Did you know July 9 is National Sugar Cookie Day? Looking ahead, July 11 is National Blueberry Muffin Day. And the 12th? National Pecan Pie Day. Alas, you already missed National Clams on the Half Shell Day (March 31) and National Cheeseball Day (April 17). But don’t despair; if you can hang on till September 14, you can join the celebration for National Cream-Filled Donut Day—and there’s NOTHING more exciting than that. (Except perhaps National Bicarbonate of Soda Day, December 30).
Where, pray tell, does this information come from, you ask? State Symbols USA, “a nonprofit organization promoting appreciation for our natural treasures and cultural heritage.” Of which National Chocolate Covered Raisins Day (March 24) is certainly one.
I’m not a huge fan of sugar cookies, to tell you the truth. I find them kind of… well, vanilla. I know more than 50% of the U.S. population names vanilla ice cream as their #1 flavor, but I’m more of a chocolate gal. Or butter pecan.
Still, there are those who love sugar cookies. And there are only about a million sugar cookie recipes out there. You’ve got your soft sugar cookies, your crunchy sugar cookies, and your snapping-crisp rollout sugar cookies, perfect for decorating. There are madeleines, vanilla biscotti, snickerdoodles, linzer cookies, stroopwafels, shortbread… In fact, we devote an entire chapter of The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion to sugar cookies. (And now, a word from our sponsor: If you don’t already have this book, give it a look. It’ll be your best friend in the kitchen, come holiday baking time.)
So, sugar cookies—how do I choose a favorite? Get out the dart board? Nope, this one is slam-dunk obvious for me. I’ve loved Crystal Diamonds for years, ever since I ran into their progenitor recipe, John Thorne’s Arnhem Cookies; which in turn are probably derived from Arnhemse meisjes (“Arnhem Girls”), a signature cookie of Arnhem, the Netherlands. (Remember the Presidential Cookie Bake-Off—there ARE no originals.)
If vanilla trumps chocolate in your book, or you're looking to raise its profile in your baking repertoire, try these crunchy Crystal Diamonds.
Flour, salt, milk, TWO DROPS of lemon oil—really, just two—and... yeast? Yup, yeast in a cookie. That's a first, huh? I imagine some of you are wondering, can I make these without yeast? And the answer is—I don't know, I've never tried. Give it a try, report back.
Beat the pieces of butter into the dough one at a time, beating for a full minute after adding each piece. The dough will become soft and satiny smooth. Place it in a bowl, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 2 hours, or as long as overnight. It needs to be absolutely, thoroughly chilled.
Use a rolling pizza wheel or knife to cut the dough into diamond shapes. This particular pizza cutter is made of acrylic, and is safe for non-stick surfaces—like this silicone rolling mat—so long as you don't press down TOO hard.
The diamonds won't be perfect. The ones around the edge will be ragged. And as you roll the dough it starts to warm up and become a bit sticky, so that the cookies stretch as you work with them. No worries; again, do the best you can. You're not going to enter these in a beauty contest. (Are you?)
...like this. If you don't bake them till they're deep brown, they'll be chewy, rather than crunchy. They'll still taste fine, and if you prefer chewy cookies, go for it. But these cookies, with their crackly sugar coating, are designed to crunch when you bite them.
Uh, by the way, this is what happens when your timer goes off and you think, "Hmmm, wonder why that timer went off? I must have turned it on by mistake," and you go on working for about, oh, an hour or so, till you finally smell something burning...
And here's what happens when you DON'T forget you have cookies in the oven, and you manage to bake them to a perfect golden brown. Success! I need to reiterate—these should be very dark brown, just teetering on the edge of being burned. I think this picture makes them seem a little lighter than they should be. What you're doing here is like making caramel—the closer you get to burned (WITHOUT actually going there), the richer the flavor.
Read the complete Recipe for Crystal Diamonds.
Buy vs. Bake
While there's no exact match for these cookies at the supermarket, the ones they probably come closest to, taste-wise, are Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies; so that's the comparison this time.
Buy: Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux Cookies, 47¢/ounce
Bake at home: Crystal Diamonds, 16¢/ounce