Vanilla Sugar Cookies: it takes a community to build a cookie.

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AJ Quigley, a regular on King Arthur’s Baking Circle community, emailed us this recipe with the following message –

“I ran across one of my favorite sugar cookie recipes years ago in one of those ‘company’ fundraiser cookbooks, and have used it quite often since then. I checked KAF’s recipes and there’s not one like it, so I thought I’d share. It makes a tender-crisp, melt-in-your-mouth cookie.”

Well, I’d been looking for the “perfect” sugar cookie recipe for a long time. Since about 1967, to be exact, the last time I tasted a sugar cookie from the Colonial Bakery in Glastonbury, Connecticut…

Remember when everything (except church) was closed on Sunday?

Well, not QUITE everything. After all, there had to be somewhere to go after church.

Some families went out to eat; others simply went home to a big Sunday dinner.

Our family fell in between those two poles; we didn’t go out to eat, but we did stop at Franklin’s drugstore, for a nickel’s worth of candy; and the Colonial Bakery, for a cookie or cupcake.

Even back then, I was a chocoholic. While my nickel at Franklin’s went towards bubblegum cigars or Lik-M-Aids, my treat of choice at the Colonial never varied: it was chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing all the way. The only decision involved the color of the sprinkles on top.

My big brother Mike, however, was a real vanilla guy. He inevitably spent his nickel on baseball cards (with their peculiarly chalky, stiff sheet of bubblegum); and just as certainly, his bakery choice would be a sugar cookie.

Now, these Colonial Bakery sugar cookies were big, bigger than the palm of a kid-sized hand. A very pale cream color and sprinkled with crunchy sugar, they were crisp around the edges, but just a bit soft in the center.

And, even though I’d be firmly clutching my chocolate cupcake in its square of waxed paper, and clearly had more than my share of sweets, my brother would give me a bite of his cookie.

Thanks, Mikey.

Now, here’s the main question sugar-cookie fanciers have to answer: crunchy, or chewy?

Interestingly, this cookie can go either way, texture-wise: crisp-crunchy, or soft-chewy. If you store them airtight, the cookies will remain crisp. But if you prefer soft sugar cookies, simply leave them uncovered overnight; they’ll soften nicely.

Ready to try this tweak on a delicious classic? Let’s bake Vanilla Sugar Cookies.

Put the following in a bowl, and beat until smooth:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Add 1 large egg, again beating until smooth.

Now comes the good part –

Vanilla! Use 2 to 3 teaspoons, to taste.

I happen to love our Vanilla Bean Crush – it’s full of crushed vanilla pods and seeds, and has a wonderfully aromatic, “vanilla-y” flavor.  See the residue in the spoon? That’s the seeds and pods; they’ll add lovely vanilla flecks to whatever you’re baking.

Now’s the time to add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, as well; it’s optional, but gives your cookies that certain sugar cookie je ne sais quoi.

Stir in the following:

scant ¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt*
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, to taste
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Scrape the dough into the center of the bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, until it’s stiff enough to scoop easily and hold its shape; overnight is fine.

Just before shaping the cookies, preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) 2 or 3 baking sheets.

Place some granulated sugar or coarse white sparkling sugar in a shallow pan, and scoop the chilled dough by the tablespoonful into the sugar, rolling to coat. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

Once the balls are coated with sugar, roll each one into a round in your palms. The dough softens quickly; refrigerate it between batches.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets.

They’ll spread, so be sure to leave enough room between them.

Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, until their edges are just beginning to brown. Bake slightly longer for a crisper cookie.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

As soon as the cookies are completely cool, store them airtight, to retain their crunchy texture. For soft cookies, allow them to rest uncovered overnight before wrapping and storing.

Doesn’t this cookie fairly sing VANILLA?

While vanilla is obviously the most important flavor in these cookies, we suggest nutmeg and almond extract, as well. Nutmeg will give the cookies a distinctive, old-fashioned “sugar cookie taste.” And we feel a small amount of almond highlights vanilla’s flavor, without adding any flavor of its own.

