Weeknight Cooking

Sugar Cookies Pull a Fast One

June  7, 2010

Brown Sugar Cookies

- Jenny

Has anyone in your house ever come up to you at approximately 8:12 PM while you were washing what you assumed to be the last dish of the night and said, “Oh I need a batch of homemade cookies to take to Jake tomorrow because he gave me an entire pack of Hi-Chews today in class and I promised him.”

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No? You obviously do not live with a ‘tween, someone chronically forgetful or a person obsessed with cloying fruit-flavored chewy Japanese candy available at an Asian market near you.

No matter. The need for quick but delightful homemade baked goods infects all of our lives at times. Close readers of this blog, all nine of you, recall that I lamented this very fact a few weeks ago when I discovered the delightful and now go-to cupcake recipe for all manner of obligations: Nutella Cupcakes.

Consider Brown Sugar Cookies part two of this discussion. When you have a group to feed, and don’t have cupcake liners and cannot face another version of chocolate chip cookies, the sugar cookie is your friend. What I like about this recipe is that it is a twist on that story, without the added extra work of obscure or at least under-available ingredients.

Furey and the Feast entered these babies in the sugar cookie contest, and while they may not have been a finalist, I think most people would find them a strong addition to their make-it-fast baking list.

The loads of brown sugar this recipe calls for is what gives them their caramel, nutty taste and snap, but the cookies also maintain a certain chewiness, which I find is often the case when vegetable oil is involved.

I presented this pleasurable dichotomy to baker/blogger/super mom @simmertilldone, who, in what might be the most efficient use of Twitter DM, told me "I do think veg oil would keep an all-butter cookie from "crisping out" too much, as it's 100% liquid fat," and referred me to the food scientist Shirley Corriher, who has written several times that oil limits the production of gluten in flour. This is, I believe, another way of saying "makes them deeply pleasant to bite into." Now back to the recipe.

This is your standard set of mixing instructions here –- creaming butter with sugar, then adding your whisked dry ingredients at the end –- and those who bake often will find comfort in the do-it-in-your-sleepness of it all.

I notice that a previous recipe tester (Stephanie) suggested making smaller –- and thus more –- of these cookies. I see her point though the kids enjoyed a nice big chewy cookie. I would meet Madame Furey half way with my apportioning.

However, ease is never pay-off enough when it comes to food, is it friends? You need someone’s eyes to widen when they bite down. You need the affirmation that your home baked goodness is better than the fruity concoctions of Japanese candy makers. You need to know you are getting credit for home made cookies without making too much more effort than driving to Ralph’s for whatever horrific product they are passing off as a baked item that other people seem to feel is totally appropriate to fob off on unsuspecting young palates.

I can report to you these cookies fill that role.

Brown Sugar Cookies

By Furey and the Feast

Makes 18 cookies

  • 3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Move the oven racks to the upper and middle third of your oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper. Cream the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer). Add the egg, vegetable oil and vanilla, and mix until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to a mixing bowl and mix until all the ingredients just come together (the dough will be a bit wet and crumbly).

3. Portion the dough into 18 balls (we're talking a little bigger than a golf ball) and place on cookie sheets about 2 1/2 inches to 3 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes. The cookies are done when still light in color but darker around the edges. Remove from oven, cool in pan for 10 minutes before placing on rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container or ziplock bag.

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Jennifer Steinhauer


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SugarInWinter November 16, 2010
I use King Arthur bread flour for its higher gluten level for my other cookies. Given the oil's inhibiting powers on gluten, do you recommend I use a regular flour for this recipe? Thanks much.
saenyc June 22, 2010
Fourth time we've made these now....for the end of year school picnic, at daughter's request. Doubling the recipe as they always get gobbled up so quickly!
Erin F. June 14, 2010
"You need to know you are getting credit for home made cookies without making too much more effort than driving to Ralph’s for whatever horrific product they are passing off as a baked item that other people seem to feel is totally appropriate to fob off on unsuspecting young palates."
Greatest. Line. Ever!

I am very excited to try these. I had never heard of adding oil, but it makes sense and is a lot less off-putting then using shortening or some other lab-created fat wanna be!

