The other day, while going through my recipe file, I came across a tattered, yellowing card with my favorite sugar cookie recipes. At that moment a rush of memories came over me.
As a teenager, I had copied the family recipe from my mom’s file to add to my “hope chest.” Just looking at the butter (or maybe egg?) stained card reminded me of Saturday mornings baking with her.
Baking With Mom
Taste-testing the hot out of the oven, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies was my reward for mixing, rolling, and pressing the sweet treats. As an adult, those simple little circles of tasty goodness are much more.
With my mom in her 80s and no longer baking, I treasure those Saturdays. The youngest of four, I didn’t get a lot of one-on-one time with my parents. When my mom taught me how to sew, my sister was there, too. Or as I learned to ride a bike, my dad was behind my mom ready to lend a hand.
Sharing With Mom
But weekend mornings cracking eggs and mixing dough — that was me and mom time. She would tell me stories of her childhood — she was the youngest of five and the only girl — cooking with her Swedish mother. Or when dad said he liked tuna fish casserole, and she made it so many times he grew to hate it. In fact, he’s a little scared to tell her he likes anything because he’s afraid that’s all they’ll eat.
Passing On One of Our Family Sugar Cookie Recipes
On those Saturdays, my mom and I created something special. And now, I want to pass on that same weekend tradition. I have three boys, who weren’t as interested in baking when they were kids. I’m hoping that I’ll have grandchildren someday, so I can share this time with them and start a new generation of memories.
In the meantime, I’m passing one of my special sugar cookie recipes on to you. I hope you can make your family feel as warm as these cookies have made me feel for decades.
Things to Know About Making One of My All-Time Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipes
No Chilling Required
For this sugar cookie recipe, you don’t have to chill the dough before you bake it. That can save you time in making them and is faster out of the oven for eating them. To me, that’s a win-win for everybody.
Sift Flour or Not to Sift Flour
On the original recipe, it calls for “sifted” flour. Since I wasn’t sure you still need to do that, I did a little research. What I got were mixed answers. One blog said that sometimes cake flour, almond flour, baking soda, confectioners’ sugar, and cocoa powder can get clumpy after you open the package. They said if that happens, sift before using them in a recipe.
Other bloggers suggest using a whisk or fine strainer to sift flour if you’re making tender baked goods, like pies or angel food cake. These cookies aren’t what I would call delicate. Another blogger said you don’t have to worry about sifting because it’s already as fine as it’s going to get out of the bag.
I guess the answer to sift or not to sift is up to you. We did when I was young because flour isn’t like it is today. But now, I don’t worry about it.
Margarine vs. Butter
The recipe lists stick margarine. Since I don’t want to do anything different to change the taste, I haven’t tried using butter. Most sugar cookie recipes I found online use butter. Although, I did find one reviewer who said they only use margarine because it makes a better tasting cookie. I guess it’s just whatever you prefer.
If you’re looking for a healthy, low-calorie cookie, this sugar cookie recipe is not it. Although I’m not sure how many calories, fat, or sugar is in each cookie, I can guess it’s not great. One of the main reasons is the shortening, which is 100% fat. We always used Crisco®. Some sugar cookie recipes call for butter or margarine in place of shortening, but it may change how the cookie looks and tastes. Plus, margarine or butter can make them brown easier, so you might have to adjust how long they cook or turn the temperature down.
Another thing you can use instead of shortening is cooking oil. Olive oil is the healthiest but doesn’t always work when you’re baking. Lard can be used in place of shortening, too, but it can also change the taste. And lard, like shortening, is 100% fat… so really, what’s the difference? Or a half cup of applesauce or prune purée can be used instead of one cup shortening. I’m pretty sure that would change the taste, or at the very least, the consistency.
I’m not much of an experimenter when it comes to this sugar cookie recipe, and cooking in general. I’m afraid it won’t come out right or even worse, it will come out better and I won’t remember how I did it. That’s why I stick with the original sugar cookie recipe.
Parchment Paper: a Burning Question
I know that parchment paper is a must-have for some bakers. I’m not one of them. Maybe I don’t know all the tricks, but it seems every time I use it, I burn whatever I’m making — and the paper, too. If it works for you and makes it easier to make these cookies, then use it. Maybe you can let me know how to do it right.