By the way, we’ve changed AJ’s recipe slightly (baker’s prerogative!), but feel it’s still true to its origins. Thanks again, AJ!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Vanilla Sugar Cookies.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. "Paul from Ohio"

    Oh yeah……gonna have to order my next bottle of Vanilla Crush before I make these, but learned on this last empty bottle to add a store bought ‘normal’ vanilla and pour it into the Vanilla Crush bottle – you should see all the flecks of wonder it picks up. And of course I’ll have to order Sparkling sugar for the outside crunch, but other than that – good to go on this one! Chocolate man myself, but oh yeah, a good vanilla cookie is also to die for….thanks PJ.

    Reply
  2. aoifeofcheminnoir

    PJ, I was proud to see my recipe this morning! I don’t know whether I mentioned it but I used to make these to the ready -to-bake point then flatten them slightly, put them all on a pan, put in the freezer, then put them in a bag. I’d take out what I wanted, thaw a bit then bake. Fresh cookies, whenever I wanted, whenever I needed them! AJ

    Good idea, AJ – I’ll make a double batch next time, and have some “spares” in the freezer! Thanks for sharing your recipe – PJH

    Reply
  3. Julie

    Used to work with a lady whose secret ingredient was cardamom – always just a little in white cakes, vanilla cookies, etc. I think that fills in where your choice of almond and nutmeg are used. My kids object to almond flavor for reasons I don’t understand. I agree that it adds a little complexity to pure vanilla. Thanks for recipe, AJ! Will be trying this soon.

    Reply
  4. Anne

    These cookies surely look good. Sugar cookies are always welcome – they could be plain vanilla, like these, or they could dotted with other “enhancements”. And I am so glad AJ the original author of this recipe mentions these cookies could be prep-n’-freeze. A little problem when I checked the recipe though: ground nutmeg (optional) is listed twice. Is the second 1/4 teaspoon used in the sparkling sugar coating? Thanks so much for clarifying this.

    Whoops – thanks for catching that, Anne. Just a mistake I made when switching the order of the ingredients… All set now. PJH

    Reply
  5. cartvl219

    Just printed out the recipe. It still has the nutmeg listed twice in the ingredient list. Don’t know what you did PJ, but it didn’t work!! Blame it on Cyber Monday! :-)
    Carolyn

    Or maybe the page needed refreshing? Hmmm… looks fine on my screen. Cyber Monday may have indeed been playing tricks, Carolyn! PJH

    Reply
  6. TomP

    Has anyone tried using Splenda in place of sugar? With a type 2 diabetic Grandson who seriously likes a good cookie, sugar is not on the acceptable list. Suggestions?

    The Splenda website has a terrific collection of recipes that may meet your needs. Wishing you well in your sugar-free cookie quest – Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  7. kartho

    Could these cookies be rolled out and cut into shapes, or do they only work as drop cookies?

    They’d be pretty sticky to roll, but if you chill the dough thoroughly, flour the work surface sufficiently, and roll quickly, so things don’t become sticky – it might be an option. Our Holiday Butter Cookies is a great option for rollout sugar cookies, too. PJH

    Reply
  8. Karen

    Could use pastry flour to make these cookies?

    They might spread a lot more, Karen; pastry flour is lower protein. Try cutting back the oil and butter by 1 tablespoon each; that should help. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  9. Mrs. L M Ward NW FL

    I can’t believe this, saw your advertisement on T V. Thought I’d check out your sight, Wow, I am impressed and you share recipes right up front, with not even purchase!
    Employees being able to take part in the company they work for, talk about a morale booster! Keep up the great dedication to your employees and customers. Before you know it you will be doing more additions!
    Thank you, Mrs. Ward and welcome to our site! Elisabeth

    Reply
  10. MariaNita

    Wow! this is my first time to bake cookies and the finished product is very good, they taste yummy, too and most of all they are easy to make. I’m thinking of making a big batch of it and have them as giveaways this coming holiday season.

