Join '100 Cookies' author and 'The Vanilla Bean Blog'-ger Sarah Kieffer as she whisks, melts, and scoops her way through her Chocolate Sugar Cookie recipe.
On Play Me a Recipe, your favorite cooks will walk you through their most treasured recipes, offering all the insider tips, stories, and tricks you won't get from a written recipe—and you'll be right alongside them, every step of the way. Feel free to pause, jump back, or navigate the steps via the podcast chapters.
If you're cooking along, here's the recipe we're making today. Go ahead and grab the ingredients below (Sarah starts listing them at 1:15) before starting the episode.
(P.S. Missing some tools? We've linked to the equipment that Sarah uses throughout the transcript; use promo code COOKWITHUS for a slight discount at checkout. OK, back to the recipe.)
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Sarah Kieffer: Oh, they're really good.
Sarah: Hi, this is Play Me a Recipe. I'm Sarah Kieffer—The Vanilla Bean Blogger and cookbook author. Today, we're going to be making the Chocolate Sugar Cookie recipe from my latest book, 100 Cookies. The recipe is linked to in the show notes if you need to refer to it, but otherwise we'll be gathering ingredients, whisking, mixing, rolling, baking all of it right here together. If you need to pause or jump back, take all the time you need and do so.
Sarah: I've been making chocolate sugar cookies for almost 20 years now. I started making them at a coffee shop that I baked at, and that cookie, the first version of it, was a flatter cookie that was more crisp. In my latest version of it, I've included an extra egg yolk and a little more flour. So the edges are still nice and crisp, and then the center is really tender and a little fudgy because of the egg yolk. This is my favorite version of it so far, and I hope you love it too.
Sarah: Okay, I'm gonna go through the ingredients we need for the recipe, but I just wanna pause really quick and put a plug in for weighing ingredients versus using a cup measure.
A cup of flour can range anywhere from 120 grams to 150 grams, depending on the baker, and that difference can really change the outcome of your cooking. So if you do have a scale, I highly recommend getting it out and weighing your ingredients. But I'm gonna run through everything in cups, the weights that will be listed in the recipe below, and they are also listed in my book.
So, 2 cups (284 grams) of all-purpose flour, a 1/2 cup (50 grams) of Dutch-process cocoa powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 sticks (227 grams) of unsalted butter—at room temperature, 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar—plus you're going to need a little bit more at the end for rolling; 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
I also have out a small and medium mixing bowl, my stand mixer, 3 sheet pans lined with parchment, and a cookie scoop. If you don't have a cookie scoop, you can roll the cookies—that's just fine. But I find a cookie scoop helps make all the cookies uniform in shape.
Sarah: Okay, so we're going to start by preheating our oven to 350°F. And I like to adjust the oven rack to the middle position for these cookies.
Sarah: And then in a small bowl, we're going to combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. So I'm just gonna pour all the ingredients into the small bowl. And then I like to use a whisk to whisk everything together. Just take the whisk. Whisk all the dry ingredients together. The whisk really helps combine everything evenly versus like a spatula where you’re just stirring it around. The whisk really gets everything combined. And if your cocoa powder is lumpy at all, you can put it in a sieve first and sift it into the flour and then whisk it. Sometimes the cocoa powder can lump up a little bit, but otherwise just take a whisk, whisk it all together and then set that aside.
Sarah: Okay, so next we're going to cream the butter and sugar together, so I'm gonna add my butter to my stand mixer, and I have my stand mixer fitted with a paddle. And I'm just gonna cream the butter for about a minute—and you can hear my mixer squeaking, it always does that at first. Okay, and then my butter is creamy, so I'm gonna add my granulated sugar. I’m gonna slowly pour it in, keeping it on low. Then I'm gonna wait until the butter and sugar are combined, and then I'm gonna increase the speed a little bit, and we're gonna mix it until it is light. This’ll take about 2 to 3 minutes. And now that we're entering the winter season and our kitchens are a little colder, this can sometimes take longer than 2 to 3 minutes. So you really wanna go by how it looks versus the time spent mixing. I'm just gonna let that go. It's gonna take a little bit of time.
I also wanna stop and scrape down the sides. I have some butter caught on the sides here. I just want to make sure everything is evenly combined. This is a step that often gets mixed just stopping the mixture, taking the time to scrape down the sides and make sure everything is combined. And often that's what can ruin a recipe, if you don't get all the butter mixed in properly, it can make streaks in your cookies or cause the ends to like melt out all weird. So you really want to take the time to scrape down the sides. I'm just gonna mix again. It’s coming along nicely; my butter was nice and room temperature, but I find that the bowl of my mixture is a little colder than normal, like versus in the summertime. So sometimes that also just makes this process a little slow. I’m just gonna turn it up just a tiny bit. It's looking really good. Now it's nice and light and fluffy. We're almost there.
Okay, so then I'm gonna stop my mixer. My butter and sugar are really well combined. I'm gonna scrape down the sides yet again. Make sure everything's off the sides. Sometimes stuff likes to hang out in the bottom of the mixer bowl, so I just want to make sure that there's no little chunks of butter. Make sure it's really welcome. Okay, then next I'm gonna add my egg and yolk and vanilla. Just gonna pour it right in. And then we're going to miss again, starting on low so it doesn't splash out. We're just gonna mix it on low until it's combined. This will take about a minute.
Sarah: My mixture is turning from pale yellow to golden. That egg yolk really helps make it a beautiful color. Then, I'm gonna stop once it's combined. And again, I'm gonna scrape down the sides and scrape stuff off paddle stuff really likes to hang out on your paddle to you on my head.
