Although this cookie has taken a few batches to perfect (which equates to numerous taste testing…sigh), the Cook’s Illustrated version of the classic sugar cookie is delicious…so much so that it’s best without frosting. I have modified it just a touch based on my baking experiences. I highly recommend adding it to your book of “dessert staples!”
Ease of Preparation: Easy
Cook’s Illustrated recommends using Pillsbury or Gold Medal unbleached flour because their protein counts provide for a more ‘perfect’ sugar cookie. We have not used another type of flour so we cannot say whether this is true (I’m OK with giving them the benefit of the doubt). They also recommend that you not discard the butter wrappers because they have just enough butter on them for buttering the bottom of the drinking glass used to flatten the dough balls (ingenious!). To make sure the cookies are flat, choose a glass with a smooth, flat bottom.
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 oz), preferably Pillsbury or Gold Medal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still firm (60 to 65 degrees) (this is important…my best batches occur when the butter is in this state…so make sure the butter isn’t too cold)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 oz), for rolling dough (see Paige’s Notes below for slight modification)
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or with hand mixer, beat butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
Place sugar for rolling in shallow bowl. Fill medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip hands in water and shake off excess (this will prevent dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that sugar sticks to dough). Roll heaping tablespoon dough into 1 1/2-inch ball between moistened palms; roll ball in sugar, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, moistening hands after forming each ball and spacing balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheet (you should be able to fit 12 cookies on each sheet). Using butter wrapper, butter bottom of drinking glass; dip bottom of glass in remaining sugar and flatten dough balls with bottom of glass until dough is about 3/4 inch thick.
Bake 12 minutes, reversing position of cookie sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. When finished baking, test for readiness by touching one lightly in the center. If a slight dimple remains, they are ready. No dimple means overcooked…big dimple means undercooked. They will appear completely white, with perhaps a slight browning around the edges. Cool cookies on baking sheet about 3 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Makes 2 dozen.
Storage: Rolled into balls, the dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 week. The baked cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Notes from Paige: I roll half of the batch in plain sugar as called for but also stir cinnamon and sugar together in a 2nd bowl and roll the other half in this mixture. It’s delicious!
Also, don’t be afraid of the ice water. I find that adding this slight amount of water to the dough helps prevent the cookie from drying. Your hands should not be dripping, but they should have a fair amount of water on them.
Amateur Tip: If you happen to be out of parchment paper like I was the first time I made these, wax paper is NOT a viable replacement. The cookies that didn’t end up stuck to the paper were good, but the rest went in the trash!