I’ve never really enjoyed sugar cookies. That doesn’t mean I haven’t devoured my fair share; my sweet tooth (it’s more of a sweet tusk, really) isn’t picky when the situation is dire. If you had asked me how I felt about sugar cookies prior to my discovering this recipe, I’d have told you that in my opinion, sugar cookies are bland one-trick ponies; cakey, dry, sordidly sweet. (Yes. Melodramatic sweetness.) I’ve made a batch or two in my time, but my efforts rewarded me with the same mediocre cookies I found in bakeries and potlucks. I’d written off sugar cookies as a dessert I simply didn’t care for.
About a week ago, my husband asked me to make these Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies because he saw a picture of them on the Cook’s Illustrated Web site and he was smitten. I was skeptical of how the cookies would turn out, but I was also interested in how they would taste with the inclusion of lime and coconut. Helpful in kindling my enthusiasm for this recipe was the knowledge that Cook’s Illustrated has never let me down (see this Pumpkin Cheesecake, this Tunnel of Fudge Cake [which I have christened “Lava Beast Cake”], this New York Cheesecake, and this Classic Apple Pie). I decided to give these cookies a try, and I’m glad I did! Finally, a sugar cookie that is moist, chewy, and not blandly sweet, and that melts in your mouth! Lime zest and lime juice impart the cookies with a faint lime flavour that is simply delicious; the lime zest also makes for pretty green fllecks scattered across the cookies. Why had I not thought or heard of adding citrus to sugar cookies before? (I’m already considering trying out lemon and orange versions of these!) The dough contains cream cheese, another subtly tangy addition that serves to give the cookies not only a lovely moist texture, but complexity of flavour. The recipe includes 1/2 cup of finely chopped coconut; some kind of wizardry happens and you cannot even tell there is coconut in them, but I have no doubt that the coconut contributes to the cookies’ gorgeously chewy texture.
I’ve never seen a sugar cookie recipe that is assembled like this one. Your typical sugar cookie recipe will have you creaming butter and sugar; this one pours melted butter over the sugar, and adds vegetable oil for additional moisture and chewy texture. The process is unusual, to be sure, but it also creates the perfect sugar cookie. The dough is also very soft, much softer than your typical cookie dough. Don’t worry; they bake up just fine, with no refrigeration necessary. 🙂 Omit the lime zest, lime juice, and coconut and you’re left with the classic, perfect sugar cookie.
These are the best sugar cookies ever! 🙂
Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies
Yield: About 18 cookies, depending on size of dough balls
2 ¼ cups (11 1/4 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour (I used bleached)
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt (Kosher is fine)
½ c. sweetened shredded coconut, chopped fine (1/2 cup after chopping) (I used unsweetened)
1 ½ c. (10 1/2 oz.) sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling the cookies before they’re baked
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
zest from 2 limes (about 1 tsp.)
7 TBS unsalted butter, melted and still warm
⅓ c. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 TBS buttermilk or whole milk
1 TBS lime juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. (I preheated my oven to 340°F because it is a gas convection beast.) Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat liners or parchment paper. Set aside.
Put 1/2 c. sugar in a shallow bowl and set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and coconut in a medium bowl; set aside.
Place 1 1/2 c. sugar, cream cheese, and lime zest in large bowl (you will be adding the flour mixture to this bowl). Pour melted, still warm butter over mixture and whisk. It is okay that some lumps of cream cheese remain; these will eventually whisk out. Add oil and whisk thoroughly. Whisk in egg, buttermilk, and lime juice until thoroughly combined. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture with rubber spatula until no streaks of flour remain. The dough will be incredibly soft, a cross between cookie dough and cake batter.
Gently flatten balls with your hand until they are about 2″ wide; use fingers to poke and prod each flattened ball so that it maintains a disc shape. Sprinkle sugar generously over balls and bake JUST until edges are starting to turn pale golden brown, about 11 to 13 minutes. The cookies will not look done, but as soon as the edges show the faintest hint of browning, take them out of the oven. If the edges are deep golden brown, then the cookies have been overbaked. (Some of the cookies in my photographs above have been overbaked. They were still good, but not quite as chewy as the ones with paler sides.)
Allow to cool completely on cookie sheets. Store in an airtight container for a week.
*You can roll balls with just 1 TBS. Flatten until cookies are about 1.5″ wide and keep a careful eye on them during baking; they will finish baking sooner than their larger counterparts.
Source: Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated: Baking Book (Brookline: 2013)