Sunday, December 11

Sugar Cookies + How to Soften Butter

This weekend Roy made a request for sugar cookies. And not only did he want to eat them, he wanted to bake them from scratch and then decorate them. Decoded this meant Roy wanted to eat some cookie dough.


My immediate reaction was to freak out.  I don't typically bake from scratch and I thought for sure I wouldn't have all the ingredients necessary.  One Internet search later, I was looking at Alton Brown's recipe with 684 positive reviews.  And shockingly, I HAD all the ingredients.  I felt immediately more grown up and mature. Then again the "ingredients" constituted flour, butter, sugar, an egg and baking powder.  Knock that maturity marker down a notch or two.

I helped Roy locate all the ingredients because we would have been there for hours if he had to find the baking powder on his own.  But after setting everything out, I tried to sit quietly and watch while he enjoyed the creative process.  For the record, after he enjoyed the creative process, he got to enjoy the clean up process.  We're equal opportunity in this household.  :)

Unfortunately, we had places to go that evening and couldn't wait for the butter to soften naturally.  I know enough not to microwave butter if you're using it for baking, unless the recipe specifically calls for it.  Another Internet search later and I was testing out this little tip...

To soften butter for baking, place a stick or half a stick between two sheets of wax paper and roll out with a rolling pin.  A recipe that calls for "softened butter" isn't calling for butter at a specific temperature necessarily, it's just calling for butter that is pliable and moldable.  Something that will work well when creamed with sugar.   That being said, you're going to have a hard time rolling out a stick of just-out-of-the-fridge cold butter.  You should let it warm up for a few minutes before breaking out your rolling pin.


Softened butter in hand, Roy finished the dough which we refrigerated overnight (technically the recipe only requires 2 hours of chill time but like I said, we had places to go and all).

One thing that I found unusual about this recipe was that it called for you to sprinkle powdered sugar on your baking surface.  Has this always been the way you make sugar cookies?!?  I just assumed it would be flour since that's what you usually use in baking.  Once I tried the cookies I completely understood the powdered sugar.  It gives the cookies just a smidgen of extra sweetness, it's perfect.



The 684 people who reviewed this recipe weren't wrong.  These cookies are good!  I'll be hanging on to the recipe and trying them with a bit of lemon extract and lemon icing come spring.  You could always try a bit of almond extract too if you prefer that flavor.

These turned out just like sugar cookies should, a little bit crispy around the edges and softer in the middle.  They're melt in your mouth good without icing (thanks to that little bit of powdered sugar) but they're not so sweet that the addition of icing makes them overwhelming. 




Alton Brown's Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies, 15 mins prep, 2 hours inactive

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg, vanilla extract and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time.

Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

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