With simple ingredients and a short prep time, sugar cookies are often enjoyed as a treat, and with dozens of varieties available, sugar cookies are one of the most popular dessert offerings on store shelves.
The precursor to the modern sugar cookie was a pastry called a jumble. Popular in Europe since the Middle Ages, these cookie-like treats were modified and perfected into the modern version of the sugar cookie by settlers in Pennsylvania in the mid 1700s. Often decorated with sprinkles and frosting, modern sugar cookies are basic cookies that go well with a variety of toppings and are a very popular treat during holidays like Halloween and Christmas.
Standard Sugar Cookie Ingredients
Most recipes for sugar cookies will include the same standard ingredients and require:
- baking powder
Although recipes will not always call for it, pre-made sugar cookie recipes will often include candy chips or decorations to add to the recipe or top the finished product.
A store-bought cookie will generally have about 135 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1 oz serving. The cookies will also have at least 1.5g of saturated fat and 14mg of cholesterol. Cookies made fresh at restaurants will often exceed these numbers and possess up to 200 calories per serving and additional grams of fat.
Making Sugar Cookies Healthier
As with most desert recipes, there are steps a baker can take to make sugar cookies less of a caloric catastrophe. Modifications can be made to most of the ingredients in a standard sugar cookie recipe.
Instead of using standard white flour, consider using organic whole wheat pastry flour. Pastry flour is a low protein, less elastic type of flour that allows for a thick and deliciously dense type of cookie. Employing a whole wheat variety of flour will increase the nutrient value of the cookies by providing additional fiber, calcium and iron.
Using unsalted butter in place of regular salted butter is another easy substitution. Although most baking recipes will require unsalted butter as a standard, many cookies made in the home will be made with salted butter because that’s what many people keep on the shelf by default. By using unsalted butter, the taste of the cookies remains the same, but the level of salt in the finished product is greatly reduced.
Sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners can also be used in place of real sugar, although it is best to fully investigate all types of possible sugar substitutions as there is a large body of conflicting data regarding their safety. Additionally, egg whites can be utilized instead of full eggs.
Without appreciable levels of protein or measurable amounts of vitamins, sugar cookies aren’t a balanced food that should be employed as a regular part of any diet. Despite the changes to the standard sugar cookie recipe that can be made to decrease the calorie and fat content inside these sweet treats, they should remain a small part of any diet and an indulgence enjoyed only occasionally.