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I'm making sugar cookies and I have ran out of granulated sugar. I only have confectioner's sugar and dark brown sugar left.

Can I substitute one of these for white granulated sugar? Which would be the better substitute?

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Well, you shouldn't substitute either into your existing recipe without changes; both would likely break the recipe. But recipes for brown sugar cookies are readily available (for example, by searching Google). – derobert Apr 2 '12 at 21:51
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I've done this before, and you won't get exactly the same cookie as you got before.

Confectioner's sugar is a total bomb. Don't bother.

Dark brown sugar makes darker cookies, with a chewier texture, which keeps longer.

This isn't always a bad thing. Several of my cookie recipes I thought were a bit dry were saved by DBS. It added a nice depth to the flavor, as well.

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Is this advice for cookies in general, or for specifically the sugar cookies being asked about here? I don't think I've ever had a chewy sugar cookie (maybe I'm missing out). – Aaronut Apr 3 '12 at 0:13
Powdered sugar measured by weight has worked fine for me in the past, as well, though you'll get a slightly less gluten-based structure due the usual modest presence of corn starch, an advantage in some recipes. I don't think you'll get a desirable result if measuring by volume, though. – JasonTrue Apr 3 '12 at 3:23
I've had chewy sugar cookies, and they can be pretty good! Of course, I'm a strange person, who rarely likes crunchy cookies. – kcunning Apr 3 '12 at 19:14
All cookies should be chewy. Just sayin'. – Marti Dec 20 '12 at 22:22

The creaming step (beating sugar into fat) of cookie making creates air bubbles in the dough which will expand during baking. Powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) won't create these bubbles, which is why it doesn't make a very good substitute for white sugar.

Brown sugar is a more moist than white sugar, and will result in chewier cookies. Due to the molasses component, it also has an effect on flavor - not necessarily a bad effect, but definitely noticeable. It will also make a darker-colored cookie, so be extra careful when evaluating your cookies for done-ness in the oven.

For me, a trip to the neighbor's (or the grocery store, if I must) is always worthwhile.

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