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the best sugar cookies: no icing required

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By Jen White · December 15, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Day 5 of the cookie bake-a-thon, and it's time for classic sugar cookies! (Only 1 day left!)

I'm usually not into decorating cookies with icing or sprinkles--at all.  My sister is the queen of this; her sugar cookies are always perfectly glazed, smooth as little skating rinks, with patiently drawn borders, dots, and squiggles.  I'd rather put more effort into the cookie's appearance before it's baked. I'll roll them in sprinkles, or shape them into crescents, I'll even sandwich two doughs together, roll them up and make a pinwheel, though that's pushing it.  The point is, once the cookie's out of the oven, I JUST WANT TO EAT IT.

This sugar cookie recipe (another one from Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook) is a combination of my two favorite cookies of all time: sugar, and shortbread. They turn out lightly crisped at the edges, but still tender and crumbly in the center, and they have an extra crackly-crunchy factor due to the colored-sugar crust. I've put these in the cookie box for many years, and they're the ones that get remarked on the most, even more than the fancier cookies.  I think it's because a) they're so delicious, and b) they're so simple.  They're made for a cup of coffee, a glass of milk, or better yet, a lonely bowl of ice cream.  That's my favorite place to put them.

These cookies look best (and cutest) when rolled in coarse-grained colored sugar, which you can find these days in most supermarkets or hobby stores like Michael's.  You can use the fine-grained sugar too, if that's what you have. The dough will be a bit sticky, but don't be tempted to chill it, or the balls of dough will be really hard to flatten and the baking time will be longer. You'll only need one bowl to mix the dough, and you can have the whole shebang completed in an hour and a half, if your butter's already at room temp.  Booyah!

old-fashioned sugar cookies (adapted slightly from Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coarse white or colored sugar, or a combination


  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, confectioners' sugar, and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt, mixing well.  Beat in the flour at low speed until well combined.
  3. Roll pieces of the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll to coat well in the coarse sugar, then place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.  Use the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in regular sugar to flatten each cookie into a 2-inch round (keep dipping the glass into sugar before every cookie, or they'll stick).  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.


Makes 4 dozen.  These keep for a few days at room temp, but you might want to go ahead and freeze some to keep from devouring every last one.

Need more cookies? Try butterscotch bars, orange-pecan biscotti, pepper jelly rugelach, or  ginger crinkles.


posted by Liz S

These are great cookies - I used all kinds of sprinkles (pearlized pastels are really pretty) and things like gold & silver coarse sugars. They looklike a jewel box of cookies. Simply beatiful and the taste great. My kids were just as excited about these as cut out cookies and they can still help. The look like they came from a bakery with the really good sugar on them. So much quicker to make than cut outs too - I just can't say enough & I am known for my baked goods.

posted by

Thanks for stopping by Liz! Glad they worked out so well.

posted by Anonymous

Is this recipe suitable for rolling out and using cookie cutters on? Would I want to chill it first? Thanks!!

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