Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bake-off

I am the kind of person who likes soft sugar cookies.  I don't care if it's in the shape of a butterfly or not, I just want it to be soft and delicious.  I found a recipe a few weeks ago on that I adapted to my liking, but then I noticed a recipe on a food blog, Tracey's Culinary Adventures.  I wondered if maybe that recipe would be better.  I decided I better bake a batch of both of them and have a taste test with my family.
Would you like to meet the contenders?
Well, here they are.
What?  You can't tell the difference?  It kind of hurt my brain to keep track.  Half way through I was wishing I had shaped one of the recipes like a butterfly so I didn't get them confused.  I think that might have swayed the tasters though.  Okay, so on the left is sugar cookie #1 and on the right is sugar cookie #2.

After looking at the ingredients, I realized that these recipes were pretty similar and started to worry that I was making two batches (that I either halved or thirded) of the same cookie.  There were slight differences, but would those slight differences really matter that much?

Cookie dough after mixing, cookie #1
Cookies after baked, cookie #1
Cookie dough after mixed, recipe #2
Cookies after baked recipe #2.  
So after pulling the second batch out of the oven, I was all but convinced these cookies were going to be identical.  They looked almost exactly the same!

The recipe I had adapted had a cream cheese frosting, and the other recipe didn't include cream cheese.  I thought I better make both kinds of frosting, and frost some cookies from each batch with each kind of frosting.  So here is cookie recipe #1 with cream cheese (white) frosting and sugar frosting (pink).

And cookie #2 with the same. (I had to put the cookies on the plate in a different order so I didn't mix up the photos.) 

After taking #2 out of the oven, I was sure it would be the winner. I broke a warm cookie in half and took a bite and it was so soft, I was ready to throw out my recipe and convert. 
But during the tasting, my husband and my daughter, both quickly picked #1.  I interrogated Tyler as to why he would say that. I was sure he would say the opposite. He said he liked the flavor a little better in #1.  I took bites of both cookies with frosting and could see what he meant.  I can't figure out how cookies with such similar ingredients can taste different.  He liked the one with the sugar frosting best, I liked the cream cheese (duh! I'll eat anything with cream cheese)  and my daughter liked both kinds of frosting.
So for our family the winner was (drum roll please)......

Cookie #1. (I was secretly excited because #2 has to be refrigerated for an hour before baking, and I don't mind skipping that step.)  Ü

I came to the conclusion that these are both great sugar cookie recipes.  I would eat either one of them regularly.  They are both really soft and delicious and they were both really good the next day.  I think sometimes, it's just a taste preference.  You can decide for yourself, here are the recipes.

Soft Sugar Cookies
adapted from (halved and changed a bit)
2/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar (to roll dough in before baking)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add egg and vanilla, mix well, add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.  Roll tablespoon or walnut size balls of dough in sugar and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 8-9 minutes or just until small cracks appear (see photo) in cookies.  Be careful not to over bake. Makes about 18 cookies.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 oz. cream cheese
1.5 T butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1.5 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese together, add vanilla.  Mix in powdered sugar a little at a time.

Feeling fancy?  Turn them into Mini Fruit Pizzas.

Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
from Annie's Eats (who adapted from Hostess with the Mostess
I only made 1/3 of the batch (because I don't need a billion cookies taunting me).  I will include the measurements I used, for the full recipe, You can click on the link above for Annie's Eats or Tracey's Culinary Adventures.
1.5 cups flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 2/3 tsp. vanilla

1.5 T butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 T + 1 tsp milk
1 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking powder. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add egg and vanilla and mix.  Add dry ingredients to wet a little at a time and mix until just incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  (The original recipe calls for larger cookies, but I did a tablespoon + size.)  Roll into a balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet (original calls for parchment).  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Be careful not to over bake.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Once cool, frost.  Makes about 18 cookies


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