2″ (3.8 cm) thick. Wrap the patties with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until firm.
- Roll out and cut the cookies. Bake the cookies in a 375° F (190°C) oven. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.
Yields 36 (3″ to 4″ [7.6 to 10.2 cm] cookies)
Cracking or Sticking
If the dough cracks or breaks when rolling, it is likely too cold to roll. Allow the dough to come to room temperature. If the dough is sticking, it did not chill long enough or it has gotten warm as it has been rolled. Too much cream cheese or butter may also cause sticking. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 hours. If the dough is still sticking, dust the work surface and the top of the cookie dough with a bit of flour.
Rolling Cookie Dough and Cutting Shapes
To achieve a cookie with perfect thickness, use perfection strips. Or use a rolling pin with rings. Some rolling pins include rings or rings are available separately. If you need to buy the rings, measure the rolling pin barrel; its diameter determines which rings will be appropriate. The rolling pin diameter varies with the brand. Your choice of icing determines which size of perfection strips or rolling pin rings to use. Cookies with a thick layer of a sweet icing, such as piped buttercream, should have a baked cookie with a thickness of at least 14″ (6 mm). If the cookie is thin and the buttercream is piled high, the icing will overpower the cookie. Cookies with a thin layer of icing, such as run sugar, can be rolled thinner to approximately 1/6″ (4 mm).
For best results, the dough should be cool, but not so cold that it is difficult to roll. Removing the dough from the refrigerator an hour before rolling will usually be enough time for the dough to warm to a good temperature for rolling.
In the first method, the cookie dough is rolled on a silicone baking mat or sheet of parchment. After the dough is rolled, the shapes are cut and the excess dough is removed, leaving the cut shape untouched. The silicone mat or parchment sheet is then slid onto a cookie sheet and the cookies are baked. The advantage of this method is that you will have perfectly shaped cookies with no distortion. This is especially important when letter or geometric shapes are cut. Avoiding distortion is also important if the cookie is to be covered in rolled fondant, because the same cutter that was used in baking the cookie is also used to cut the rolled fondant. The disadvantage of this method is that it creates more excess dough that will need to be re-rolled, and this overworks the cookie dough. Another disadvantage is that you may not be able to bake as many cookies at a time.
In the second method (shown here) of rolling and cutting, the chilled cookie dough is placed on a nonstick work surface such as parchment paper or a silicone baking mat that has been lightly dusted with flour. Once the cookie dough is rolled, the shapes are cut and transferred to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat and the cookies are ready to bake. The advantage of this method is that more cookies can be baked at a time and the dough is less likely to become overworked. The disadvantage is that the cookies may become distorted if care is not taken when transferring the cut shape to the cookie sheet. Another disadvantage is that the rolling surface is dusted with flour and that will be absorbed by the cookie dough, which may cause the baked cookies to be tough. When dusting the work surface with flour, use a small amount. If the dough is still sticking when rolled, place the dough in the refrigerator to chill.
- Start with chilled dough. Place the cookie dough between perfection strips on a silicone mat or a sheet of parchment paper. Roll over the strips, leveling the cookie dough.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes approximately 1/4″” (6 mm) apart. The cookies hold their shape so they can be cut very close together, eliminating excessive working of the dough.
- Remove the excess dough using a paring knife. The scraps can be re-rolled and more shapes can be cut.
- Slide the parchment paper or silicone mat onto a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies according to the recipe instructions. After the cookies are baked, allow them to cool for 3 to 4 minutes on the cookie sheet. Use a cookie spatula to gently transfer the warm, cut shapes to a cooling rack. Baked cookies will be fragile and soft to touch while they are still hot. Take extra care when moving the baked cookie from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating.
Tips For Rolling & Cutting
- Cookie dough may not release easily from cookie cutters with thin or highly detailed shapes. If part of the cookie dough remains in the cutter while part of it releases, dip the cookie cutter in flour before cutting the next cookie. Cutters may be stretched and reshaped slightly if necessary to get the dough to release from a tight area.
- Take the time needed to chill the cookie dough. It is frustrating to try and roll soft cookie dough. The dough may be sticky and cutout shapes will be difficult to remove. If the dough is still sticking after chilling, lightly dust flour on the silicone mat, parchment paper, or work surface and on the top of the cookie dough.
- Cookie dough will become overworked if the dough is rolled over and over. The less the dough is rolled, the better. Overworked dough will result in cookies that are very dry and tough, or that have a distorted or shrunken shape. In most cases, mix the dough and then divide it into two patties. After cutting shapes from the first patty, set the scraps to the side. Roll and cut shapes from the second patty, and again set the scraps to the side. Combine the scraps from both patties and roll. Repeat until no scraps remain. The best shaped cookies will come from the first batches of rolled dough.
- Cut out shapes that are the consistent in size for even baking. Cookies bake best on the center rack of the oven and when one cookie sheet is used. If two cookie sheets are used, space the oven racks evenly and rotate the cookie sheets after 4 to 5 minutes to promote even baking.
- Transfer baked cookies from hot cookie sheets to a cooling rack soon after the cookies are out of the oven to prevent the cookies from browning any further. If the cookies are on a parchment sheet or silicone mat, the sheet or mat can be slid onto the cooling rack. If the cookie sheet is not lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, the baked cookies may stick if left on a hot cookie sheet too long.
Recipe and additional information used with permission from “The Complete Photo Guide to Cookie Decorating” by Autumn Carpenter.