So I'm gonna mix again, make sure everything's really well combined. Scraping down the sides; I sound like a broken record, but this is a really important step, and I just want your cookies to be beautiful, so I'm going to remind you again. Okay, so I had some streaks of butter still, so I'm just using my spatula to really make sure everything is incorporated, well-mixed. Okay. So now I'm going to add my dry ingredients, and I'm gonna add it on low and just dump it. All right, and I’ll give the bowl a little pat. And sometimes the flour does like to poof out so you can put a dish towel kind of drape it over the top of your kitchen aid draping on the sides. Or sometimes your mixture will come with, like, those little plastic things you can put on. So those are two options you have so it doesn't pop out at you or just put your hands—I always put my hands—over the bowl and try not to breathe in. This should just take a little under a minute.
Mhm, it's looking good. Right on. I'm just once again, I'm gonna take my spatula, scrape down the sides. Yes, looks awesome. And, yeah, we're ready to roll.
Sarah: Okay, so we're gonna scoop the dough. And you want to portion the dough into 1 or 1 1/2-ounce portions. It's about 2 tablespoons. I have a cookie scoop that does that. So I'm gonna use that and then you're gonna drop it into your bowl of sugar. I have a bowl here, but I also find a pie plate works really nice. You can throw a bunch of the dough balls in and roll them around.
I'm gonna do one of them right now, So I'm just gonna scoop, drop it in my sugar, make sure it's evenly coated, and then place it on my sheet pan. I'm gonna put eight on a pan. And as I'm scooping, I always make sure that the bottom is leveled on the scoop. Just use my finger to push off any extra dough so they're all nice and even and will bake evenly in the oven. Sometimes dough gets stuck in the scoop. You can clean up the scoop in between; this dough is pretty dense. It’s not crazy sticky, so it should be okay. Okay, so now I have eight on my pan. So I'm just gonna keep scooping the dough and rolling in the sugar. We're gonna get about 20 cookies.
Whenever I'm making sugar cookies, I always have a flashback to a memory, which is that my mom used to always make sugar cookies around the holidays, and they were my dad's favorite dough to sneak. And for whatever reason, my mom would never let him sneak the dough—it was their thing. He would like, try to get it, and she would always hit him with a dish towel. So I always tried to help him sneak the dough.
But one Christmas, I decided to be tricky, and my mom was making pie. So I snuck some of the pie dough and told my dad. I, like, snuck downstairs, like dad, got you some sugar cookie dough, and he was all excited, but it was pie dough, and it didn't taste as good as the sugar cookie dough. And I just thought I was so clever, but I always think about that whenever I'm making any kind of sugar cookies. Okay, so I've got one tray left to do. I'm gonna keep going and I'll meet you back here after the break.
Sarah: Okay, so we are ready to bake our cookies, and I am going to slide my first tray into the oven. Now, I like to bake one tray at a time. I find this helps make the cookies bake more consistently. Often when you do the two different racks and you have to take the trays out, switch the rack, flip him around, you're leaving your oven door open for a long time, and this will lower the temperature of the oven and will result in the cookies not baking so consistently. So I like to be safe. I just do one tray at a time. I'm gonna set the timer for 12 minutes, and then we'll come back and see how they turned out.
Sarah: Yeah, okay, so my timer is going off. We're gonna check on the cookies...and they look beautiful. Oh, yeah. So the sides are set and they're a little puffed and crackly, but the centers are still underdone. So I'm gonna take them out and put them on my wire rack. And as they cool, they're gonna collapse and have a really tender center, but crisp sides. So we want to let them cool for at least 5 to 10 minutes before we take a bite.
Okay, so I'm gonna slide my second tray in the oven and set my timer again for 12 minutes. And while those are baking, I just want to tell you about some variations on the recipe that I have in my cookbook. One is for a cardamom chocolate sugar cookie—and this calls for adding 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the sugar that you roll the cookies in. This adds a really subtle cardamom flavor. It's so delicious. Chocolate and cardamom is one of my favorite combinations, so I highly recommend those.
Also for the holiday season, I have a chocolate mint sugar cookie, and for this, you add 1 teaspoon of mint extract along with the vanilla. When you're making the cookies, the vanilla extract isn't too overpowering. I like to add these to holiday gift boxes that I give to the neighbors; a lot of people really love these cookies. Then also, if you want to add extra chocolate, you could do that. I have a double chocolate sugar cookie where you add three ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chopped chocolate to the dough after you mix the flour in—this just makes them extra awesome. So there's three variations and ways to play with the recipe, if you want to do that.
Sarah: Okay, so this is the part that we've been waiting for, which is we get to try the cookies. They are still a little warm. I let mine set for five minutes, and I do always recommend that you follow the recipe and let the cookie rest as long as it calls for because often the cookie is setting, and if you bite into it too early, it falls apart, or the flavor hasn't developed as it's supposed to.
So I know sometimes it's hard and I don't always follow my own advice. But I did today. This cookie looks awesome. I wish you could see it. I know you have your own, but I just want to, like, see yours and show you mine. The edges are set. The cookie is a little bit puffed in the middle, but it's mostly collapsed, and in the center you can see it has just like this fudgy chocolate poking through the top, in the cracks, and it just looks awesome. So I'm gonna try it. You can try yours, too, if you want. It's still warm. (While tasting) It’s so good.
These cookies always remind me of Christmas. The smell of the cocoa powder just reminds me of so many good memories of baking with my mom, and my sister, and my brother just sharing cookies and being with my family. So it's always such a positive, wonderful memory. But oh, they're really good.
Sarah: Thank you so much for joining me today and making these Chocolate Sugar Cookies. I hope that yours turned out well, and have the crisp edges and tender centers. But I would love to know what you thought of these cookies! So please leave a review and you can find the recipe in the show notes and on Food52.com. Thanks for joining me, Sarah Kieffer on Play Me a Recipe today.