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How to make perfect sugar cookies. (And the science behind it.)


It’s amazing how much science goes into baking, but it is also the key to making your baking successful!

We shared this post many years ago as part of our baking series, and readers really enjoyed it.

Over the years I have studied, researched and tested some undeniably effective science tips to help you master and troubleshoot sugar cookies.

Here are some of the best tips to know when it comes to making sugar cookies turn out perfect.

Always use baking powder instead of baking soda.

Most sugar cookie recipes are similar, but they can vary on the leavening agent used. Baking soda is most widely used in cookies since it causes the dough to rise. Baking soda is also very alkaline, so it raises the pH of dough.

This allows it to rise slower, keeping the cookie at a uniform thickness, which is awesome for almost all cookies!

But with cut out sugar cookies, you really don’t want the dough to rise that much. It makes it too puffy, so baking powder is a better solution.

Baking powder contains both baking soda and cream of tartar (powdered acid). You can read the blog post for more science on this!

Use room temperature eggs and ALMOST room temperature butter.

All sugar cookies need eggs and butter to be traditional.

The key to a nice consistency for a cookie is making sure the ingredients mix completely. Cold ingredients don’t mix as well, making air pockets. This is why when you make biscuits or pie dough, it calls for cold butter.

You want flaky air pockets throughout, but not with cookies.

One of the reasons I don’t let my butter become completely soft to room temperature is it will continue to soften as you mix up the dough.

I have found that if the butter is too soft while mixing, the sugar cookie dough will spread too much even after chilling the mixed dough. Just a preference for me, but it makes a difference!

Chill the dough, then chill again.

The most important thing for cut out sugar cookies is chilling the dough after each step. Once you mix the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

This is going to keep those sugar cookies from spreading.

After you chill initially, chill again once you roll it to desired thickness. I place mine on a baking sheet and pop in fridge for 10-20 minutes.

Then, when you cut out the cookies to desired shape, chill again! Just for a few minutes to make sure everything isn’t softened. This is the best way to keep a sugar cookie in the shape you want.

Don’t use much flour.

It may be tempting to flour your rolling pin and surface, but too much flour causes dry dough and cracking.

I like to use wax paper or parchment paper when I roll out the dough. If I need to, I will very lightly put flour on the pin or I will put another piece of wax paper on top of the dough and roll on that.

Another tip is using powdered sugar to dust your rolling pin. Added sweetness without over drying the dough.

Use Good Equipment

The equipment you use is also important for proper baking. Check out the blog post for our favorite baking tools and the rest of our tips!

Alexis Rochester is an investigative chemist, blogger and founder of Chemistry Cachet. She shares science-based skin care, cleaning, gardening and health tips. She was diagnosed with RA at age 10, so she has a passion for pain management tips and research, along with sharing her journey through this disease. When she’s not writing for Chemistry Cachet, she is taking Pilates or Barre classes, and also received her Barre teaching certification this year! She grew up in Stephenville and recently moved back with her daughter, husband and bulldog. You can find her posting pictures and fun stories daily on Instagram. Also look for Chemistry Cachet on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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