Friday, February 4, 2011

Sweet Heart(s), Give Me Some Sugar!

People always bake cookies during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. But for me, baking for the sweetest holiday, Valentine's Day, is most important.

Five years ago, my best friend Carly and I baked batches upon batches of cookies for our boyfriends. We made sandwich type cookies, made up of two chocolate wafer cookies and filled with a peppermint cream. We made chocolate heart shaped cookies, iced. The work was endless, though the rewards were divine. The next year, she moved to Florida and I've been baking on my own ever since.  

Last year, I made the original chocolate heart shaped cookies, and also an espresso cookie. This year, though, I wanted to give the classic sugar cookie a shot. While at the grocery store today, I tried to remember what ingredients I might need to make sugar cookies. I started leafing through cooking and home magazines sure to find one (it is February, after all). I noticed that the cover of Fine Cooking magazine (with a whopping $6.95 price tag) had an article titled, "How to Bake Perfect Sugar Cookies". Sold. 

Beautiful batter, and gorgeous measuring spoons from Melissa.
When I got home, I read the article that accompanied the recipes, "The Science of Perfect Cookies - Answers to your burning baking questions" by Nicole Rees, and was happy that I plunked down nearly $7 for the mag. It talked about why bottoms burn, subbing butter for shortening (and why not to), and then listed the recipe for chewy sugar cookies, with a column beside it for a crispy modification. 

I made two batches of these cookies today, and though you can get the original recipe by clicking above, I made modifications to the baking that I think is important. I am sharing them here, and the original recipe follows.

First, when mixing ingredients, I followed the recipe exactly. It's a great recipe. On the second batch, I added a bit more almond extract, which tasted lovely, too. Since I wanted to use a cookie cutter to make the cookies heart shaped, I tried rolling out the dough. Since it wasn't refrigerator-cold, the dough stuck to my wooden tabletop, and I didn't want to flour it, as flouring alters the look and taste of the cookies. I balled up enough dough to cut out about three hearts, rolled it in my hands, and pressed to get it flat (about 1"). Next, I put it onto my parchment lined cookie tray and rolled it to about 1/4" thick, then used three different cutters to cut the hearts, one for each. Now, I left the cutters in place while I peeled away the remaining dough (return it to the batch to incorporate). Still keeping the cutters in place, I sprinkled them with colored sanding sugar.  I didn't space them far apart; since they are already flattened, they won't spread during baking. 

I burned my first batch using the minimum cooking time for chewy, 13 minutes. I kept watching the trays after that until I eyeballed the time, based on browning. After my third tray in, I had cut the time in half to get the cookies perfect. 6 minutes.

Oh, and while I am not a fan of vegetable shortening, I did use it. It keeps the cookies lighter. After I made them, I bagged them and clipped them with mini clothespins. I will also be attaching a diecut heart with photos of each of the receipents. Here they are, pre-diecut heart.

Happily packaged chewy sugar cookies!

chewy sugar cookies (modified dg)
nicole rees, fine cooking, feb. 2011

3/4 c + 2 T granulated sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick), softened but not melted 
2 T vegetable shortening, softened
1/2 t kosher salt
1 large egg
1 T light corn syrup
1 t vanilla extract
2 drops almond extract (optional)
2 c + 2 T unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
sanding sugar for rolling (I sprinkled mine on top dg)

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 350*F (I dropped it to the middle of the oven, to prevent top burning dg). Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar, butter, shortening, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg, corn syrup, vanilla, and almond extract, and mix on low (just to combine); then beat at medium speed for a total of 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and baking soda to combine, then add to the mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 second, just to combine. Scrape down the bowl and then mix on medium-low speed for another 30 seconds to mix the dough uniformly.

Gently roll the dough into 1 oz balls. Roll the balls in sanding sugar (This is where I rolled it flat, and cut shapes, then sprinkled with sanding sugar dg). Arrange at least 2 1/2 inches apart (when in balls; no need to do this when they are flat dg). Bake one sheet at a time until the edges are golden (watch the first batch for best cooking time tp), and the tops are cracked but not completely set (I didn't notice any cracking tp), 13 - 15 minutes (for me, it was only 6 minutes tp). Let the cookies cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


  1. & I absol LOVE those measuring spoons!

  2. They are DELICIOUS! And the measuring spoons were a gift from my son's step-mom. They are gorgeous (from Anthropologie).

  3. Great gift! Love Anthropologie. Last year Santa got me ceramic measuring cups from there that are nesting dolls. Gonna have to look for the spoons next!