Makes 24 cookies
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS For the satisfying chew we crave in sugar cookies, we melted the butter to free up its water content and also replaced some of the butter with vegetable oil for a higher proportion of unsaturated fat. For sophisticated, grown-up flavor, we browned the butter (which also evaporated a bit of its water) and added chopped, toasted hazelnuts to the dough, which brought a rich, nutty flavor component to our sugar cookies. A small amount of cream cheese contributed a slightly tangy counterpoint to the sugar without compromising the cookies’ texture. As a bonus, its acidity enabled us to use an additional leavener, baking soda (it needs acid to work), which gave the cookies a beautiful, crackly surface. Adding the hot melted browned butter right to the cream cheese, rather than cooling it first, helped soften the cream cheese so that it incorporated easily. Be sure to transfer the butter from the hot skillet to the bowl with the cream cheese as soon as it has browned to prevent scorching. The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie doughs. For the best results, handle it as briefly and as gently as possible; overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.
2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder
- teaspoon baking soda
- teaspoon table salt
1½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar, plus ⅓ cup for rolling, divided
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
¼ cup finely chopped toasted skinned hazelnuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.
2 Place 1½ cups sugar, cream cheese, and hazelnuts in large bowl. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, then continue to cook, swirling skillet constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Immediately whisk browned butter into sugar and cream cheese (some lumps of cream cheese will remain). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Whisk in egg and milk until smooth. Using rubber spatula, fold in flour mixture until soft, homogeneous dough forms.
3 Spread remaining ⅓ cup sugar in shallow dish. Working with 2 tablespoons dough at a time, roll into balls, then roll in sugar to coat; space dough balls 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Using bottom of greased dry measuring cup, press each ball until 3 inches in diameter. Using sugar left in dish, sprinkle 2 teaspoons sugar over each sheet of cookies; discard extra sugar. (Raw cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month.)
4 Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are set and beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes (17 to 22 minutes if baking from frozen), rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cookies cool completely before serving.