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Eric Akis: A sugar cookie recipe perfect for tiny fingers

Dear Eric: My 4 1/2-year-old granddaughter is coming to visit Oct. 1 for a week. Ever since she was two, she and I always bake cookies when she visits. She is already talking about “baking cookies with Grandma.
This fairly sturdy, chilled, sugar cookie dough is easy to roll and cut into shapes.

Dear Eric: My 4 1/2-year-old granddaughter is coming to visit Oct. 1 for a week. Ever since she was two, she and I always bake cookies when she visits.

She is already talking about “baking cookies with Grandma.”

I got her a mini rolling pin and she loves rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies and sprinkling on the decorations. Afterward, we make “tea” in her little tea set and she loves to serve us tea and the cookies she baked.

I find my recipe for sugar cookies is quite delicate and needs a special touch to roll out. It needs to be chilled constantly for easier handling.

I was wondering if you had a more “sturdy” foolproof recipe that would be easier for us to deal with.

Vivian English

Dear Vivian: Your story about making cookies with your granddaughter is heartwarming. While reading, I imagined her sweet young voice going a mile a minute as you made your sweet treats. I could also feel your joy at being able to spend precious time with her.

When choosing what to bake with her, sugar cookies are a good idea. There are steps in making them a child would find most enjoyable, particularly the cutting, decorating and eating.

However, as you noted, your sugar cookie dough is delicate and can require a deft touch to roll out. That deft touch is likely not what your young granddaughter has yet.

When testing and reviewing a range of sugar cookie recipes, I noticed there were variations on the type and amounts of ingredients used. The main difference, though, was the fat used. Some blended in butter, others shortening.

When making the dough with shortening, even after chilling well, I find the dough is still quite soft and more challenging to work with. But when making the dough with butter, and then chilling it a short while, you end up with a sturdier product. That’s because the butter firms up more than shortening will, making the dough more solid and easier to roll.

You’ll find a recipe for that dough below. To make it easier for a child to roll, once made, I divided it into quarters and formed each into a disc shape, before wrapping and chilling. Doing this creates more manageable pieces of dough that take just a few minutes to roll out.

Sugar Cookies

These sweet, buttery cookies are easy to roll and a treat to eat.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Cooking time: 12 minutes, per sheet of cookies

Makes: About 48 to 60 small- to medium-sized cookies


3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

• cookie decorations, to taste, such as coloured granulated sugar (see Note), sprinkles, and dragée (small silver-coloured decorating balls)

Place flour, salt and baking powder and in a bowl and whisk to combine. Place butter, sugar and vanilla in a second bowl, or bowl of your stand mixer, and beat until lightened.

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure the wet ingredients are well blended. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet until smooth dough forms.

Set four, 18-inch long pieces of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide dough into four equals balls. Set a ball of dough in the centre of each piece of plastic wrap.

Shape and press each piece of dough into a half-inch thick disk. Now seal each piece of dough in the plastic wrap and refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes, until firmed up, but still pliable. (If you’ve refrigerated the dough for more than 30 minutes and the butter in it becomes very firm, let the dough warm at room temperature for a while, until softened a bit and easy to roll.)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place one piece of dough on a floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough a quarter-inch in thickness. (If the dough cracks for some reason, simply press it back together.) Cut the dough into cookies with a flour-dipped cookie cutter. Arrange cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, leaving a 2-inch space between each one. Decorate cookies as desired.

Bake 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set and light golden on the bottom. Repeat these steps with remaining dough.

Note: If this recipe yields too many cookies for you, you could double-wrap and freeze one or two of the discs of dough and save for another time. You could also simply halve the recipe.

To make coloured granulated sugar to sprinkle and decorate the cut cookies with, place a quarter-cup of granulated sugar in a small jar.

Add a drop or two of food colouring and screw on the lid. Shake the jar well and the food colour will disperse and colour the sugar.


Eric Akis is the author of the hardcover book Everyone Can Cook Everything. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.