Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple Vanilla Drop Sugar Cookies (or Whoopee Pies?!)

Although I love the simple vanilla flavor of sugar cookies, I hardly ever make them.  I think its because they’re a little pesky to make – they usually require lots of refrigeration time.  The dough must be rolled out on the countertop, and regular readers of this blog will recall from photographs that my kitchen countertop is tiled – its not the usual smooth Formica or granite or whatever surface it is that most people have in their kitchen.  The textured tile countertop makes it basically impossible to roll out cookies.  (Don't ever put a tile countertop in your kitchen.)

If I want to make cut-out sugar cookies, I have to haul the dough and cutters and cookie sheets over to a family member’s house, invade their kitchen, and make them there.  Consequently, I usually only bother with sugar cookies once or twice a year, generally only around a holiday, and make cut-out shapes of Christmas trees and angels or Easter bunnies and tulips over at my Dad’s house with my sisters.

To satisfy my sugar cookie fix during the rest of the year, I’m always looking for a good soft drop sugar cookie recipe.  This one works pretty well – no refrigeration required, and the fact that I don’t have a smooth countertop is irrelevant.  The mixing process is easy enough your kids can put the recipe together.  Unlike most sugar cookie recipes, you don’t need to plan to make the cookies four hours ahead to allow ample time for refrigeration.  The cookies are simply dropped onto the cookie sheet with a cookie scoop.  The addition of sour cream gives the cookies great flavor, and keeps them ultra soft, as long as they don’t get excessively overbaked.  They taste good either frosted or unfrosted.

My mom found the first version of this recipe’s ingredient list and baking times somewhere, it apparently came from compilation cookbook put together by Beta Sigma Phi, “The Millennium Cookbook.”  She might have made a few modifications on her end (the recipe was originally supposed to be a roll-out sugar cookie recipe, but my mom found it to be way too soft to easily roll out).  We thought it might make a good drop cookie recipe, and thus I began experimentation in my kitchen.

Turns out, the resulting unbaked “dough” IS really soft – its really more like a thick cake batter than it is like any other cookie dough I’ve ever made.

I have no idea how anyone could possibly roll the dough out without making a huge mess - multiple cups of flour would need to be dusted onto the countertop during the rolling process, and the cookies wouldn’t be nearly as tender with the addition of all that extra flour.  The original recipe concept seemed so difficult and inconsistent – the drop cookie method as I’ve written it below is definitely the way to go.

During experimentation, I discovered these cookies work pretty well as the cake portion of a whoopee pie.  Since the cookies are vanilla and are not strongly flavored, they pair well with a tangy lemon curd filling.  I’ve included an easy-to-make lemon curd filling recipe below the cookie recipe in case you want to try that out.  It uses good-quality store-bought lemon curd, and therefore is way less complicated to make than it would be if you were to make the lemon curd yourself.

Soft Vanilla “Drop” Sugar Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on how big your cookie scoop is

1 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
Finely grated zest from one small lemon
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
One 8-oz. container sour cream (3/4 cup)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla, eggs, and lemon zest; mix until well-combined.

While the mixer is running, in a separate medium bowl, blend together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Mix half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture until batter is well-combined.  Then mix in half of the sour cream until the batter is uniform.  Add the remaining flour mixture, and once it has been mixed in thoroughly, add the remaining sour cream, and mix until the batter is combined.

Cover your cookie sheets with aluminum foil.  Use a cookie scoop to drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the sheet, spacing them several inches apart as they will spread slightly.  (My cookie scoop dropped .75 ounces of dough with each scoop.)

Bake the cookies at 350 for 11-13 minutes.  The cookies will look pillowy and should only be barely browned.

Let the baked cookies rest on the warm cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring the sheet of foil to a wire cooling rack.  The cookies will be too soft to remove from the foil at this time, but will firm up as they continue to cool.  Once the cookies have cooled completely, remove them from the foil.  They may need to continue to sit on the racks a bit longer until they are firm enough to move to storage containers.

The cooled cookies can be frosted, filled-and-sandwiched into whoopee pies, or just enjoyed plain.

Easy Lemon Curd Filling
in case you want to make whoopee pies out of the cookies

2 cups unwhipped heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup prepared lemon curd, I used storebought Dickinson's brand

In a medium bowl, whip the cream and sugar on high speed until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

Put the lemon curd in a small bowl (I like to use a 2-cup glass measuring cup).  Spoon in about 1/2 cup of the whipped cream.

Stir vigorously to incorporate the lemon curd into the cream.  It may not be entirely lump-free but stir it until it is mostly smooth.

Transfer the lemon mixture into the bowl containing the remaining whipped cream.  Use a spatula to gently fold the lemon mixture into the cream.  Don’t overmix it, just fold it until the color is uniformly lemon yellow.

Pair up your cookies - match them up so you have similarly-shaped pairs, so your finished product looks better.

Dollop the lemon cream mixture onto one of each of the cookie pairs, then sandwich them together.

Since this filling recipe contains cream, you’ll need to refrigerate the cookies if you aren’t planning to serve them right away.  The cream is quite soft at room temperature, but is more firm at refrigerator temperature, and is quite delicious served either way.  I think I preferred the refrigerator temperature personally, but that’s just me.  They will last about a week in the fridge (if you haven’t eaten them all first!).

Printable PDF File (with pictures)
Printable PDF File (text only)

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