How to Make the Best Sugar Cookies
Includes Choosing a Rolling Pin
Kitchen tools, gourmet foods, baking mixes, and hard-to-find baking ingredients mentioned in this article are available at The Prepared Pantry.
by Dennis Weaver
Every little kid should make cookies at Christmas. It's a wonderful opportunity
to spend time with Mom or Dad. It's a time to be creative, to make something pretty,
and to build excitement in the holiday season. No wonder their little eyes are so
But sugar cookies don't always turn out right. We've compiled a list of tips
and techniques to help you make the very best sugar cookies. Plus we'll give you
ideas for variations and help you choose the right rolling pin.
Variations on the theme
Sugar cookies can be a work of art. I'm not an artist but I can make sugar cookies
that taste good. Here are variations to make sugar cookies more than ordinary.
• Chocolate Sugar Cookies. I like chocolate. So my first choice is for chocolate
sugar cookies. A fudgy sugar cookie with dark, fudgy frosting is my perfect sugar
• Cinnamon Chip Sugar Cookies. Depending on the size of your recipe, add 3/4
to one cup of cinnamon chips to your dough. Add them at the end and don't beat longer
• Raspberry, Strawberry, or Blueberry Sugar Cookies. Add blueberry, raspberry,
or strawberry bits for splashes of color and a burst of flavor.
• Bark Topped Sugar Cookies. Our new chopped bark—a combination of candy
and white chocolate chopped into pieces
for decorations—adds a lot of flavor and a pretty topping.
• Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies. Depending on the size of your recipe, add 3/4
to one cup of chocolate chips to your dough. Add them at the end.
• Cranberry Nut Sugar Cookies. Depending on the size of your recipe, add 3/4
cup finely chopped cranberries and 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts to the dough.
• Butterscotch Sugar Cookies. Add a teaspoon of butterscotch flavor. Depending on the size of your recipe, add 3/4 to one cup of butterscotch chips to your dough. Add them at the end.
• Spiced Sugar Cookies. Add a teaspoon of
good quality cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ginger.
• Zested Orange, Lemon, or Lime Sugar Cookies. Add a tablespoon of zest and a
teaspoon of orange flavor, lemon flavor, or lime flavor to your cookies.
You can see that sugar cookies don't have to be "plain vanilla.” In addition
to what you see here, consider adding flavors to both your dough and your frosting.
(You'll taste more flavor in your frosting since heat drives off some of the flavor
in your dough.) Add other dried fruit and nuts—just keep the pieces small. Experiment
with peanut butter chips or peanut butter in your dough.
Choosing the Right Rolling Pin
It's important to work quickly and keep the butter cold. The right rolling pin
makes a difference. There are marble rolling pins, stainless steel rolling pins,
and rolling pins with slick, nonstick surfaces. Are they better than the old wooden
We've compiled this list of tips and techniques to help you make the very best
1. Measure ingredients accurately, especially the flour. Too much flour will
make your cookies hard and dry. If you scoop the flour with the measuring cup instead
of spooning sifted flour into your cup, you are likely to have 20% too much flour.
2. Sugar cookies are made by the creaming method. This is the most important
step in making sugar cookies—it incorporates the air into the dough that acts as
a leavening agent. Use the paddle attachment of your electric mixer to cream the
sugar, salt, and spices with the butter or shortening. Cream the ingredients together
at low speed, not high. For light cookies, cream the mixture until it is light and
fluffy. For a denser, moister cookie, cream only until the mixture is paste-like.
3. Add the eggs and liquid after creaming, beating these in at low speed.
4. Mix the flour into the creamed mixture only until it is combined. If you over-mix,
you will develop the gluten and make a tougher cookie.
5. Choose a low protein flour, preferably pastry flour, for your sugar cookies.
Avoid bread flours with their high protein content. All purpose flour is an acceptable
6. If the dough is too soft to work easily, chill it until firm. The dough should
be pliable but not squishy soft. Handling of the dough with warm hands will make
the dough soft.
7. Use no more flour than necessary to dust the counter. The flour will work
into the dough for a drier, tougher cookie.
8. Too much re-rolling will make for tougher cookies. Not only does successive
re-rolling work the dusting flour into the dough, the continued working of the dough
develops the gluten.
9. When cutting shapes, make the cuts as close together as you can to minimize
the amount of dough that will be re-rolled.
10. Most recipes call for the dough to be rolled to 1/8 inch in thickness. This
creates a crisp cookie. For a moister, less crisp cookie, roll the dough to 1/4
11. Remove the cookies from the counter with a thin metal spatula.
12. When garnishing cookies with sprinkles, drop the decorations from a height
of eight or ten inches for a more even distribution.
13. The size of the cookies will affect bake times. Put like-sized cookies on
the same sheet.
14. Do not over bake cookies. Thin cookies will bake in seven or eight minutes
at 350 degrees F. Thicker cookies will take ten or twelve minutes. Cookies on darker
pans will bake in less time. When done, the cookies will still be pale-colored with
just a tinge of brown at the edges.
15. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Do not frost them until they are completely
Fudgy Sugar Cookies
For the cookies
14 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup Ramstadt Breda Rich Dark Cocoa
For the frosting
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons Ramstadt Breda Rich Dark Cocoa or equal
3 tablespoons water or as needed to reach a spreadable consistency
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using the paddle attachment of your stand-type mixer, cream together the
butter, granulated sugar, and salt. Add the egg, one tablespoon water, and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa.
Beat until a uniform dough ball is formed. Refrigerate the dough, if needed,
to make a firm dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured countertop to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut
cookies and place them on a greased baking sheet. Bake for eight to ten minutes.
Remove the cookies from the sheet and let them cool on a rack.
To frost the cooled cookies, mix the powdered sugar, meringue powder, vanilla,
and cocoa together in a medium bowl. Add the water and stir until smooth. Frost
and decorate as desired.
Dennis Weaver is the founder of
The Prepared Pantry, a full line kitchen store in Rigby, Idaho. The Prepared
Pantry sells kitchen tools, gourmet foods, and baking ingredients including hundreds of hard-to-find ingredients.