Welcome back! I hope you are here because you read Part 1 of The Great Sugar Cookie Experiment and wanted to see the grand finale. If not, don’t worry, I forgive you, but you should know that this experiment started with a lot of research. In Part 1, I made it my mission to learn about all the ingredients that go into a sugar cookie and what function they perform in the recipe. In Part 2, I put all the knowledge to work for me and started to experiment with sugar cookie recipes.
In order to have results that were as accurate as possible, the only change that I made to each recipe was the ingredients. All the steps remained the same for every recipe. Basically, I combined the butter and sugar, added the egg(s) and flavoring, then one cup at a time mixed in the flour, salt, and baking powder, which I had sifted together separately. I always used butter (cut into small squares) and eggs that I had set on the counter for 30 minutes. After all of my research, I am now a firm believer in using room temperature butter!
When you “cream” your butter and sugar, the sugar should actually be aerating the butter. Simply put, the sugar crystal edges cut air pockets into the butter (for the baking powder to expand in later). If your butter is cold, this doesn’t happen!
My experiment started with equal parts butter and sugar (1 cup of each). I added 1 egg + 1 egg yolk and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of almond for flavoring. The dry ingredients consisted of 3 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and one teaspoon of baking powder. The results were not pleasing! The cookies were flavorless. Well, I guess they weren’t flavorless… I tasted salt and flour.
So, for batch #2 I increased the amount of sugar and vanilla flavoring, while decreasing the amount of flour. Batch #2: 1 cup of butter, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. There was a definite improvement, however, I still wanted a little more flavor and there was still a bit of a salty aftertaste.
For the next batch, I increased the amount of butter AND sugar to increase the flavor. I also reduced the amount of salt. Batch #3: 1 1/4 cups of butter, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. The taste was much improved but just a bit too sweet. Since I knew I was creating a recipe for cookies that would be decorated, I wanted to leave room for the sweetness of the icing. And although the taste was better, the consistency of the dough was troublesome. The cookies spread too much and the dough was tacky and hard to handle.
So, for batch #4 I used just a little less sugar and a little more flour: 1 1/4 cups of butter, 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond, 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. Perfection! I continued to experiment with the ingredients a little bit more, but always came back to batch #4.
I am thrilled to now have my perfect sugar cookie recipe for decorating! For a copy of the recipe with instructions, please see my Sugar Cookie Recipe post.For more information about the temperature of ingredients used in baking, please see Baking for Beginners: An Introduction to Temperature by Joanne Chang.