Lesson 12 of 27
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Sugar Cookie Family | Learn


Sugar cookies are dense and buttery, similar to a shortbread cookie. Due to the high fat content, they have a tendency to flatten in the oven. These cookies don’t have much leavening in them, typically only adding small amounts of baking soda to the dough. I would consider molasses crinkles, snickerdoodles, pecan sandies, and peanut butter cookies to be all within this category. While it might seem like a stretch to include so many different types of cookies within this single category, there’s a good reason. They’re all flat, soft cookies, using almost the exact same list of ingredients, but with unique adjustments for flavor.

Difficulty Level: Easy-Intermediate (really can depend on the recipe)

What you need to know:

Now, fair warning: The advice for this category is going to be a bit more scattershot than the advice in previous lessons. This is simply because there is so much recipe variety crammed into one single section. But I did this intentionally, for two reasons. Firstly, I thought it was more appropriate to lump them together into a master group, rather than to having a hundred subcategories. And secondly, they have so much in common! Unfortunately for you, this means you’re going to have to do a little bit of work. The task of sorting through these random tidbits of knowledge- in order to pick out the advice relevant to whichever recipe you’re making- will land on your shoulders.

Are you still with me? Cause ready or not, here we go!

No matter the recipe you’re making, you need to keep all of the cookies similarly sized. This will keep them from cooking at different speeds in the oven. And I’d advise that you err on the side of caution and remove the cookies from the oven sooner rather than later. Because, you guessed it, undercooked is preferable to overcooked. Keep an eye on them and do NOT wait for them to look golden brown before you pull them out of the oven. You only want to see a hint of gold on the edges. If you wait until the entire cookie is brown, then it will be overcooked.

If you want to add a surprise twist to your cookies, it’s easy to add a filled center to any recipe in the sugar cookie family. Just place a small amount of the filling of your choice- like fruit jam or Nutella- in the center of a flat disk of cookie dough. Then it’s as easy as pinching the dough around that central point until the filling is completely hidden inside. As long as you don’t overfill the centers, the filling shouldn’t ooze out of the dough. And there’s no need to change the cook time recommended by the cookie recipe just because you added a filling- just stick to the recipe!

Did you know you can dip raw cookie dough in a small bowl of sugar before you bake it? In fact, some recipes actually demand this step! While it won’t change the external appearance of the cookie, it does add a sugary edge that’s downright delectable. And no matter your specific recipe, rolling your dough in sugar won’t negatively influence any cookie within this category. That said, in terms of practice, I would strongly urge you to put the rolling sugar into a separate bowl. While it’s tempting to take shortcuts, if you roll the dough directly in your big bag of sugar, your cookie dough could flavor the rest of the sugar in the bag. Because the cookie dough will touch more sugar than will stick to the individual cookie. Why does that matter?

Let me give you an example.

Imagine you make peanut butter cookies. You roll them in your monster bag of sugar and they come out fabulously. Hooray! Then some time goes by and you go make sugar cookies. And when you bite into your perfectly baked, fresh-out-of-the-oven sugar cookies they have a distinct peanut butter flavor. So not cool! This is the value of the separate bowl. Also, be sure to pour sugar into the bowl sparingly and add more as needed. This is because any leftover sugar needs to be either eaten or thrown out. Do NOT pour it back into your big bag of sugar! Combining it with the rest of the sugar completely negates the point of the separate bowl.

Also, speaking of peanut butter cookies, the easiest decoration technique for this type of cookie is to use the tines of a fork to create a perpendicular criss cross pattern over the surface prior to baking them.

Now, if your recipe calls for molasses, listen up. Molasses is one of those ingredients that will come out of the jar slowly… and stop coming out of the jar slowly. Even once you’ve measured out the amount you need, the jar might not be done pouring. So I’d recommend you actually try and stem the flow of the molasses before your measuring cup is full. This will hopefully prevent it from overflowing by accident- which makes for a super sticky mess.

Feeling ready to give it a whirl? Go make yourself a batch of Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies and test your new knowledge in the kitchen! These soft, peanut butter cookies wrap around a secret center of butterscotch chips and even more peanut butter! They’re irresistible fresh out of the oven. And, if you pop the cooled cookies in the microwave for about 10 seconds, you can recreate that oven freshness again and again! Now go get to measuring!