After posting these secret tips to the perfect chocolate chip cookies, many readers have asked how to make sugar cookies turn out perfect?
Sugar cookies are simple to make, but the technique is a delicate situation since you want to be able to cut them out into cute shapes for Christmas, right?
Over the past few years I have studied, researched, and tested some undeniably effective science tips to help you master and troubleshoot sugar cookies!
Pin This How to Make Sugar Cookies Turn Out Perfect
Always use baking powder instead of baking soda.
Most sugar cookie recipes are similar, but they can vary on the leavening agent used. Baking soda is most widely used in cookies since it causes the dough to rise. Baking soda is also very alkaline, so it raises the pH of dough. This allows it to rise more slow, keeping the cookie at a uniform thickness. Which is awesome for almost all cookies!
But with cut out sugar cookies, you really don’t want the dough to rise that much. It makes it too puffy. So, baking powder is a better solution. Baking powder contains both baking soda and cream of tartar (powdered acid). This acid-base reaction in baking releases carbon dioxide which helps the cookies stay nice and airy, while rising a little bit. The more baking powder you have in a cookie, the chewier it will be. Cut out sugar cookies need just the right amount to be a little crisp, but still chewy.
I’ll be sharing my favorite recipe soon in the newsletter (dairy-free one tomorrow), so stay tuned for that! I will also have my favorite chemist tip for sugar cookies in the letter 🙂
Use room temperature eggs and almost room temperature butter.
All sugar cookies need eggs and butter to be traditional. The key to a nice consistency for a cookie is making sure the ingredients mix completely. Cold ingredients don’t mix up as well, making air pockets. This is the reason when you make biscuits or pie dough, it calls for cold butter. You want flaky air pockets throughout. But not with cookies!
One of the reasons I don’t let my butter become completely soft to room temperature, is it will continue to soften as you mix up the dough. I have found that if the butter is too soft while mixing, the sugar cookie dough will spread too much even after chilling the mixed dough. Just a preference for me, but it makes a difference!
Chill the dough and chill again.
The most important thing for cut out sugar cookies is CHILLING the dough after each step. Once you mix the dough, wrap it up in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes or so. This is going to keep those sugar cookies from spreading.
After you chill initially, chill again once you roll it out to desired thickness. I place mine on a baking sheet and pop in fridge for 10-20 minutes.
Then, when you cut out the cookies to desired shape, chill again! Just for a few minutes to make sure everything isn’t softened. This is the best way to keep a sugar cookie in the shape you want.
Don’t use much flour.
It may be tempting to flour your rolling pin and surface, but too much flour causes dry dough and cracking. I like to use wax paper or parchment paper when I roll out the dough. If I need to, I will lightly (very lightly) put flour on the pin. Or I will put another piece of wax paper on top of the dough and roll on that.
Another tip is using powdered sugar to dust your rolling pin (like below). Added sweetness without over drying the dough.
Always slightly under bake.
Most of my readers have said their sugar cookies turn out too crunchy. I always under bake my cookies, even sugar cookies. This is how the middle will stay soft.
You want the middle to be soft, but the edges to be very lightly browned.
Remember, when the cookies cool on a rake completely, the middle will dry too. The cookies will also continue to bake for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven, so it’s best to take them out when they aren’t completely done.
Use good equipment.
This last tip is one of the MOST important tips because equipment can actually effect how the cookies bake. First, I always use a cookie scoop, like this one. It is the only way to ensure the cookies will be even and bake the same.
Another important part is the baking sheet. I swear by these air baking sheets for almost all cookies. It keeps the bottoms from browning, but will still cook through. When baking with these, you do have to increase bake time by a minute or two since they don’t hold heat as much as darker sheets. I love these baking sheets too because you can fit so many cookies onto them.
Wire racks are also important. Years ago, I used to cool cookies on wax paper since I didn’t have the racks. This makes the cookies collect the moisture underneath instead of it breathing.
Allowing sugar cookies to cool on wire racks for many hours will make sure they firm up just right 🙂
Tomorrow I will be sharing the best dairy-free sugar cookie recipe!