    Great idea, MariaNita – they keep fairly well, too. And everyone loves a good, simple sugar cookie, in my experience. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  11. dgcbooth

    Well this is too funny. I _know_ this recipe is wonderful without even making it because it’s my Grandma’s recipe, but with a bit more vanilla! I love these sugar cookies; they practically melt in your mouth. Mmmmm :)

    Glad these cookies get the Grandma seal of approval! :) PJH

    Reply
  12. gaa

    PJ, I read this recipe and immediately ordered two bottles of Vanilla Crush. Mixed up the dough Monday night and I was just blown away with the heavenly aroma of the Vanilla Crush!! No more store bought vanilla for me (although I have been using Penzey’s for several years now). Thanks to AJ for telling us about the prep and freeze nature of this dough. After letting the dough sit in the fridge over nite, I shaped the cookies on Tuesday morning and threw them in the freezer. (Love making deposits in the holiday “time bank” a/k/a my stand up freezer in the basement!) My husband asked me to make some cookies for him to take to a holiday volunteer gathering and I thought these would be great especially rolled in different colored sparkling sugars. I think they’ll look pretty on the plate, like those solid color satin-finish tree ornaments. Thanks PJ yet again! You give me the tools to up my game in the kitchen. With your help I may achieve my goal of making the world a happier place, one cookie at a time!
    I adore that idea Gaa, the world would be better off with more vanilla cookies, right? May I suggest we start with my desk? Around noon? ;) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. essiemyra

    I made these cookies exactly as directed and they came out crispy. Which is not what I wanted I wanted a chewy vanilla sugar cookie. I am not sure if sugar cookies by nature are not supposed to be chewy. Anyway they had good flavor, but I did not care for the cookie.

    Though let me say I love, love, love, the KA website and cruise it all the time looking for new recipes and things to bake. Thank-you guys for all your good work!

    Hi – I made these last night. Baked for 13 minutes on a parchment-lined aluminum baking sheet; cooled to room temperature; stored in a plastic bag overnight. They’re wonderfully soft and moist. Maybe you over-baked them, or your oven was too hot? they shuldn’t be brown at all when you take them out of the oven… maybe try them again? PJH

    Reply
  14. LittleLenny

    I am new here and I must say, the info., help and advise provided here, is in my mind absolutely priceless. Am an old dog trying to learn new tricks and due to health I had to at 51 reroute my career path and chose to take my passion for sweets and treats to a whole new level, so I am college bound for a degree in applied science of pastry arts. Its never to late, right? The passion I see here and the extended hand and heart here that you make so easily available for some one like myself, well I just want you to know that it does not go unappreciated.
    LittleLenny – I know I can speak for just about all of us here and we are so pleased to hear from you and are very excited you found King Arthur Flour for inspiration! Good luck earning your degree and pursuing your interest! Elisabeth
    Thank You.

    Reply
  15. Ted

    I have my bottle of Fiori di Sicilia here, and am thinking that a simple sugar cookie with that magical FdS flavour would be great. Could this recipe be modified to use FdS, and if so, how? (I’m thinking you’d replace all or some of the vanilla with the FdS, and omit the nutmeg and the almond flavoring. Or maybe a different recipe altogether?) Thanks so much for any suggestions you have.

    You can absolutely substitute the Fiori flavoring in a sugar cookie recipe (or any recipe calling for Vanilla!!). For whatever amount of vanilla, use 1/4 of the Fiori. For example: it calls for 2 tsp of vanilla–use 1/2 tsp of Fiori di Sicilia (or less if you want just a HINT of it). Kim@KAF

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      And we love to hear such wonderfully kind remarks from our fellow bakers!!! We’ll do our best to keep up the good work and happy baking to you! Jocelyn@KAF

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