I know…I know…Does the world really need yet sugar cookie? The world may not, but apparently I do.
That’s because I ran out of cream of tartar. My grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe calls for it and it is what makes her recipe so good. Cream of tartar keeps the Chappell family cookies tender. It also lends a barely noticeable tang that’s not lemony or sour and somehow makes them especially delicious.
Here in France, cream of tartar is hard to come by and I forgot to restock the last time I was in the US. Seeking that tang, I decided to give a cream cheese sugar cookie recipe a go. (Don’t ask me which one – I’ve long since lost the link after cutting and pasting the recipe into a Word document.) And you know what? The cream cheese was a pretty good stand-in for cream of tartar. It gave the cookies a tang, kept them tender…only…they were much too sweet.
Take Two. Although tweaking the sugar in cookie recipes can be risky business (it changes the texture), I took it down a notch (25%) and bumped up the flour bumped just a bit. And it was a Christmas miracle! Not only do the cookies have just the right amount of tang and sweetness, the dough is also easier to work with than my grandmother’s all-butter version. What’s more, the cookies hold their shape beautifully, a quality that is so important for holiday sugar cookies.
So, while the world may not need another sugar cookie, I’m putting this one up on the site so that I can find it again when I start my holiday baking next year. Or maybe even sooner. I’m so thrilled with how it turned out that I may be using the recipe the next time I make a sweet pie crust.
1 lb. (450 g.) butter, softened
6 oz. (170 g.) cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups (320 g.) sugar
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Cream the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until well combined and no streaks remain. Add the vanilla and salt, and mix until incorporated. Beat the mixture with the sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg, then fold in the flour with a spatula. Shape the dough into as flat a disk as possible, wrap in parchment or place in a container, then refrigerate 2 hours or up to 5 days.
Preheat the oven to 325˚F., and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut off ¼ of the disk dough, then roll it out to ¼-inch thickness on a well-floured work surface. Cut the dough in desired shapes with cookie cutters, and place on the prepared baking sheets. Decorate with sugar if desired, or leave plain to decorate with icing once they have cooled. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies are pale golden on the bottoms but haven’t taken on too much color otherwise. Cool on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack.