Soft and Chewy Sugar-Doodle Vanilla Cookies — Part soft sugar cookie, part chewy snickerdoodle, with tons of rich vanilla flavor! The best vanilla cookies you’ll ever make!
The Best Vanilla Sugar Cookies Recipe
Although these cookies are simple and unassuming, they’re a new favorite. Sometimes the simplest things really are the best.
They’re a chewy hybrid of a sugar cookie and a snickerdoodle. They have the buttery flavor of sugar cookies without any of the dryness. Too often sugar cookies are dry, bland, and horribly crumbly.
We all know those dried out poor excuses for cookies that are typically found on holiday platters and that disintegrate into a million crumbs all over your lap as you’re trying to eat neatly from a paper plate at someone’s holiday party and not get crumbs all over their carpet and couch. These are not those and they also don’t need to be rolled out or frosted or doctored up with sprinkles in order to be palatable, like many sugar cookies do.
They’re soft and pliable, with the chewy texture of a snickerdoodle, minus the cream or tartar or cinnamon-sugar coating, and I decided to call them a Sugar-Doodle.
When I made the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies, although those cookies didn’t end my quest for the perfect end-all-be-all chocolate chip cookie, the recipe opened my eyes to the chewy, texture-filled, jaw-workout powers of using bread flour in cookie dough.
That recipe calls for both bread flour and cake flour, and although I believe cake flour is better being suited for cake-making and I’ll likely never use it in cookies again, bread flour can hop over from bread-making and into my cookies all it wants. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, usually by one to two percentage points, and the extra protein means extra gluten, translating into baked goods that have excellent structure and increased chewiness.
The cookie dough is classic, old-school cookie dough like my mom and grandma made. Cream together butter, sugars, an egg, splash of cream, vanilla, add the flour, baking soda and that’s it. Then, chill the dough for at least three hours because in order to create cookies that don’t turn into flat pancakes while baking, you need to start with well-chilled dough.
Normally I prefer cookies that are made with a higher ratio of brown to granulated sugar because brown sugar keeps cookies softer, moister, and helps impart greater chewiness and a richer flavor, but in this recipe, the equal ratios worked out perfectly.
I infused plenty of vanilla flavor into these golden discs without needing to scrape out 14 dollars worth of vanilla bean seeds from a Tahitian vanilla bean. Instead, I used a liberal dousing of homemade vanilla extract, but a heavy-handed stream of store-bought will work if you haven’t started your own vanilla-making distillery yet. The resulting cookies are well-scented with vanilla, but balanced so that the buttery sweet dough shines.
Rather adding a kitchen sink medley of different kinds of chocolate, white chocolate, or butterscotch chips, I kept the ingredient list very simple. I want to get back to basics and some classic recipes and not every cookie recipe needs candy bars stuffed into it to be successful.
These back-to-basics cookies stand on their own two feet incredibly well and are for those who can appreciate the cookie itself; the actual dough, rather than all the extras that seem to be found in cookies lately. Cookies made from cookie dough rather than leftover Halloween candy is nice for a change.
Sometimes I love well-stuffed cookies that can’t seem to hold one more chocolate chip, or decadent cakes with a myriad of flavor and textural elements going on, but sometimes rustic simplicity trumps all.
My other favorite part of these cookies, in addition to their flavor and texture, is that the recipe makes just 11 cookies. You could probably squeeze a dozen out if you like round numbers, but I weighed each mound of cookie dough out to exactly 2.25-ounces each, and yielded eleven generously-sized cookies. Heidi made similar cookies using the recipe from this cookbook and she yielded just nine cookies.
I’ve wanted to make some Lofthouse-style sugar cookies, but the popular recipes I’ve seen make four to five dozen cookies and have a pesky three-egg situation, making them tricky to halve. We are a family of three. We don’t need four dozen anything, and small batch sizes of six cupcakes or eleven cookies is plenty and perfect.
