Back to Basics
Sugar cookies are the plush, pillowy hotel beds of dessert: comforting, soft, and warm. Every time I sink into one, I wonder: why don't I do this more often?
For these cookies (and most baking projects), it's best to measure your flour and sugar by weight using a scale. We start with 8 ounces (225g) unsalted butter, 10 ounces (280g) sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons (10g) baking powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons (7g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (for table salt, use half as much by volume as it is more dense, or use the same amount by weight), a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, a large egg (cold), 1 tablespoon (15mL) pure vanilla extract, and 11 1/4 ounces (2 1/4 cups; 320g) all purpose flour.
Step 1: Mix the Sugar and Butter
Combine butter, sugar, baking powder, kosher salt, nutmeg, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed just until the ingredients come together and there is no dry sugar remaining.
Step 2: Cream the Butter
Increase the speed to medium, then beat until fluffy, pale ivory, and soft. This will take about five minutes.
Step 3: Beat in the Egg
Add the egg and continue beating until smooth, about two minutes more, pausing to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.
Step 4: Beat in the Flour
Resume mixing on low speed, sprinkle in the flour, and continue until a thick dough is formed.
Step 5: Scrape off the Excess
Scrape off any excess dough into the bowl (or lick it off if you aren't afraid of raw eggs).
Step 6: Portion
Use a #30 cookie scoop to portion out a ball of cookie dough. (That's about 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce/30g per cookie.)
Portioned Cookie Dough
You should be able to get 26 cookies per batch of dough.
Step 7: Roll Cookies
Roll each portion of cookie dough between your hands to form a smooth ball.
Ready to Coat
The smooth balls can be baked as is, or coated in sugar for a decorative twist.
Step 8: Coat Them in Sugar
Roll the individual cookies in bowls filled with decorative sanding sugar, nonpareils, sprinkles, granulated sugar, or vanilla sugar.
Step 9: Arrange
Arrange the cookies on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. Your oven should be preheated to 350°F (175°C) with racks placed in the upper and lower middle positions.
Step 10: Bake!
Bake the cookies until they're puffed and pale gold around the edges but still quite soft and steamy in the center, about 15 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet for at least ten minutes.
Step 11: Eat
The cookies are ready to be eaten. Cooled sugar cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two days.