Cookie Quest Part II

A long time ago in a post this far away, I discussed the joy of finding and using Williams-Sonoma Star Wars cookie cutters.  I also reviewed three sugar cookie recipes.  Well, you wrote to me letting me know that there were better recipe options available.  I think you can see where we are headed – another cookie test and me feeling a little guilty about eating dozens of cookies.

Once again the cutters performed flawlessly.  They are not up for debate so let’s move on to the dough.

Up first, we have an emailed recipe.  Once you have started studying these things, you see that most sugar cookie recipes are nearly identical.  This one is radically different in that it uses sour cream and nutmeg.

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup soft butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; set aside

2.  In a large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and egg until light and fluffy

3.  At low speed beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth

4.  Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well combined

5.  Form dough into balls and wrap in waxed paper or foil.  Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

6.  On a lightly floured surface roll out dough about 1/4″ inch thick and cut into shapes.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

Next up is an oldie that was stuffed in our recipe drawer.  Why didn’t I look here before?  It too was unusual in that it used vegetable oil.  That doesn’t sound appetizing, but the total fat count for this one is roughly double the other recipes.  Maybe that will save the flavor.

Very Best Sugar Cookies

1 cup vegetable oil
2 sticks butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 beaten eggs
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, cream together oil, butter and both sugars.

Mix in vanilla and eggs.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda.

Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture blending well.

Divide dough into two balls.

Flatten dough balls into ½” thickness, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

On floured surface roll dough to ¼” thickness (dough may need to warm for 5 minutes first).

Cut dough into shapes, place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Once I’d made a ½ recipe of each of these and the official Williams-Sonoma recipe, I tried each of the doughs.  Of course all of the usual warnings apply about eating raw eggs.  I cannot suggest that you try that step at home.  The W-S dough was tough but tasty.  The old-fashioned dough was extremely smooth because of the sour creme and quite tasty but the nutmeg made them seem like something other than sugar cookies.  It reminded me of the America’s Test Kitchen recipe from our first go at this – a very tasty dough that really wasn’t a sugar cookie flavor.  The very best dough was extremely light, greasy and delicious.

Forming and baking the cookies revealed variations too.  W-S performed flawlessly again.  It was the easiest to work with and maintained crisp shapes when cooked.  The old-fashioned was a little more sticky and puffed up into more of a biscuit than the W-S but details were still easily readable.  Very best was a challenge.  Clearly this recipe is designed for round cookies only.  The dough was extremely sticky and lightweight which allowed it to tear if a liberal amount of flour and a spatula wasn’t used.  Cooked cookies turned into puffy blobs.  Not good.

Boba = Williams-Sonoma Recipe. Vader = Old-Fashioned Recipe.
Stormtroopers = Very Best Recipe.

Finally, it was on to taste.  Our panel of three judges was in agreement.  W-S came to the plate with a dense and sweet cookie.  It had a very good standard sugar cookie flavor.  Old-fashioned had the best texture of any straddling the line between standard cookie and thin biscuit.  Strangely the nutmeg flavor was gone and, with a lower sugar content, these were the blandest of the bunch.  Finally, very best was still slightly greasy (like a chocolate chip cookie) but had the best flavor.  Sweet and delicious.  Even better than our taste-winner from round one.

As stated in the other article, there must be a balance between shape-holding ability and taste.  Unlike other cookies, no one makes sugar cookies for the taste alone.  They make them to cut into interesting shapes.  So based on this, here is my officially-endorsed ranked list:

1  Williams-Sonoma Sugar Cookies – included with SW cutters
2  Very Best Sugar Cookies – blobby but tasty
3  America’s Test Kitchen Sugar Cookies – blobby but tasty but not a sugar cookie flavor
4  Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies – best texture but bland
5  Best Rolled Sugar Cookies – almost no flavor

I also tried the frosting recipe included with the cutters.  It is just a standard royal icing that obscures all of the details below it.  It would probably be much easier and better to use some sort of pour on glaze that was thin enough to let the details show through.

W-S Frosting Recipe Obscures All Details
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Williams-Sonoma Star Wars Cookie Cutters

A few weekends ago I picked up these cool Star Wars cookie cutters since my brother’s kids are getting into Star Wars now.  I thought with the holidays coming up, we could have some fun making and decorating some SW cooks.  I want to do my part as a good uncle and, besides, they need to know about the Dark Side before the cool kids at school start telling them that everyone shoots lightning from their fingertips.

Even the box is Nice

This past weekend I had a test run to see how well they’d work and what recipe would be best.  I always remember sugar cookies as basically being little rice cakes with icing.  There had to be a decent recipe out there.  I opted to try three different recipes and mix any left over dough for a semi-fourth.  Since there are four cookie cutters, this worked out perfectly.  One shape per type of dough.

I first checked out my favorite recipe testing ground – America’s Test Kitchen.  It yielded this recipe.  Like me, they agreed that sugar cookies really are not very good most of the time.  Their recipe really jumpstarts the flavor by browning the butter (giving it a butterscotch flavor), using brown sugar, and a ton of vanilla.  It turns out they are right.  Melanie and I agreed that this was easily the tastiest cookie.  The problem is that they cheated to do it.  Everyone knows that sugar cookies are only made to cut into special shapes (and usually frost).  These cookies only work if made into a standard cookie disk.  What’s the point?  If you wanted regular-shaped cookies, you would have made chocolate chip.  As you can see below, “Blobba” Fett lost his shape almost completely.  No good.

Apparently There will be Disintegrations After All

Next up I searched online and came up with this recipe.  It was the highest rated by the most people.  It must be good right?  Wrong.  These were the worst cooks of the group. Almost zero flavor.

It turns out the best recipe was the one that came in the box with the cutters.  Two points for Williams-Sonoma.  The cooks were relatively sweet (even if it was not a complex flavor), they kept their shape great and the dough was pretty easy to work with.

Don't be a Vader Hater. He Tasted Good and Kept his Shape.

The mixed batch was not good.  The different doughs cooked at different rates so we got marbled cooks that were soft and bland and tooth-shattering and semi-burnt all in one mouthful.  I chose to eat the roughly dozen of these to spare anyone else from the dental distress.

My name is Yoda. I'm a souja. I'll mold you and fold you. I thought I tode you.

The cutters themselves performed flawlessly.  They cut the dough easily and imparted distinct and detailed accents to each cookie.  They cleaned up relatively easily.  I recommend pushing the plunger all the way down and scrubbing the edges of the face with one of those dish toothbrush thingies to prevent dough from hardening up there.

Freshly Pressed Yoda Cook

So there you have it.  Williams-Sonoma Star Wars cookie cutters and the included sugar cookie recipe is the way to go.  Let me know if you try them out.  Let me know if you make sugar cookies in any other cool shapes (Yes, I will delete R+ rated responses).