Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

(Note: while I'm on vacation from work this week, I'm not really doing any baking since I don't have anyone to give the baked goods to - instead I'll be blogging about stuff I've made in the past)

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies - first made July 2006

While a milk chocolate chip cookie consumed 10 minutes out of the oven probably ranks as one of my favorite desserts to eat, some days I just like the simplicity of a sugar cookie. It's plain and no fuss. A lot of sugar cookie recipes don't come out that well - they're often too sweet, too mushy/raw or sometimes too dry if they contain too much flour. Sugar is considered a liquid ingredient. While it may go into your batter dry, when sugar heats up, it melts, thereby contributing to the spread of a cookie. The problem I have with most sugar cookie recipes is they spread too much. They might taste good but they come out thin, especially if you don't have a convection oven which most regular home bakers don't.

I like this recipe because it doesn't spread too much and it has an excellent taste and texture. The edges are crisp and the centers are soft. It isn't blah like most sugar cookie recipes I've tried. This recipe is from Baking Illustrated, the same authors as Cooks Illustrated.

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

2 cups (10 ounces) lower-protein unbleached all-purpose flour, such as Pillsbury or Gold Medal
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar plus ½ cup for rolling dough
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375˚F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, cream the butter, the 1 cup granulated sugar, and the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.
3. Place the ½ cup sugar for rolling in a shallow bowl. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Dip your hands in the water and shake off any excess (this will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and ensure that the sugar sticks to the dough). Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a 1 ½-inch ball between moistened palms, roll the ball in the sugar, and then place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, moistening your hands as necessary and spacing the balls about 2 inches apart (you should be able to fit 12 cookies on each sheet). Using the butter wrappers, butter the bottom of a drinking glass and then dip the bottom of the glass in the remaining sugar. Flatten the dough balls with the bottom of the glass until they are about ¾ inch thick, dipping the glass in sugar as necessary to prevent sticking (after every 2 to 3 cookies).
4. Bake until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and their centers are just set and very lightly colored, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 3 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

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