When new to baking, it can seem intimidating and scary especially when going to a bakery and seeing all their perfect baked goods.
Sometimes recipes can be complicated in their techniques, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
For baking cookies the first one to master is the sugar cookie; the ultimate crowd favorite that can be decorated and flavored any which way.
It is perfect for any holiday or special occasion, and it will taste even better because you made it!
How to Master the Sugar Cookie
It is crucial for me to share with you my simple steps to achieving high-level baking in your homes. Once understanding these steps, you will become a cookie pro too!
Some simple tips are chilling your cookie dough before baking them to prevent spreading and using a whisk to smooth out your flour if you don’t have a sifter.
These are just a few examples of what I am going to be sharing with you throughout this recipe.
Let’s Get Started
Before starting the mixer, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt (if you don’t have a sifter, use a whisk in a bowl to smooth out the dry ingredients).
In a stand mixer bowl, add room temperature butter (if your butter is still cold no worries, place it in the microwave and heat for 15-30 seconds until softened, not melted) and use a paddle attached to mix till fluffy on medium high.
Then gradually add the granulated sugar to the fluffy butter. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl before moving on to the next step.
Next, gently add the beaten egg and vanilla extract to the butter mixture. It will start to look like chunky honey mustard dressing that’s okay; you are in a good spot trust me. Continue to scrape down the bowl.
Mix on low and gradually add the sifted (or whisked) dry ingredients to the batter. Continue until you have added half of the dry mixture then add 1 TBSP of milk and finally incorporate all the dry ingredients to the dough.
When the sugar cookie dough is made it should be slightly firm and moist not dry, all the flour should be incorporated.
Before removing the dough, place a piece of plastic wrap onto the counter and place the dough onto the plastic wrap. Wrap the dough tightly.
The goal here is to chill the dough quickly to set it before rolling and cutting it into the desired shape, so if you can flatten the dough out and wrap it, that would be best.
Place the dough into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill properly.
Note: This recipe can easily be doubled or halved to make a small batch. This dough freezes excellently; it can last in the freezer for one year! How perfect is that! I always have cookie dough in my freezer just in case I need it last minute. I pull out the desired amount and thaw it in a bowl on my counter for an hour then I continue onto the next steps.
Before Baking Sugar Cookies
Once the dough has chilled, its time to roll and cut the cookies.
First, prepare a cookie tray with a piece of parchment paper or silicone mat, set aside.
Now preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
On a floured board or a cool marble counter/slab, place the dough and begin to roll out with a wooden rolling pin, roll to ¼” thick.
Make sure the board is well floured to prevent sticking. You can also use powdered sugar to roll out your dough.
Once the dough is at ¼” thick use cookie cutters to make the shapes you want. You can also use an x-acto knife to create a custom stencil cookies.
Place the cut cookie dough onto the prepared cookie tray(s). Set each cookie approximately an inch apart to prevent them from baking together.
Here is my trick to achieve the perfect cookies, once the tray is set up with the cut cookie dough. Place the baking tray back into the fridge to chill for 10 minutes. To prevent the cookies from spreading and ruining the shape you made.
Now place the tray(s) into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. This time is standard for cookies around 2-3 inches.
The sugar cookies are ready when the edges golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and let sit for 2 minutes.
After slightly cooling move the cookies to a cooling rack to finish cooling. The reason I do this is to prevent the cookies from over baking on the hot tray. This tip helps to ensure you end up with crunchy edges and a soft center.
Once the cookies have adequately cooled, it’s time to decorate!
How to Decorate Sugar Cookies
With sugar cookies, you have a deliciously blank canvas to start, and now it’s up to you how you want to decorate it.
Traditionally royal icing is used to create those super cute decorations and here is my recipe to teach you how to make it.
I make my homemade marshmallow fondant to decorate the cookies. It tastes delicious like a giant marshmallow, and it is easier to decorate with as well, and it’s a lot more forgiving.
So make several batches of this dough and have it in your freezer year round, so you are always ready to share.
Another great tip with this recipes is that it lends itself so well to changing the flavor like adding cinnamon and nutmeg for a fall spice inspired cookie or fresh lemon zest for a tangy treat.
You can even add your favorite jam and sandwich two cookies together, finish with a dusting of powdered sugar,
My favorite memory with sugar cookies is from my childhood. I remember going to the local bakery and putting my face to the bakery case and staring at the sugar cookies.
They were always bright colors and covered in rainbow sprinkles. They taste of sweet vanilla. I still savor it, taking little bites to make it last longer. Nothing beats food memories like that!
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Sugar cookies are a perfect starting point to mastering baking. They can be a canvas to showcase your creativity easily. Remember you don’t have to be a pastry chef to make outstanding sugar cookies!
Watch The How-to Video Below:
Simple Sugar Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted softened butter
- 1 whole egg
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- extra all-purpose flour 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. This could take up to 5 minutes.
- Slowly add the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate the ingredients. Continue to mix until combined.
- Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. If the dough looks and feels dry, slowly add up to 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten the dough.
- Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until ready to use. Tip: I divide the cookie dough, so one stays cold while I’m working with the other one.
- Preheat oven to 350 ° F.
- Sprinkle the surface where you will roll out the cookie dough with all-purpose flour. Remove one wrapped pack of cookie dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the cookie dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. (If cookie dough has warmed during rolling, place the cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill.)
- Cut into the 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 frost with royal icing as desired.