evey June 13, 2010
Just tried these cookies and they are amazing! So quick and so good!
Furey A. June 13, 2010
I'm so honored that you've tried my recipe! Thank you all for making my day. :)
Furey A. June 14, 2010
Oh P.S.: I got the idea of using veg. oil in the recipe after I developed a recipe for muffins. The muffins I made with all butter we're a little more dry, but just a boost of veg. oil made them moist and cakelike. Thought it would work the same for cookies, and it did! Thank you again to Jenny and the community for trying this out. :)
Rhonda35 June 9, 2010
"all 9 of you" - LOL! You crack me up. I am not a cookie person for some unknown reason - I think it's the tedium of the final steps - anyway, these do sound like they'd be worth the effort.
MrsWheelbarrow June 8, 2010
I don't often make cookies, except around Christmas, but tonight we have a home visit from a local dog rescue group. I immediately thought I should have cookies to serve, and then thought about your smart, sassy write up. Big, crisp, chewy, delicious cookies just came out of the oven and geez are they fabulous! So easy and I had everything in the house. I have 90 minutes till the Inspector arrives. Hope they last that long. Cheers, from fan number 10 (at least)
Jestei June 8, 2010
perhaps the only way to a dog rescue group's heart is through their stomachs. until they declare your house unsafe due to hot oven and march off with your puppy in arms.
EarlyToBed June 8, 2010
Inspired by your blog and this recipe, my own 'tween and I gave it a go. These were a simple and delicious kid-mom project. Kid critic said: "This is the first time that the actual cookie is better than the pre-baked cookie dough". We tried a spectrum of sizes from mini to big, and found the texture changed with size. Minis gave us our favorite crisp bite. Plus lots to share.
Jestei June 8, 2010
interesting observations, all. i totally agree about the size/texture relationship.
monkeymom June 7, 2010
I am a fan and avid reader. Whenever I go to the farmer's market and pay too much for tomatoes (like, every time) I think of you!
Jestei June 8, 2010
thank you! so great! i love when i discover new cooks on the site - and thus their recipes -- through these comments.
maria S. June 7, 2010
Opps. I meant fans. I know you're not a fish. This is what happens when I type w/o glasses.
Jestei June 7, 2010
As it happens, I have 9 fines or more, because I often get traffic tickets I don't pay. So really you were not off the mark. Thank you for being such a close reader. The impossible-list story was actually in the now defunct Cookie magazine, which is funny given this post....THANKS!
maria S. June 7, 2010
I'll have to try these. I think you have more than 9 fines. I am a fellow Angeleno and enthusiastic home cook. In recent years, I've started to think of it as a superpower, because it seems to have the ability of tasering people into some kind of amazed state. "YOU MADE THIS?" I think I read cooking blogs for two reasons: for the recipes and ideas (of course) and to know I am not alone. As the above person also mentioned, I am trying to turn people on to home-made (non icky) baked goods one school event at a time. The thing they really don't get is that by the time you've driven to Ralphs and back, the cookies would have been in the oven and bowl soaking in the sink.
I've also related to some of your comments in the Times. Especially when you wrote about the impossible lists of things that requested by your children's teachers, which are of course, usually asked for by your children, as you noted, just when you are ready to push the "done" button on the day.
Kelsey B. June 7, 2010
Welcome back! I love the use of oil in this recipe and the collection of thoughts around it. We all want cookies that are pleasant to chew (and not fake from the grocery store!)! I might have to start experimenting more with baking cookies with oil since I usually only use it for cakes/brownies. (ps - I'm sure you have more then 9 fans around here.)
Jestei June 7, 2010
thanks kelsey. can't wait to read your next set of recipes. js
Lesley June 7, 2010
I used a 1-tablespoon ice cream scoop to portion out the dough, and ended up with 34 cookies. Really, really delicious, and I would think perfect with a bowl of June strawberries and vanilla ice cream.
Jestei June 7, 2010
that sounds like a good method lesley. really i can't stop eating these.....
mrslarkin June 7, 2010
Hello. Reader #2 here. Thanks for reminding me about this one, Jenny. I'm going to make them right now, for Sconeboy, who is home sick with a pulled neck muscle from too much head-banging to ACDC at a bowling party over the weekend. Yeah. So I bake a lot of chewy sugar cookies (shocking, right?) and I'm finding the softened butter needs to be spreadable, but not too mushy, with some body to it. Just my own test kitchen observations. Oh, and Shirley Corriher rocks. And I wish she had been my 11th grade chemistry teacher - it would've been a lot more interesting.
Jestei June 7, 2010
so um where to start? AC/DC (good taste) mixed with bowling (i fear that) and spreadable butter, which is a great point. also does matter whether or not you use high fat content butter no? i was thrilled to learn of corriher. will buy one of her books soon.
mrslarkin June 7, 2010
Have never thought of the fat content of butter. Now I'll be the crazy lady at the supermarket reading all the butter packages. Thanks. These cookies were good - too sweet for me - but Sconeboy and Sconegirl both loved 'em. Stephanie's comments are spot on. Thin cookie, crisp outside edge, very chewy middle. Made mine slightly smaller - got 24 cookies.
Rhonda35 June 9, 2010
When you are checking the butter pkgs for fat content, you may also notice that some butters contain a very interesting ingredient: natural flavoring. I would love to know what that's all about!
mrslarkin June 9, 2010
Butterfat mission accomplished. According to nutrition labels, all of the butter at my market is 11 or 12 grams of fat per tablespoon,even the high-end like Plugra and Kate's. Now I'll have to go back and see which ones use "natural flavorings." Here's a helpful NYT article about butter and cookies: www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/dining/17bake.html
drbabs June 7, 2010
Welcome back! (From one of your I'm sure more than 9 fans.) If your blog does nothing else but get people to stop buying the fake baked goods (bads?) or baking mixes at the grocery store, and start realizing that it is almost as easy and a million times more satisfying to bake from scratch, then your time here will have been worth it. (Of course I suspect you're preaching to the choir here....)
Jestei June 7, 2010
I might be (choir) but on the other hand i bet we turn one ralph's shopper here around! xx
drbabs June 7, 2010
At least one, no doubt.