Our family is all about cookies. We bake cookies for every occasion: birthdays, holidays, vacations, even funerals. I’ve made meringue cookies for my daughter’s birthday. We’ve had a giant chocolate chip cookie for my stepson’s. My mother brings big boxes of home-made cookies and muffins to our family vacation every year. My husband favors chocolate anything, and feels deprived if we don’t have home-baked cookies in the house. (All these recent baking fests have spoiled him!) I love sugar cookies because they’re perfect for throwing together on a rainy day (like today), they can be flavored any way you want, and I like them best when they’re soft and chewy.
Here are my tips for soft chewy cookies:
1. Measure the flour carefully. If you don’t scrape the top off the cup, you can easily add a tablespoon or two of flour, which can make the cookies tough.
2. Use brown sugar. I used 1 cup of light brown sugar and ½ cup of white sugar in the recipe below, but you can use dark brown sugar if you like.
3. Have the butter and eggs at room temperature before you start. Use large eggs.
4. Mix the ingredients together gently and stop just when they’re combined. If you use a stand mixer, keep the speed at “stir.”
5. Chill the dough before baking the cookies.
6. Know your oven and preheat it. Everyone’s oven is different. (This is why it’s so much fun to bake while on vacation—it’s always a surprise.)
7. If possible, bake one sheet at a time so that the cookies bake evenly. (I have to credit Maida Heatter with this suggestion.) Rotate the cookie sheet front to back halfway through the cooking time, and reverse the cookie sheets if you're baking more than one sheet at a time.
8. Err on the side of under-cooking. The cookies should be brown on the edges but still soft in the middle.
I like the combination of orange and cardamom so I used that in the recipe below, but really, the basic recipe can be a canvas for anything….Meyer lemon and finely-chopped toasted pecans…dipped in melted chocolate and covered with sliced toasted almonds…maybe some finely chopped thyme or rosemary….
Test Kitchen Notes
The flavor of these cookies is phenomenal -- perfectly balanced between orange, cardamom and butter, and not too sweet. The edges flatten and brown quickly while the center remains doughy, which makes for a butter-crisped edge and tender, poundcake-like center. They're a bit fragile after they're cooled, so store them with care. - Kristen —The Editors
- Serves about 30
all purpose flour
sticks ( 1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
light brown sugar
large egg, room temperature
yolk of large egg, room temperature
zest of one large orange
- Line two baking sheets with parchment. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir the butter and sugar together till just combined, about 30 seconds.
- Add the egg and egg yolk; stir to combine. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest, stir again.
- Gently add in the dry ingredients a little at a time, stirring just until they are combined, about 30-45 seconds.
- Scoop the dough with a tablespoon and roll into balls. Place evenly on cookie sheets and flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. (If the dough is very soft, it may be easier to do this after the dough is chilled.)
- Place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator and chill dough for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375. If you're baking one sheet at a time, place oven rack in the center of the oven. If you want to bake both sheets at the same time, place the racks so that the oven is divided into thirds.
- Bake for 5 minutes. Reverse cookie sheets front to back (and switch shelves if you're using 2 shelves). Bake for 5-7 more minutes until cookies are brown on edges and still soft in the center.
- Place cookie sheet(s) on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cookies with spatula and place them on wire racks to cool completely.