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Signature Sugar Cookie Dough, with variations

Signature Sugar Cookie Dough, with variations	Opens photo in lightbox. Hit Escape or X to exit lightbox.
  •  4.9 stars stars based on 8 reviews
  •   100% would make this again
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From the book Julia Usher's Ultimate Cookies by Julia M. Usher. What can I say? I’m nostalgic at heart, which is why you’ll find this cookie in so many projects throughout the book. You see, the Anise Seed Variation (p. 235) was my mom’s invention—and the very same cookie that my sibs and I decorated so happily each and every Christmas. Look closely at the photo of me circa 1971 (p. 4), and you’ll see me coddling one of these prized possessions! As one of my most delicate cookies, it’s best used for 2-D projects and small or non-weight-bearing 3-D constructions.

Makes about 1 pound 6 ounces dough or 3 to 3-1/2 dozen (2-1/2-inch) round cookies

Prep Talk: For easiest handling, the dough should be chilled about 3 hours before rolling and cutting. The dough can be frozen for 1 month or more with minimal loss of flavor if wrapped tightly in plastic and then foil. For best eating, store baked cookies in airtight containers at room temperature and enjoy within 1 to 1-1/2 weeks.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Additional spices (per Variations, p. 235)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (1/3 stick) shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or to taste, or per Variations)

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and any additional spices (per Variations, p. 235) in a small bowl. Set aside for use in Step 4.

  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Do not over-beat, or your cookies will dome upon baking, making them more difficult to decorate later.

  3. Whisk together the egg, milk, and vanilla extract in another bowl. Add additional flavoring(s) to taste, or see Variations. Slowly blend into the butter mixture on low to medium speed and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed, to ensure even mixing.

  4. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add the reserved dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate about 3 hours, or until firm enough to roll without sticking.

  5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking mats) and set aside.

  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/8- to 3/16-inch thickness. (Note: It’s best to roll these cookies no thicker than 3⁄16 inch in order to keep them their flattest for decorating.) Cut out assorted shapes with your favorite cookie cutters or the cutters or templates specified in the project you’ve chosen. Carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets with an offset spatula, leaving no less than 3/4 inch between each cutout.

  7. Baking time will vary considerably with cookie size and thickness. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned around their edges, about 8 to 10 minutes for 2-1/2-inch round cookies or as specified in your project. Let particularly long or delicately shaped cookies cool 1 to 2 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks. Otherwise, immediately transfer to racks and cool completely before frosting and/or assembling with Royal Icing (p. 242) or storing.


  • Anise, courtesy of my mom: Add 1/2 teaspoon anise extract along with the vanilla extract. Sprinkle each cookie sheet with 1-1/2 teaspoons whole anise seed before placing and baking the cookies. The seeds will bake into the bottom of the cookies and impart a tasty crunch.

  • Cinnamon: Add 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients. Increase the vanilla extract to 3⁄4 teaspoon. Note: The ground cinnamon will tint the dough pale brown.

  • Lemon-Cardamom: Add 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom to the dry ingredients. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon extract and 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest along with the vanilla extract.

  • Orange-Clove: Add 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves to the dry ingredients. Increase the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add 1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest with the liquid ingredients.
    • Note:

      Julia M. Usher's Ultimate Cookies by Julia M. Usher

      Delve into the world of cookie magic, where you can make everything from edible jewelry to cookie bacon and eggs! Organized by theme, each chapter overflows with luscious photographs and dozens of recipes and cookie crafting ideas. With carefully illustrated details, award-winning author Julia M. Usher expertly guides you in the making of perfect cookie masterpieces. Photographs by Steve Adams. Published by Gibbs Smith, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1423619345 . Order now...

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      Reviews of Signature Sugar Cookie Dough, with variations:

      1-5 of 8 reviews   Next >>

        Cynthia Couch in TX  Oct 17, 2017
      Would make this again.
      These cookies rolled beautifully and baked so light and even! 5 stars

        Faye in Seattle Wa  Jun 30, 2017
      Would make this again.
      I have a ? Can you freeze the signature Sugar Cookie Dough ? If not how long can you keep in fridge past the use by date ? 5 stars

        A cookie baker  Feb 21, 2017
      Would make this again.
      Is it one and half tsp of baking powder in the recipe?
      May you put the royal icing recipe here,I can't access to it.Thanks.
      5 stars

        Janice in Florida  Feb 4, 2017
      Would make this again.
      This is a great recipe! It cuts, hold together and bakes beautifully. I will be making these cookies again this year for Valentine's day. 5 stars

        Carol in New Jersey  Feb 11, 2016
      Would make this again.
      By far the best sugar cookie recipe ever. It is the first one I have found that REALLY holds its shape. 5 stars

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