Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies: Chewy but Sweet

I mentioned a while back that the only New Year's Resolution I made, on-record, officially, was to find My Sugar Cookie Recipe and learn how make them as gosh darn cute with royal icing as the pros can. So, like any true Resolution-er in mid-January, I pounced on any opportunity to start tackling this goal. Overwhelmed by all of the sugar cookie recipes I have saved as bookmarks, I just chose the very first one on the list, meaning the one that has been sitting there untouched for the absolute longest time. As a side note, my unhealthy, borderline compulsive collection of recipes has begun to make me feel self-conscious, and I've been doing a "Spring Cleaning" of sorts in which I go through and examine each and every recipe, clearing out all the dead links, duplicate recipes, and recipes that are so similar they might as well be duplicates. It's tedious, but I'm already feeling less obsessive, and also less tied down by recipes. I've noticed how similar all the recipes for, say, a coffee cake are, and it's boosted my confidence in being able to one day just formulate my own version. But for right now, we'll stick to the recipes, and I'm pretty happy with the recipe I have for you today.

These aren't typically sugar cookies that you'd decorate, which I knew going into it, but I still wanted to try them and figured I could at least tackle the art of flooding a cookie, if not work on the actual design technique.

Now, the title says they're whole wheat. They're not. Mine were, because that's the only flour we had in the house (shocking, really), and I just figured, why not? It really produces a beautifully colored cookie - a beige or tan, very light brown and just slightly golden disc of crackly-topped cookie goodness. It does look fantastic, and I think even better than it would with all purpose flour, and it still makes the house smell like heaven. But, as anyone who has baked a cookie knows, whole wheat flour is a little...domineering, isn't it? It's very brusque and loud, unwilling to let its present go unnoticed by, well, anyone. Because of this, you bite into this cookie, and you know. It's chewier, it's nuttier, it's a little denser. It has a very whole wheat quality to it, sans doute. Now, once I flooded the top with royal icing, I found these to be tremendously addicting, as did everyone who tasted them (ignore the fact that about 98% of the taste testers were fellow nutrition majors...). I don't know that I would encourage you to use all whole wheat if you don't plan to use them as, say, a sandwiched cookie, or iced, or something that involves the addition of a very sweet spread. But if you do plan to make them with an added indulgence dolloped on top, go for the whole wheat - it's a very nice contrast. Alternatively, you could do white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour (or a combo of white and whole wheat) to get a less in-your-face product, but really, I don't know that all that is necessary.

So, we've established that these cookies were delicious when I flooded them with icing, which must mean that my first attempt at flooding was a brilliant success, right? Ha! Oh, how assuming we are. Flooding those belligerent cookies was one of the least rewarding, most torturous culinary experiences of my life. First, and this is all because of the cookie I chose, that beautifully crackled top that I mentioned earlier made it a real pain to get the icing into every nook and cranny for a smooth, consistent finish. Second, I'm pretty sure I didn't thin the icing out enough, because it was extremely labor intensive to get it to actually flood. Third, I don't have adequate work surfaces, so I spent the better part of 2 hours bent in half over my kitchen table, trying desperately to get these cookies finished. And last but not least, I must have cut the most bizarre hole in my ziplock bag for piping, because that icing was just clambering out. I had dried up royal icing everywhere - my shirt sleeves, the table, other cookies, the towels I was working on, the counters - everywhere.

But I did it! Although I couldn't stand up straight for the rest of the night (and, I think, cracked every vertebra in my spine when I finally did straighten out), and although these will win me no professional cookie-decorating contest, I flooded my first batch of cookies! AND they didn't get thrown in the trash. Besides, it's only February, right? I still have plenty of time to master this art! Now all I need is another excuse to whip up a batch for more practice...maybe L's roommates could use a little sugary snack when I go to visit next week...and what's the next holiday, St. Patty's Day?

Forget baking cakes, Floptimism's about to go All Cookies, All the Time! (What about cookies for breakfast? Yes? No? Too much?)

Chewy Whole Wheat (or not!) Sugar Cookies, courtesy of Food Network
Yield: 4 dozen cookies

The Ingredients
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons buttermilk
raw sugar or sprinkles (optional)

The Method
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Meanwhile, stir the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together into a small-medium mixing bowl, and set aside. In a separate, larger bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth, a good 4-5 minutes. With the mixer still on, add in the egg and vanilla, and stir until incorporated. Gradually add in the flour mixture; I usually do this with the mixer on a lower speed to reduce the amount of flour that the mixer spits out. Lastly, pour in the buttermilk slowly, stopping as soon as the dough is soft but not wet.

Portion out the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, an inch or two apart. Use a brush or your fingers to moisten the top of each cookie with the leftover buttermilk, and then gently flatten each cookie slightly. If not icing, sprinkle each cookie with a little raw sugar or colored sprinkles.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, looking for them to develop a slightly golden color (if you're using whole wheat flour, this can be tricky to discern - just do your best). Allow the cookies to rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes once out of the oven before transferring to a rack to cool completely (if you can be that patient - which, if you're icing them, you'll have to be).

If you're planning to ice them, head on over to Annie's Eats, because she is my Patron Saint of Cookie Decorating, and I do not presume to know enough to tell you on my own how to flood a good cookie. She has all kinds of tips and techniques. Once I become a pro at this whole business, I plan to write my own How To for sharing with you nice folks, but for right now, I'm no more knowledgeable than you are, I'm sure. The recipe that I used for royal icing is also in her how-to, so you should be all set. PS I absolutely do not have photos of the finished, iced cookie - this is not because they were homely. It's because I was so worn out by the time I finished, having a photoshoot was the last thing I wanted to do with those cookies. I apologize.

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