Monday, January 21, 2013

The Basics - Baking Sugar Cookies

I like to pretend that I have a super popular blog that tons of people read and people are hanging on my every word and wondering, "How does she do that?" So just play along and I'll tell you, ok? Although to be honest, I do get asked these questions in real life.

Today I'll share recipes and tips for baking the cookies themselves. I hope to do another post on icing as well as listing some of the resources I use for inspiration or for shopping purposes later.  


I use a couple of fairly basic recipes for roll out cookies and while occasionally I make changes to these recipes, I am not going to pretend I spent hours inventing the wheel. For a vanilla cookie I use the No Fail Sugar Cookie here if I am making dough ahead of time. If I want to make cookies right away, I use this recipe and use the higher flour range, I also cut the baking powder in half. I tend to prefer making dough ahead of time because chilled/frozen dough is easier to work with than soft, fresh dough. Sometimes getting a shape onto the cookie sheet with a fresh dough like from the second recipe is challenging and can result in warped shapes.

For a chocolate cookie, I like LilaLoa's chocolate cookie recipe - for my cocoa powder, I always use half Hershey's Special Dark with regular Hershey's cocoa. When I first read about the Hershey's Special Dark on the internet I figured I was out of luck because NONE of the grocery stores around here carried it. But then I figured out that Super Wal-Mart carries it - I may have bought several containers so I don't have to venture back soon.


Did you know there's a right and wrong way to measure flour? The wrong way is to open your flour up, dig a measuring cup in and scoop out. Flour settles over time and measuring this way means you are putting far more flour in your recipe than intended. Google "how to measure flour" for lots more information about this. I leave a spoon in my flour and every time I use it, I give it a healthy stir, then I spoon flour into my measuring cup, level and repeat.  A more accurate measurement would be to weigh ingredients, but since I don't have a food scale...

How do you get your cookie dough from this...

to this?

Well I have a few suggestions for you that do not involve a super human ability to know how thick 1/4" is or whatever thickness you're aiming for. They all keep your dough at a uniform depth producing nice, uniformly thick cookies.

The first is using a set of objects to rest your rolling pin on, with the dough in the middle, like this. This is a square dowel I bought at Menards and cut in half. You could also use paint sticks which tend to be free in the paint section at most stores that sell paint. Just make sure they are even on both sides, set the rolling pin on top and you are good to go. 

The second suggestion I have for you are rolling pin rings like these. They are silicone rings that you slide onto a 2" rolling pin. The advantage of these is that they come with four sets of varying thickness and can be used on many rolling pins. 

The third suggestion is a dedicated rolling pin with built in spacers like this. This set is nice because the spacers are a hard material and I think it is more accurate than the silicone rings since sometimes they seem squishy.  The drawback with this one is that it only comes with three sets of spacers - omitting the 1/8" spacer that the above set has. 

I like to split the whole cookie process up into several steps and many times days. One way to do that is to make a whole bunch of dough in one day and freeze it. Now, I'm not a fan of freezing a big lump of dough and when I want to use it letting it thaw for hours before attempting to beat it into submission. I like to roll my dough out when it's soft and fresh right out of the mixer. I cut a big piece of parchment paper, put a lump of dough on one side, fold the parchment over and roll it out. Then I slide it onto a cookie sheet and throw it into the freezer while I roll out another sheet and repeat until I'm done. If I want to make cookies right away, that first sheet is basically ready to use by the time I've cleaned up.

If I want to freeze sheets of dough for later, I put up to three sheets in a 2-gallon Ziplock bag and freeze until needed. These do need to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before you start cutting out cookies (at least with a plastic cutter, metal ones might be ok sooner).

Here are two sheets of cookies, the one on the left hasn't baked yet, the one on the right is ready for icing. The sizes are almost identical, that is what you want in a recipe for decorated sugar cookies.


Look at the nice, crisp edges here... I have made plenty of cookies in my day with rounded edges and it doesn't give me near as much happiness as these crisp edges.

I hope this has been helpful and I'll be back to share more information soon.


  1. Son of a gun. That is a great tip for getting 1/4" dough using paint sticks. Who can't afford free stuff.

  2. The blue heart is my favorite! Would love to know how you did it! Thanks for sharing your tricks of the trade....awesome ability!

  3. Hi - the blue heart was made using a quilting technique. I believe I followed this tutorial when I made it: