Cookie Decorating Simplified

Dough Prep: Mixing

Mixing rolled sugar cookie dough is fairly simple. The ingredients are minimal and it comes together in a snap. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure a great dough.

1. Use superfine (Baker's) sugar, or process regular granulated sugar in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds before adding to the butter. I'm not sure of the technical reasons behind it, but I've found that using sugar with smaller granules makes the dough less likely to crack when I roll it out. It also produces a lighter cookie, which is what we need when using a recipe without leavening (see recipe section). Superfine sugar can be substituted cup for cup for regular granulated sugar.

2. Do not skimp when creaming the butter and sugar, especially when using a recipe with no leavening. You'll want to incorporate some air into your dough to make it lighter. When a recipe says "mix till light and fluffy", it is referring to the color of the mixture as much as the texture. The color will literally lighten a few shades while mixing. In the picture to the left you can see the difference between a butter-sugar mixture that has only been mixed for a few seconds (left) versus a mixture that has been properly creamed (right). Notice the color and texture change that has occurred.

Creaming Times

For a hand mixer, you will need to beat for 5 or 6 minutes.

If you are using a stand mixer, it will be approximately 3 minutes on medium speed (tested on a KitchenAid, speed 4).

If you have a Bosch mixer, use the dough hook and beat for 3 minutes on speed 3.

Note: For all three methods, you will need to stop the motor and scrape the bowl occasionally. Pause the timer while you're scraping, or add a minute onto your time to compensate for the time spent scraping.

3. After adding the eggs, mix well to incorporate the ingredients. If you are doubling or tripling the batch, add eggs one at a time. For all three mixers, it will take about a minute to incorporate the eggs.

4. Once you add the flour, handle the dough as little as possible. Mix just until you don't see any more powdery flour in the bowl and then stop. You may need to scrape the bottom of your bowl to get any stray flour mixed in. Flour contains a protein called "gluten" which is developed through the addition of moisture (eggs) and kneading (mixing). If you've ever made bread, this is what makes your dough springy, which is a good thing for bread, but a bad thing for cookies. Too much gluten development will make your cookies hard and tough.