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How to Make Sugar Cookies

Make your best-ever sugar cookies from scratch with these tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen.

By Elizabeth Harris, Contributing Editor

Plate stacked with homemade sugar cookies.


Soft, chewy sugar cookies are just the thing with a glass of milk or hot chocolate. This easy recipe makes it simple to make your own.

With a simple cookie, shape, texture and color are crucial. Expert home cooks share their tips for success, plus tips for preventing common cookie woes like spreading and overbrowning.


How to Make Homemade Sugar Cookies

Time:

Prep: 30 min. Bake: 10 min./batch

What you’ll need:

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Large bowl
  • Greased baking sheets
  • Wire racks

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Additional sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and baking soda; gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Shape into 1-in. balls. Roll in additional sugar. Place on greased baking sheets; flatten with a glass. Bake until set, 10-12 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 5 dozen.




Expert Tips from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen

  • How to measure butter: Butter wrappers come with markings for tablespoons, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/2 cup. Use a knife to cut the desired amount.

Cutting butter using the measurement markings on wrappers.


  • How to measure shortening: Press shortening from a can into dry measuring cups with a spatula to ensure that it is solidly packed without air bubbles, then level the top.

Leveling shortening at the top of a dry measuring cup with a spatula


  • How to measure dry ingredients: Spoon dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar or cornmeal, into a dry measuring cup over a canister or waxed paper. Allow ingredient to overflow the cup, then level the top.

Leveling the top of a dry measuring cup filled with flour.


  • How to use measuring spoons: Measure dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar or spices, by heaping them into the spoon, then leveling the top. Pour liquid ingredients into a measuring spoon over a custard cup or small bowl to catch spills.

Leveling a measuring spoon over a container to catch spills.


Cookie Tips from Expert Home Cooks

  • When a recipe tells me to flatten cookie dough with a sugar-dipped glass, I put the sugar aside and place waxed or parchment paper over the portions of dough on the baking sheet. As I flatten the cookies, the paper keeps the dough from sticking to the glass and easily lifts away when I’m done. Then I sprinkle sugar, if needed, over the treats before popping them in the oven. —Marie Yatso, Louisville, Kentucky

  • For cookies rolled in sugar, place five or six balls of dough at a time in a container of sugar; cover and shake to coat. It saves time, and your fingers stay clean. —Doris B., Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin

  • Instead of scooping up cookie dough one teaspoonful at a time, pat dough into a rectangle on a baking sheet and freeze until almost solid. Slice the rectangle horizontally and vertically at even intervals, forming a grid. Pick up and roll individual pieces for baking. —Maxine B., Mt. Gilead, Ohio

How to Freeze Sugar Cookies

With the exception of doughs made with sour cream or cream cheese, you can store most cookie doughs in the freezer. After mixing your dough, chill it in the refrigerator until firm. Then shape it into a large ball or square. Wrap in freezer paper, then place in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag. Freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw dough in the refrigerator before baking. For drop cookies, you can place individual cookie portions onto waxed paper-lined cookie sheets and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to labeled freezer bags. Remove as many portions as you need and bake, making sure to add additional baking time.


How to Make Softer Cookies

  • Measure flour carefully; too much may make cookies firm, dry and tough.
  • Avoid overmixing the dough for soft sugar cookies, and check for doneness at the minimum baking time, baking longer if needed.
  • Try a recipe that uses brown sugar or honey instead of white sugar. White sugar produces a crisper cookie.

Troubleshooting Cookie Baking

If…

Your cookies are spreading too much,

  • Place the dough on a cool baking sheet.
  • Chill the dough before baking.

Your cookies aren’t spreading enough,

  • Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of liquid, such as milk or water, to the remaining dough.
  • Let the dough stand at room temperature before baking.

Your cookies are tough,

  • Too much flour was worked into the dough. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of shortening, butter or sugar to the remaining dough.
  • The dough was overhandled or overmixed. Next time, use a lighter touch when mixing for a soft sugar cookie.

Your cookies are too brown,

  • The oven temperature is too high. Check with an oven thermometer.
  • Use heavy-gauge dull aluminum baking sheets. Dark baking sheets will cause the cookies to become overly browned.

Your cookies are too pale,

  • The oven temperature is too low. Check with an oven thermometer.
  • Again, go with heavy-gauge dull aluminum baking sheets. Insulated baking sheets cause cookies to be pale in color.