Whether you are making Christmas sugar cookies or cookies for a wedding, one of my favorite all time cookie recipes is from Paula Deen. The recipe uses powdered sugar and cream of tartar for a super soft cookie. And don’t forget to chill the dough!
One of the best traditions associated with Christmas is the annual sugar cookie decoration.
Each year I like to shake thing up a bit, trying different recipes or techniques.
Like adding pink peppercorns to my sugar cookies – this gave them a fruity slightly spicy bite.
Or using freeze dried fruit to make icing.
However what I haven’t experimented with much lately is the sugar cookie itself. I have come to the decision that Paula Deen’s sugar cookie is the best sugar cookie in my opinion. I am a soft sugar cookie fan and that i why I love it.
Her recipe actually was featured for a wedding show but with the right decorations it certainly looks a lot like Christmas!
How to Make Soft Sugar Cookies
Here is why Paula’s recipe make soft sugar cookies.
- Powdered sugar is used instead of granulated sugar.
- Cream of tartar is added to the dough. This reduces the sugar’s ability to crystallize, making for a softer cookie.
- The dough is chilled before baking. If the fat (butter) is cold it will be slower to spread.
This recipe is tailored to be a super soft cookie. If you overcook them, then you will end up with a more crisp cookie. Do that if you like. They will be crispy before burned. For me give soft sugar cookies.
When to Pull a Soft Sugar Cookie Out of the Oven
You want the cookies to be set around the edges, but very little if any browning for the most soft cookie.
A thicker cookie will be less likely to get crispy in the oven so don’t roll your dough out too thin.
Review Notes from Paula Deen’s Recipe
Now that we talked about how soft these are, let’s get into the nitty gritty and look at how this recipe works. Here are my recipes notes.
1. I was concerned that the dough was going to be too dry at first, but just a little patience was needed. Refrigerating the dough overnight is best. This will also help the flour absorb the moisture that is in the dough, an important step.
2. Depending on the shape of your cookie cutter, I suggest putting 6-8 cookies on a sheet pan. Although these cookies won’t spread a much as others, you still don’t want them to touch. Also keep the cookie cutter shapes simple. Ones with too much detail won’t look right – such as this moose shaped cookie cutter. You would be better off with this more simple moose shaped cookie cutter. Not sure why you want your cookies to look like a moose though 🙂
3. The recipe says it makes 5 dozen cookies. Her cookie cutter must have been small as I had about 2 dozen. Again it all depends on the size of your cookie cutters. and how thick or thin you roll your dough.
4. The recipe calls for royal icing. I am not really a fan of making it. It’s easier to make an icing with milk and powered sugar. The key is to make sure that your icing is thick enough so it’s not runny. We always just eyeball it, adding more milk or more sugar to get the right consistency. It changes based on how humid or dry it is out.
5. Paula uses vanilla extract and almond extract to flavor the dough. We believe that almond extract tastes too much like fake cherry flavor (almonds are related to cherries) found in cough syrup. So we can’t in good conscience recommend using almond extract 🙂
Want to Make the Gluten Free?
If you want to make these cookies gluten free, we recommend using Jessica’s Gluten Free Flour. It’s the best. We made Alton Browns’ Gluten Free sugar cookies with it before and they were even better than the regular flour version.
Other Cookie Recipes to Try
Paula Deen’s Sugar Cookies
Recipe for Paul Deen's Sugar Cookies, written in my own words. This is the recipe for making the cookies themselves. Fee free to use you favorite frosting or icing to finish them.
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 sticks butter room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
Place the powdered sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together until well combined.
Add in the vanilla extract and egg. Mix to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Mix well to combine.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl. Mix until the dough just comes together. Dough may look dry, don't worry that is expected.
Form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough in half. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 2-3 hours
Baking the cookies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Remove the dough from the fridge about 30-60 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is too hard when you try to roll it out, wait until it has soften enough to roll.
Roll the dough to a thickness between 1/4 and 1/2 inches. 1/2 inch thickness will make less cookies but they will be the softest.
Using a floured cookie cutter, cut your cookies out and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan. About 6-8 cookies per pan; don't let them touch.
Bake for 9 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your cookies. For soft cookies they should be set on the edges but not brown yet or just barely turning brown. For crispier cookies, let them brown along the edge. For burnt cookies, let them brown all over!
Cool on the sheet pan for a few minutes before attempting to move to a cooling rack to roll all the way.
Add your favorite icing or frosting if desired.
While we don’t recommend almond extract, if you like, the you can add 1 teaspoon of it to the batter. You also could use lemon or orange extract. Or a drop or two of orange or lemon essential oil.
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