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I'm trying to make the "Easy holiday sugar cookies" from America's Test Kitchen website:

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 354g all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 198g granulated sugar
  • 16 tablespoon butter.

The method is shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvdVaVTnElc

I'm so disappointed with myself but I just can't make these work. You powder sugar in a food processor, then add chilled butter, one egg, then flour/baking powder/baking soda, all of this mixed in a food processor. My cookies turn out incredibly sticky and difficult to roll, even after chilling in the fridge all night, even after storing the dough in the freezer for half an hour. I've already ruined two batches because either the dough was impossible to work with or next day the cookies were soft and chewy (this recipe specifically says that it produces crisp cookies). These cookies are also impossible to stamp.

My go to sugar cookies recipe is just flour, butter, sugar, egg and mix everything by hand. They turn out great but they're a nightmare to roll, I've had arms day at the gym that left me less sore! This recipe is definitely easier to handle, but so sticky. My guess is that my food processor may not have enough power - I can't get it to powder the sugar, I powder it in my nutribullet. And my cookies were also bubbling and they spread more than the knead everything by hand recipe. I may try to make these in a stand mixer but not this year because I'm making cookies to give as Christmas gifts, Christmas is just around the corner and I've already ruined two batches of these. Also, I skipped the vanilla and almond extract because I like a simple sugar cookie.

What I could be doing wrong?

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  • Could you post the quantities, intended method and exactly what you did? 'Incredibly sticky' suggests not enough flour, but maybe something in your method made the difference too.
    – dbmag9
    Dec 11, 2023 at 10:58
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    "354g" is a suspicious measurement. Are you certain the original recipe didn't say 454g?
    – Sneftel
    Dec 11, 2023 at 13:48
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    16 tablespoons is a horrible measure too, even worse with a solid rather than free-flowing powder or liquid. 16 times the inaccuracy. I'd look for recipes that use weights right the way through.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 11, 2023 at 16:25
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    @Tetsujin yes, 16 Tbsp in the US is just 2 sticks of butter (1/2 pound). No measuring needed. And sticks of butter are marked with lines for tablespoons, so you can just cut off a piece the correct size.
    – Esther
    Dec 11, 2023 at 17:23
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    Maaaan… that's just weeiirrdd ;)))
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 11, 2023 at 17:38

2 Answers 2

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If the dough is sticky there's too much moisture in the recipe. Looking at the recipe it calls for 16tbsp of butter, which is half a pound or 225g (226 is you are being really precise). If you look at your typical shortbread recipe it's a 1:2:3 ratio of sugar, butter and flour by weight. Taking the egg out of it you have 198g sugar, 225g butter and 354g flour, which would probably work as the flour and butter have been reduced.

However, you're adding an egg which is where I think things have gotten out of whack. US egg sizes are smaller than EU/UK, if the recipe calls for 1 us large that would equate to a EU/UK medium. It may not sound like much but it's enough to mean the difference between a workable dough and a sticky mess.

The solution is add a bit less egg, or add a bit more flour, and maybe a tad more sugar as well. Just spoon more in and blitz it until the consistency is right.

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  • I didn't know that egg sizes were different across countries, but I am in Portugal and the eggs I am using say they're a size M/L, just because it's what I have at home. Anyway I am back to my knead by hand recipe. I made this recipe yesterday using the stand mixer and although it turned out alright and I could roll the dough easily and it wasn't impossibly sticky, these cookies are impossible to stamp. Even after dipping the stamps in flour the dough stuck to the stamp. Reading the comments I didn't see anyone stamping the cookies, so maybe they're just meant for decorating not stamping.
    – LissaC
    Dec 12, 2023 at 11:57
  • Add more flour, that's really the trick. You can try and add a bit of cornflour (cornstarch) as well, that will help make them crisper.
    – GdD
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:45
  • Do you think I will be able to stamp them if I add the cornflour? I've seen a recipe that used cornflour together with the AP flour.
    – LissaC
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:52
  • Cornflour is finer than most all-purpose plain flour, so it will help a bit. Don't go overboard though, use a small proportion.
    – GdD
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:58
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Here's an update: I just made this recipe using my stand mixer, and it was alright. The dough was softer than my knead by hand recipe but definitely handable. Much easier to roll than my knead by hand recipe. Still, I prefer my knead by hand recipe. First and foremost, I couldn't stamp these cookies even after I dipped the stamp in flour. I have some lovely cookie stamps that look like gingerbread men and a gingerbread girl and I think those are super cute but I just couldn't stamp the cookies. The cookies also came out of the oven soft, which kinda messed up with me because my other cookies come out of the oven already hard. Some of the cookies also puffed up and there was a bit of bubbling. So, all things considered I don't think I will make this recipe again.

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  • . The cookies also came out of the oven soft, which kinda messed up with me because my other cookies come out of the oven already hard. Some of the cookies also puffed up and there was a bit of bubbling. So, all things considered I don't think I will make this recipe again.
    – LissaC
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:55

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