I first made these big, delicate sugar cookies for a candidate meet-and-greet a few years ago. The event was a success, but from the cookies’ perspective it was kind of a disaster. My wonderfully feisty friend Bonnie had asked if I would make some cookies for the event, so I made ten kinds. I delivered the cookies early in the day and came back toward the end of the event. There sat the enormous cookie tray, as big as a wagon wheel, virtually untouched. I was happy that the political chatter was so engaging that they had gone unnoticed, but I was a little disappointed for the cookies’ sake. As I began packing them all up, a few people asked about them—first about where I had bought them, and then about how I had gotten them to look so perfect It’s that kind of recipe. And they are rather perfect looking—perfectly round, perfectly puffed and sugared, and pretty in a prim way with their dainty little raisin. Among the ten kinds I made, these were a standout. They are a truly soft sugar cookie, with just a little crackle from their sugar tops, the slightest toasty edge, and a lovely flavor with plenty of vanilla, a hint of bright lemon zest, and rich sour cream. I shared these with my Kaffeeklatch this afterrnoon. Make them, share them—or keep them for yourself—and add them to your list of keepers.
Music for baking sugar cakes
Where the Earth is Round by Minnesota native Ann Reed
Sugar Cakes Tips
Making this recipe has reminded me of an important lesson, namely, the importance of recipe notes. I usually scribble notes whenever I cook or bake so that I’ll remember what I did. I think that since I was in a baking frenzy when I made these the first time, I didn’t make my usual notes, except to dash “delicious and pretty” at the top of the page. The second time around was not quite as perfect. So…I don’t recommend buttering your baking sheets. I believe I used parchment the first time around and I followed the recipe this time. The butter browned and spattered all over many of the cookies. They still taste nice, in fact they have a little brown butter thing going on, but they aren’t very pretty.
I found that there is no need to continue to chill the dough between rolling batches and no need to grease your hands when you roll them.
From Nancy Baggett’s excellent The All American Cookie Book
Yield: two dozen saucer-sized cookies
3 1/3 c. all purpose flour
½ t. baking soda
½ t. cream of tartar
½ t. salt
1 ¼ c. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 ½ t. finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
2 ½ t. vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream
3 to 4 T. sugar for topping the cookies
about 20 raisins for topping the cookies
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; set aside.
- In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and well blended.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until very smooth and fluffy.
- Beat in the sour cream, then the dry ingredients, until evenly incorporated. It’s all right if the dough seems too sticky; it will firm up when chilled.
- Freeze the dough until thoroughly chilled and firm, and least three hours or overnight. If necessary, allow the dough to warm up slightly before using, but it is easier to work with when very cold.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease several baking sheets.
- Working with about a third of the dough at a time and keeping the remaining dough chilled, divide into seven or eight portions.
- With well greased hands, shape and roll the portions into balls.
- Transfer the balls to baking sheets, spacing about three to 3 ¼ inches apart.
- Let the balls stand to soften just slightly. Then grease the bottom of a large, flat, wide-bottomed glass with vegetable oil.
- Dip the glass bottom into a shallow saucer containing the sugar, shaking off the excess. One at a time, press down on the balls with the glass until they are about three inches in diameter, dipping into the sugar before flattening each cookie. (If necessary, wipe buildup from the glass bottom, oil again, dip into the sugar, and continue.)
- Press a raisin into the center of each cookie.
- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for eight to 11 minutes, until just tinged with brown at the edges and barely firm in the centers; for very moist cookies, be careful not to overbake.
- Reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning.
- Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up slightly, one to two minutes.
- Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.
- Store in an airtight container for up to one week or freeze for up to one month.