What are Butter Cookies?

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  • Written By: J. Airman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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Butter cookies are a shortbread-style dessert biscuit. Sometimes called sugar cookies for another prominent ingredient, butter cookies are a very basic and easy-to-make baked sweet. Most recipes for butter cookies are kept simple to fully feature the flavor of the quality butter. Bakers often cut the raw butter cookie dough into a variety of shapes with cookie cutters. It is common for butter cookies to be topped with clear or colored varieties of granulated sugar to add sparkle and extra sweetness.

With so few ingredients in the cookie recipe, each one plays a large role in the overall result. Fresh unsalted dairy butter lends a rich taste to the cookies. Quality dry goods like powdered sugar and sifted flour affect the texture of the cookies. Some recipes call for a few drops of real vanilla extract for more depth of flavor.

A multitude of cookie cutter varieties are available to form butter cookie dough into almost any shape. Dough is rolled into an evenly thin sheet on a clean and flat surface with a rolling pin. Flour or confectioner's sugar are usually dusted onto the edges of the cookie cutter to keep them from sticking to the moist dough. The dough between the stamped-out cookies is lifted away so it can be rolled out for the next batch. Butter cookies of varying shapes and sizes require different amounts of time in the oven to cook.


High butter content causes the cookies to brown and rise from the baking pan more easily. Raw butter cookie dough can usually be dropped directly onto the baking pan without the need for shortening or cooking oil spray. The butter-saturated flour in the cookies reacts to the heat of the oven and quickly releases its moisture. Butter cookies have a crisp crunch once they are lightly browned and have been given time to cool. Replacing half of the butter with vegetable shortening results in a chewy cookie with less buttery flavor.

Cookie decorators customarily employ baked butter cookie shapes as an edible blank canvas. The basic buttery flavor of the cookies goes well with a wide variety of sweet decorations. Custom butter cookie creations are often decorated with colorful frostings and candies to celebrate a particular holiday or event. Butter cookies that are decorated while they are still hot from the oven can become soggy as the frosting seals in their remaining moisture.


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Post 1

I always remember my Grandma making her butter cookies. She would put the dough in a cookie press and use different tops for different shapes of cookies. She would also divide the dough into several sections and use different colors of food coloring to make bright colors of dough.

These simple butter cookies recipe were always colorful and small enough that you didn't feel bad eating several at once. There aren't many ingredients in them besides the butter, sugar and flour, so they are not very filling, but were always a special treat I looked forward to.

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