A trick picked up from cookbook author Stella Parks, toasting sugar can be as easy as popping it in a toaster oven. It results in a deeper, less sweet flavor that matches the subtle complexity of salted butter and renders additional salt unnecessary.
If you don’t care as much about aesthetics and are more concerned with convenience, you can ditch the rolling pin and 2-inch cookie cutter for the old slice-and-bake method: Roll each half of the dough into a log 2 inches in diameter and chill. Slice, sprinkle with the finishing sugar-and-salt mixture and bake.
And yes, it’s important to sift per the directions, to yield a soft and delicate crumb.
MAKE AHEAD: The sugar can be toasted days in advance. The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
3 1⁄4cupssifted all-purpose flour (3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, sifted), plus more for the work surface
2 1⁄2teaspoonsbaking powder
12tablespoons(1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, slightly softened (left at room temperature for up to an hour)
2large eggs, at room temperature
Coarse raw sugar such as Demerara or turbinado, for sprinkling
To toast the sugar, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the sugar evenly across the surface of a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet (not cast-iron). Transfer to the oven; bake (middle rack) for 25 to 30 minutes or until the sugar takes on the barest of color (a pale, wheatlike hue); watch closely to make sure the sugar doesn’t start to melt. Alternatively, you can do this in a toaster oven, placing the sugar on an aluminum-lined toaster-oven tray. Immediately transfer the sugar to a mixing bowl and let it cool.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into a medium bowl.
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer om medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and toasted sugar and beat well. Beat the eggs in one at a time, followed by the milk. Stop to scrape down the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the sifted dry ingredients to incorporate, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Do not overbeat.
Divide the dough in half, wrapping each portion in wax paper and transferring it to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours (or up to 2 days). If there’s room in your refrigerator, go ahead and roll out the halves of dough between sheets of wax paper and stack on a baking sheet before you refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Lightly flour a work surface and your rolling pin.
Place one half of the dough on a lightly floured workstation and turn it over so it’s evenly dusted in flour and shape it into a ball. Use the floured rolling pin to roll out the dough so it’s 1/4-inch thick. With a 2-inch round cutter (or the shape of your choice), cut as many cookies as you can, placing them on a baking sheet, 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Repeat with the second half of dough. Gather your scrap dough into a mass, rewrap in wax paper and return to the refrigerator to firm up. You can make another batch of cookies with it.
Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon coarse raw sugar over each cookie. Bake (middle rack) for about 8 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through. The cookies should have puffed up and their edges be just on the brink of browning. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
Did you make this recipe? Take a photo of your cookies and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.
From cookbook author and food writer Charlotte Druckman.
Tested by Lynn O’Brien; email questions to email@example.com.
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Calories: 80; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 25 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 12 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 7 g; Protein: 1 g.