I fear the pictures don’t do my new favorite cookies justice. It’s hard for that which seems plain and basic to compete with monster-this and stuffed-to-the-gills-that, but if you’re looking for a lightly-sweetened, buttery cookie with vanilla tones, with chewy edges and pillowy soft centers, these good-old fashioned cookies are where it’s at.
I loved them so much that I made another batch because we tore through the first eleven in record time.
What’s in Vanilla Cookies?
To make this simple vanilla cookie recipe, you’ll need:
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Bread flour
- Baking soda
How to Make Vanilla Cookies
Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then add in the vanilla, egg, and milk. Mix in the dry ingredients, then chill the dough for at least 3 hours.
Once chilled, scoop the dough into balls and place on a Silpat-lined baking sheet.
Bake the cookies until they’re pale golden and the edges have just set, even if slightly undercooked in the center, as cookies will firm up as they cool. Let them cool for 10 minutes before enjoying!
Do I Have to Use Bread Flour?
I made these cookies using about a half-and-half ratio of bread and all-purpose flour, and although I haven’t tested the recipe solely using all-purpose flour, the cookies will turn out, but just won’t be as chewy.
I am not one to recommend seventeen dollar strands of saffron, nor advocate that it’s the organic way or the highway, and when it comes to recommending ingredients, I don’t flippantly say things matter unless I really think they do.
For five bucks for a bag of bread flour, it’s a good one to have around. Plus, you can make bread with it.
Do I Have to Chill the Dough?
Yes! I baked a trial batch of three cookies with dough that had only been chilled 30 minutes rather than 3 hours and although they weren’t paper thin, they were definitely flatter than those shown.
Can I Freeze the Cookie Dough?
Yes! I typically keep a bowl of cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to five days after I initially make it. As desired, I bake off a couple cookies for that just-baked perfection that can’t be beat. If I happen to not use the dough within five days, I from balls and toss them into a ziplock, and then freeze it.
As needed, I can dole out the frozen balls and bake as many cookies we want. Frozen dough doesn’t even have to be pre-thawed prior to baking. Simply take it out of the freezer while the oven is preheating, and if necessary, extend the baking time by an extra minute or two.
Tips for Making Vanilla Sugar Cookies
Be sure not to overbake these cookies if you want soft and chewy results. About nine minutes in my oven is perfect based on the size of dough used and that I prefer very soft, tender, and moist cookies. Even at about nine minutes, they look quite under-done on the tops, which are set but just barely.
In general, if you wait to pull cookies from the oven until the tops are well-set, by the time they cool, they harden up too much. Plus, the bottoms will become too browned for my liking.
Cookies can fool you into thinking they’re not done but somehow they always seem to set up dramatically as they cool. If you prefer crunchier cookies, extend the baking time to your liking.
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- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons cream or milk
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup bread flour*
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg, cream, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flours, baking soda, salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
- Transfer dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, up to 5 days.
- Preheat oven to 350°F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, parchment, or spray with cooking spray.
- Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop, form heaping mounds weighing 2¼-ounces each (weighed on a scale, which is approximately a scant ¼-cup measure) and place them on the baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until pale golden and edges have just set, even if slightly undercooked in the center, as cookies will firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked for 9 minutes and have chewy edges with soft pillowy centers. For crunchier cookies, extend baking time by 1 to 3 minutes).
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing.
*Flour: solely using all-purpose flour will work, the cookies will not be as chewy or rise as well because bread flour creates chewier results and gives greater rise. Also, I live in a dry climate and only need 1¾ cups flour total but if you are in more humidity or your dough is very moist or loose, adding up to ¼ cup of additional flour, for 2 cups total, is possible. The more flour, the more the cookies will stay domed and puffed while baking.
To store: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.
Inspired by White Chocolate Snickerdoodles and the Saffron-Vanilla Snickerdoodles in The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 170mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 0gSugar: 16gProtein: 4g
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