It’s important to not let these cookies get too brown on the bottom. One, because who likes a burnt cookie. And two, it will make them even crunchier and harder to eat. They tend to cook a little more while they’re cooling, so you don’t want to overdo it.
Plus, all ovens work differently. You might want to check them at 5 minutes or 8 minutes. Or try different racks in the oven. Another thing to think about is the cookie sheet you use. I’ve found that darker ones cook food quicker. So if I use a mix of light and dark cookie sheets, I have to keep an eye on the darker ones. I typically put those on a higher rack in the oven and the lighter ones lower.
Another consideration: ovens have hot spots and cold spots. To make sure all your cookies bake evenly, you might need to rotate them halfway through. The last thing you want to do is follow this sugar cookie recipe and then have it ruined by having them burn.
Not Sure About Shaped Cookies for this Sugar Cookie Recipe
I haven’t tried rolling these out and using cookie cutters, but it’s worth a shot. My guess is they’d be a little dry and brittle, but maybe if you chill them? Let me know what you discover. I’m sticking to the tried and true, nostalgic version.
Other Things to Consider for the Perfect Cookie
I’ve never really thought about some of these things when I’ve been baking. Maybe that would explain why I think of myself as a good cook, not a great one.
- Are your eggs coming straight from the refrigerator? Experts say they should be room temperature before using them. That gives them time to aerate and can improve the texture of your cookies.
- What’s the best way to soften butter? Having it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes will soften it enough. You should be able to press down on it, but it won’t lose its shape.
- Is your baking soda or baking powder stale? These are what make your cookies rise, so if you haven’t switched it out in six months, your cookies might be denser.
- Are you checking the oven too much? Every time you open the oven door, you’re letting heat escape and could be changing how your cookies come out. Stop peeking!
Add Some Fun
We like our cookies au naturel (remember: I’m not much of a risk-taker), but if you like added sweetness, go for it. You could use buttercream, peanut butter, or cream cheese frosting. You can add food coloring to the sugar cookie recipe, like pink for Valentine’s Day, green or red for Christmas, and orange for Halloween.
If frosting isn’t your thing, you could use colorful sprinkles, M&Ms, or chocolate kisses. You can also dip half the cookie in chocolate after they’ve cooled, then sprinkle with chopped nuts, peppermint pieces, or coconut. Another idea might be to roll the cookie balls in a cinnamon sugar mixture before flattening them.
There are also edible cookie toppers that might be interesting to try. I’ve never used them before, so I’m not sure what they taste like and if they change the flavor of the cookie. But they could be fun and give your cookies a personal touch.
Here’s another great idea for decorating: taking your kid’s art and making it a cookie. I don’t think I have the time or patience for this, but what a great idea for your child’s birthday party.
This sugar cookie recipe is perfect for a last-minute classroom treat day, Christmas tradition, care package, graduation party, or just a Saturday morning treat.
One of Your Soon-to-Be Favorite (and Easy) Sugar Cookie Recipes
Makes: About 6 dozen
3 cups flour (sifted or not sifted)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup stick margarine, softened
½ cup shortening
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles or other decorations
Sugar cookie icing
- Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
- In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cut the margarine and shortening into small pieces. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until the batter is a fine crumb.
- Beat eggs into the flour and butter mixture until blended. Add the sugar and vanilla. Mix until the batter becomes stiff enough to form balls.
- Roll the batter into golf-sized balls and place at least 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. They’ll spread during baking, so make sure they’re not touching and cook together.
- Using a drinking cup made of glass, dip the bottom into sugar and flatten a cookie. Repeat for each cookie. Add sprinkles or decorations, if desired.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Don’t let them overcook. Cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks.
- Once they’re room temperature, add icing (if desired). Pack in a sealed container with a lid or plastic wrap (that is, if they last that long). At this point, your sugar cookie recipe is complete!
Let us know!
Let me know if you try this sugar cookie recipe. Especially let me know if you tried something that I mentioned and how it worked for you. I mentioned some things that I was interested in trying but haven’t yet, so those would be cool to see done. If you used my sugar cookie recipe or found another kind of sugar cookie recipe online, post pictures of your creation!