These sugar cookies are buttery, soft and chewy. These are great to enjoy during Christmas, but they’re also a great year round treat.
Eat’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Vanilla sugar cookies are a classic Christmas cookie. Although the ingredients are few and simple, the taste and texture of a sugar cookie is out of this world.
This recipe can be used to make soft and chewy sugar cookies, as well as crispy and crumbly sugar cookies. All you have to do is change up the bake time! I personally like a softer cookie, so I went with less time in the oven.
This is just a basic sugar cookie recipe, so you can do a lot to change up the flavor for these cookies (more on additions below). This recipe also includes a super easy, 2-ingredient cookie icing. You can also easily halve (if you wanted a small batch of sugar cookies) or double this recipe (to feed a crowd … or yourself)!
Make Ahead Sugar Cookies:
To make sugar cookies ahead of time, you can either freeze baked sugar cookies or raw sugar cookie dough. To freeze baked sugar cookies, let them cool completely to room temperature and place them in a freezer bag. Push as much air out of the bag as you can and seal. Baked sugar cookies keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I find it best to freeze plain sugar cookies, and then decorate them right before I plan on serving them. I find that decorated sugar cookies don’t defrost as well as plain cookies, and my designs always manage to smear whenever I try to store them.
If you want to make sugar cookie dough ahead of time, you have 2 options. You can keep the raw dough in the fridge for up to 3 days, or you can freeze sugar cookie dough for up to 3 months.
How To Freeze Sugar Cookie Dough And How To Bake Frozen Sugar Cookie Dough:
To freeze raw cookie dough, wrap it well with plastic wrap and then place in a freezer bag and seal. Try to get as much air as you can out of the bag before sealing it so you prolong the dough’s life.
When you want to bake the frozen dough, take it out of the freezer and let it sit in your fridge for a couple of hours until it’s fully defrosted. Continue with the dough rolling and cutting normally.
How To Freeze Raw, Cut Sugar Cookies:
To freeze your shaped cookies, arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Cover and freeze until solid. Transfer your frozen cookies to a freezer bag, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you want to bake the frozen and shaped sugar cookies, you can either bake them while they’re still frozen or after they defrost. To bake frozen cookies (dough?), arrange them on a baking sheet, leaving a bit of room for expansion. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.
To bake defrosted cookies, make sure you arrange them on a cookie sheet before letting them defrost to prevent them from sticking together. You can then either leave them on your counter to defrost for a couple of hours, or let them defrost in your fridge overnight before baking normally.
If you plan on waiting longer than 4 hours before baking your cookies, I recommend defrosting the dough in your fridge to prevent the butter from softening too much. You can also let it defrost on your counter for a bit and finish defrosting in the fridge. Just take care not to let your butter sit out for too long at room temperature.
How To Store Baked Sugar Cookies:
The best way to store baked sugar cookies is in an airtight container at room temperature. Unfrosted sugar cookies keep for up to 2 weeks. Frosted sugar cookies should be enjoyed as soon as possible just because the icing keeps well for up to 3 days.
The Powdered Sugar Icing:
This icing only uses 2 ingredients: powdered sugar and heavy cream. You can also make this icing with whole milk instead of the cream, but you may need to add less just because milk is more fluid than cream.
I like to use cream in my sugar cookie icing for two reasons. One, I like the richness and flavor that the cream gives the icing. I can feel guilty about all the fat after the new year. Two, a cream frosting holds its shape better when you pipe designs (again, since it’s thicker than milk). Another little bonus you get with cream is that you can beat it a bit longer and get a thick icing, which I like to use to decorate things like Santa hats and beards or snow.
If you want to color the icing, I highly, highly, highly suggest you use a gel based food coloring. I don’t really like watery food colorings because a) you need to use a lot of it to get even a hint of color, and b) it makes everything more watery, which throws off the consistency of the icing. Gel is awesome because it produces super rich colors, without diluting the icing.
How to Decorate Sugar Cookies:
I’ll be honest, I can’t decorate cookies to save my life. That’s why I prefer to either decorate some very simple designs … or just enjoy cookies plain. If you have more decorating skills than me (which you probably do), the 2 ingredient icing is great for piping borders and for flooding. If you choose to use whipped cream in the icing, you can even whip the icing to get a thick, spreadable frosting.
Sugar Cookie Add-ins:
Like I mentioned above, this is a very basic recipe, so you can add a lot of different flavorings to change this up. Some additions to this recipe can include almond extract, peppermint extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, clove, molasses, ground nuts, cocoa powder, and citrus zest. And these are just what I could come up with off the top of my head!
Vanilla Sugar Cookie Recipe
Description: These sugar cookies are buttery, soft and chewy. These are great to enjoy during Christmas, but they’re also a great year round treat.
Prep Time: 20 minutes (for the cookies) plus 20 minutes (for decorating)
Bake Time: 15-18 minutes
Yield: approx. 30 cookies
For the cookies:
– 3/4 cup (1 & 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
– 3/4 cup granulated sugar
– 2 large eggs, at room temperature
– 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
– 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the icing (optional):
– 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
– 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream or whole milk
For the cookies:
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Whip until the grains of sugar start to melt and blend into the butter. This will take about 5 minutes by hand or 2 to 3 minutes using a mixer on medium speed.
2. Incorporate the eggs into the butter mix one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add your vanilla in as well and mix to incorporate.
3. Add in your flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix everything together until you start to get a soft dough forming and you no longer see dry flour in your bowl.
4. Turn your dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap tightly. Place the wrapped dough into the fridge for at least 1 hour (up to 3 days) for the butter to harden enough to roll.
5. Unwrap your dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the sugar cookie dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
6. Cut the dough using your preferred cookie cutter shape and arrange the cut cookies onto 2 large, parchment-lined cookie sheets. You want to give your cookies at least 1/2 an inch of space in between each cookie so they don’t expand into each other while baking.
7. Bake the cookies in the center of a 350°F oven for 12-15 minutes (for soft sugar cookies) or 15-18 minutes (for crunchy cookies). You’ll know they’re ready when they turn a very light gold color and have a matte finish on top.
8. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet so they firm up enough to transfer. Move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
For the icing:
9. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of cream or milk. If your icing is too thick for your liking, whisk in another small splash of cream or milk until you reach your desired consistency.
10. Decorate away! Leave your cookies out uncovered, at room temperature for the icing to dry. It’ll take about 2 hours for a simple design to dry fully.
I would love to hear any tips you’d like to add to this post and how your sugar cookies turned out in the comments below. Have any questions? Any ideas to improve this recipe? Feel free to comment for that as well. Happy making and Merry Christmas!
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