If you haven’t tried a sourdough sugar cookie, it’s time to see what some sourdough and some fermentation time can do to make these sourdough sugar cut-out cookies so delicious!
In this post, you’ll find the recipe, why sourdough makes these basic cookies better, my tips, as well as a side by side comparison of two batches with different fermentation times.
This cookies are a lot of fun year-round!
You’ll need some sourdough discard and the rest of the standard ingredients (e.g., all purpose flour, unsalted butter, sugar, etc.) to make these.
What is sourdough discard?
The term discard is very off-putting for people who are new to sourdough.
I wish a different term was more commonly used, but “discard” is the term that you’ll find most sourdough bakers using which is helpful when you’re trying to find “discard recipes“.
Sourdough discard is what is leftover after the yeast and good bacteria in the starter have “eaten” the available food and broken down the structure of the flour so much that it is a thick liquid that can’t hold in the carbon dioxide bubbles. You can read more about what it is here.
It can be saved in the fridge after a small amount is carried on to a new batch. Read about the cycle of sourdough here.
If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you must acquire a sourdough starter from a friend, online source, or make your own before you make a batch of these.
Here are 7 reasons why discard is used in recipes:
Discard can be used for many reasons, here are 7:
- Increases digestibility, if the recipe has a fermentation time
- Enhances flavor
- Softens texture
- Helps baked goods not dry out as quickly
- Less grocery expenses by using this for a new purpose after it was used to care for the starter
- No waste–this can be used rather than thrown out
- Dairy substitute (it can’t be used 1:1 but can be a great alternative where milk, buttermilk, or yogurt are used, you would just need to slightly decrease the amount of flour in the adapted version)
How are sourdough sugar cookies and the original different?
Sugar cut-out cookies are so classic at every holiday and can be customized by using different shapes and frostings.
The sourdough version can be used the same way, but when given time to ferment, they are more digestible. This is great news if you are like me and are sensitive to gluten (not allergic).
I love the more complex flavor of the sourdough version especially since the original can be pretty bland.
I’ve also noticed that my batches of sourdough sugar cut-out cookies don’t dry out as quickly as the original.
How to make Sourdough Sugar Cut-out Cookies
- Make sure you have enough saved sourdough discard (50g or 1/4c. for one batch)
- Add the softened butter and sugar to a mixing bowl. Beat until creamy.
- Mix in the sourdough discard.
- Mix in baking powder and salt.
- Mix in egg and vanilla.
- Slowly stir in the flour and nutmeg*.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl in between additions.
- Mix until the cookie dough is thick and not too sticky.
- Cover bowl and leave at room temperature for 2 hours or overnight for 24 to 48 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Lightly flour a work surface.
- Roll out the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick.
- Cut out your desired shapes.**
- Place cut out cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake 6-9 minutes until cookies are set and have a slight hint of gold at the bottom edges.***
- Cool on pan 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Optional: once the cookies are completely cooled (1 hour+), you can ice or frost them
7 Tips and Reminders for Sourdough Sugar Cookies
- Have your ingredients all at room temperature. It isn’t essential but it does make the mixing easier and gives you a better idea of when you reach the ideal dough texture.
- Unsalted butter must be soft, if you need to soften cold butter, here’s a hack: boil water and then fill a small bowl. After the water sits for about 2 minutes, dump the water out then turn the bowl upside down over the cold butter. This will speed up the softening process without accidentally melting the butter like the microwave often does.
- Use a food scale for the flour for best accuracy.
- Making a basic icing to dip the tops of the cookies in to decorate them is the easiest method to decorate. For mine, I mixed powdered sugar, whole milk, and vanilla extract until it was a drizzling consistency then swirled in some drops of dye-free food coloring. (for more detailed recipes, you can try this one of these: dip icing or frosting)
- *Nutmeg is optional. I just add a small sprinkle (1/16 t. or so) of freshly grated nutmeg when I add the flour. It gives the cookies a unique flavor, especially in fall and winter. Freshly grated is key, pre-ground nutmeg doesn’t have the same flavor. A small amount of lemon or orange zest would be great too.
- **You can cut out the shapes before the dough ferments then cover each baking sheet with a piece of plastic wrap and put the cut out cookies into the fridge to ferment for 24-48 hours.
- ***For extra soft cookies you can pull them when they are baked and looking puffy, no longer shiny from raw dough. The cooling process will have them harden up appropriately for frosting or icing.
Here’s a side by side of the same batch of cookies.
Left had a short 1 hour room temp fermentation, right had 2 hours at room temp plus overnight in the fridge (in cut out form).
The rise difference is noticeable in this photo.
The one fermented longer also had a softer texture.
Cookies for every occasion
I’m so excited for you to make these! I love making them around Christmas time, but they are so fun for every holiday.
I use around the year cookie cutters for different holidays, like this one.
Let me know how they turn out in the comments.
And I’d love to see what you create! Tag me on instagram @livingbreadbaker or on facebook.
Need more help?
I’d love to support you with my books or online courses.
I have a free Sourdough Quick Start Guide here.
I have a Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course to teach you how to do 15 minutes of work to have bread, pizza, english muffins, etc. ready to bake all week long.
Or if you are ready to gain a solid foundation for sourdough, the traditional way, my Intro. To Sourdough online course will teach you all the basics, language, techniques, and the process from start to finish to make sourdough bread.
Living Bread Baker posts mentioned
How do you save sourdough discard?
How to make a sourdough starter
Shop this post
Whole nutmeg from Starwest Botanicals
Nutmeg grater from Starwest Botanicals
Nutmeg grinder (if you are obsessed with the flavor of freshly grated nutmeg like me)
Free Sourdough Quick Start Guide here
Once-a-Week No Knead Sourdough online course
Intro. To Sourdough online course
This post contains affiliate links. Read my policy here.
Sourdough Sugar Cut-out Cookies
- 113 g unsalted butter, softened 1/2 c.
- 100 g white cane sugar 1/2 c.
- 50 g starter discard 1/4 c.
- 1 t. Baking powder
- 1/4 t. Salt
- 1 egg
- 1 t. Vanilla extract
- 300 g all-purpose flour 2 c.
- Dash Nutmeg optional
- Cream butter and sugar together until creamy.
- Add sourdough starter and mix until it’s incorporated with the butter and sugar mixture.
- Mix in baking soda and salt.
- Add egg and vanilla. Mix together.
- Slowly stir in flour and nutmeg. Mixture should become combined into a thick cookie dough. Make sure to scrape sides of bowl during mix.
- For more extra flavor and fermentation: Cover bowl and refrigerate 2-24 hrs. (Optional: leave it at room temp for 1-2 hrs to jumpstart the fermentation before putting the dough into the fridge)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut two sheets of parchment paper and place on two cookie sheets.
- Lightly flour your work surface. Put chilled dough on top of flour then lightly flour the rolling pin.
- Roll dough out until 3/8-1/2-inch. Cut out shapes, put shapes close together to get as many out as possible. (Tip: keep cookie cutters from sticking by coating cutting edge with flour.) Place cut out cookies on parchment paper.
- Repeat as needed. You can chill cut out cookies on cookie sheet if they are becoming warm—the sign for this is if the cookies begin having a shiny look from butter softening. I recommend chilling cut cookies for 5-10 minutes before baking.
- Bake 7-9 minutes until just a little bit golden around bottom edges and top of cookie is matte not glossy. Let cool on cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes to allow them to finish baking and firm up before enjoying.
- Let cool completely before decorating.
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