Oma’s Sugar Cookies

There’s nothing quite like a good sugar cookie. Oma’s sugar cookies, a recipe I stumbled upon while reading the novel Bread Alone, are delicious and intriguing. After all, they contain a secret ingredient… cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is most commonly used as a stabilizer in whipped egg whites. It is also an important ingredient in Snickerdoodle cookies, which give the cookies its signature “tang” and perfect pillowy texture. Because this sugar cookie contains cream of tartar its texture is crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and puffs up just a little in the middle.

Another intriguing aspect to this recipe is that it does not use the typical creaming method (creaming softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy). This recipe uses cold butter pieces cut into sugar. I used a food processor, and pulsed cold butter and sugar together until it resembled oatmeal. 

After pulsing in eggs and vanilla extract I dumped the mixture along with some lemon zest into a large bowl filled with a mixture of flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Then I stirred with a wooden spoon until larger bits of dough were formed.

I kneaded the dough on a lightly floured surface until it smoothed out, about 5 minutes.

I then refrigerated the dough for 30 minutes. When ready I scooped it out using a 1 and 1/2-inch ice cream scoop.

I rolled each ball in decorative sugar.

Then I gently pressed each ball using the bottom of a glass. I found that the cookies needed more sugar sprinkled on top after being pressed.

I baked in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. And while still warm, I glazed the tops of each cookie with a powdered sugar/milk icing.

Oma's Sugar Cookies
Yields 28
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For the cookies
  1. 1 cup (226 g) cold Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces
  2. 1 cup (200 g) Sugar
  3. 2 Large Eggs
  4. 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  5. 3 cups (375 g) All-Purpose Flour
  6. ¼ tsp. Salt
  7. 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  8. 1 tsp. Cream of Tartar
  9. Grated zest of one Lemon
For the glaze
  1. 1 cup (113 g) Powdered Sugar
  2. 2 TBS Milk
  3. Decorative Sugar for rolling cookies
To make the cookies
  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the butter and sugar until it resembles oatmeal. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and pulse until combined.
  3. Dump the butter mixture and lemon zest into the bowl of dry ingredients, and stir together with a wooden spoon. Once the dough comes roughly together (large clumps are okay), dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for five minutes, or until smooth. Wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using and small ice cream scoop, about 1-inch and ½ in diameter, scoop out the dough. Roll each ball in decorative sugar and place on the cookie sheet. With the bottome of a glass dipped in a little flour, flatten each cookie to 1/4 –inch thickness. Sprinkle on more decorative sugar, and then bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the glaze
  1. Mix together milk and powdered sugar until smooth. While the cookies are still warm, gently smooth on a tablespoon’s worth of glaze. Sprinkle the tops with a little more decorative sugar. Enjoy!
Special equipment needed
  1. Cookie sheet
  2. Parchment paper
  3. 1 and 1/2-inch ice cream scoop
  4. Food processor
Adapted from Bread Alone
Adapted from Bread Alone
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