These Sourdough Sugar Cookies have a soft tender middle and crisp edges. Plus they are a delicious way to use up sourdough discard.
Most people make sugar cookies around the Christmas holidays but I think they should be eaten all year round. Just switch up your cookie cutters, hearts for Valentine's Day, bunnies and eggs for Easter, and turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Sourdough discard tenderizes the gluten in the dough creating a softer sugar cookie. It also adds a slight tang to the cookie.
- These sugar cookies are buttery and tender the perfect holiday treat.
- They also hold their shape as they bake making them perfect for your favorite cookie cutters.
You will need the following ingredients to make these soft and chewy Sourdough Sugar Cookies.
Sugar: Use white granulated sugar to keep sugar cookies color as light as possible.
Butter: Room temperature butter is easier to cream together with the sugar. I use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter you will need to omit the salt in the recipe. There is about ¼ teaspoon of salt per stick of salted butter.
Egg Yolks: Egg yolks are used to add fat and richness to the cookies. The egg whites are eliminated to account for the extra moisture from the sourdough discard. Save the egg whites to make this Easy Swiss Meringue.
Tip: Egg whites and egg yolks are easier to separate while they are still cold. Separate the eggs, save the whites for another recipe, and then allow the yolks to come to room temperature.
Sourdough Discard: Don't worry your cookies won't be sour. There is plenty of sugar to eliminate the sourdough flavor. This recipe uses 100% hydration starter. You can use either fed and active starter or inactive sourdough discard.
Pro Sourdough Tip: Keep a glass jar in your refrigerator to store your sourdough discard. Continue adding to it until you have enough to make your chosen sourdough discard recipe.
All-Purpose Flour: Since we want tender cookies use all-purpose flour it has just enough protein to give the cookies structure without being too tough. For accuracy, the best way to measure the flour is by using a digital kitchen scale.
Tip: If you don't have a digital scale, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it with the back of a butter knife. Try not to compress the flour into the measuring cup.
Salt: I add at least a pinch of salt to all of my recipes. Salt complements and intensifies the other flavors. For all of my recipes, I use Morton Kosher Salt which packs more densely than Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If you are using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt you will want to double the amount of salt you add.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
Are you new to sourdough? I have plenty of information to help you on your sourdough journey.
Substitutions and Variations
Vanilla and Almond Extracts: Vanilla and almond extracts add additional flavor to the cookies. To change the flavor of the cookies try substituting lemon or orange extract.
No Cookie Cutters: After mixing the cookie dough, roll it into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.
When you are ready to bake cookies, unwrap the dough, slice it into ¼ inch slices and bake on a cookie sheet at 350°F (180°C) for 11 to 12 minutes.
Step by Step Directions
Step 1: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy. This should take about 2 minutes. (Image 1)
Step 2: Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract and mix on medium speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Image 2)
Step 3: Add the sourdough starter discard and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Image 3)
Step 4: Add the dry ingredients, flour baking powder, and salt. Mix just combined being careful to not over mix. (Image 4)
Step 5: Wrap the sourdough cookie dough in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least two hours. (Image 5)
Step 6: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Step 7: Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece out until it is ¼ inch thick.
Tip: Any thinner and the cookies will be crispy instead of soft.
Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place them on a prepared baking sheet. Gather up the scraps and roll them out again to cut out more cookies. (Image 6)
Tip: Use a light-colored cookie sheet. Dark cookie sheets absorb too much heat and can cause your cookies to overbake. Check out this post from Handle the Heat to see a comparison of cookies baked on different types of cookie sheets.
Step 8: Refrigerate the cutout unbaked cookies for 15 minutes to help them keep their shape as they bake. (Image 7)
Step 9: Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes. You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they start to brown. (Image 8)
Quick Tip: Don't have time to ice and decorate cookies? Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of the dough before baking.
Step 10: Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. (Image 9)
Step 11: Decorate using your favorite icing and decorations. I really like this cream cheese icing on these sourdough sugar cookies.
Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions
Make-Ahead: You can mix up the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Chilling cookie dough keeps it from spreading too much as it bakes by hydrating the flour and solidifying the butter.
Chilling the dough is especially important when you bake cookies made with melted butter like these Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Storing: Baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
You want to remove the sugar cookies from the oven before they start to brown so the color isn't a reliable method to tell when sugar cookies are fully baked.
Remove sugar cookies from the oven when the tops begin to look rough and dry.
Yes. The cookies may puff a little bit more depending on how active your starter is. To mitigate the additional spread be sure to refrigerate your cut-out cookies for 15 minutes to help them keep their shape.
Sugar cookie dough should be rolled out to ¼ inch thick. This is the ideal thickness to get soft cookies that hold their shape without puffing too much. Any thinner and the cookies will be crispy instead of soft.
Chilling the dough before baking it helps to solidify the butter and prevents the cookies from spreading while they bake and maintains their shape.
- Make sure all of the ingredients are at room temperature. This ensures the ingredients mix evenly and will give you the best final texture. To quickly bring the eggs to room temperature, place them in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes.
- Once the flour has been added, don't over mix the dough. Over-mixing can create tough cookies.
- You must chill the dough for at least 2-3 hours before baking. Chilling allows the sugar to absorb more liquid further solidifying the dough. If the dough is baked without chilling it first, the cookies will spread while baking and become thin, hard, and crispy. If the dough is too stiff to work with when it comes out of the refrigerator allow it to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften.
- Roll the dough out evenly so that all of the cookies are the same thickness and cook evenly.
- Line your baking sheets with parchment paper to be absolutely sure the cookies won't stick and distort when you remove them from the baking sheet.
- Refrigerate the cutout cookies for 15 minutes to help them keep their shape as they bake.
- Baking times for all recipes are only suggestions. The actual baking time will vary depending on your oven. It is helpful to know your oven and worth purchasing an inexpensive oven thermometer. Oven temperatures can vary as much as 50 degrees plus or minus.
- Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
- Let the cookies cool completely before decorating them. If you try to ice them when they are still warm the icing will melt.
If you have ever struggled with dry crumbly cookie dough you will want to check out my tips on how to fix it.
More Cookie Recipes
Thanks for Reading!
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Sourdough Sugar Cookies
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
- ¾ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 egg yolk room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ cup sourdough discard room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- In a large bowl using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the ¾ cup unsalted butter and ¾ cup granulated white sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Add the 1 egg yolk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and ¼ teaspoon almond extract and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the ½ cup sourdough discard and mix until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the 2 cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Mix just combined being careful to not overmix.
- Wrap the cookie dough in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least two hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece out until it is ¼ inch thick. Any thinner and the cookies will be crispy instead of soft.
- Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gather up the scraps and roll them out again to cut out more cookies.
- Refrigerate the cutout cookies for 15 minutes to help them keep their shape as they bake.
- Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes. You want to remove the cookies from the oven before they start to brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- Decorate using your favorite icing and decorations.