Every bite of these delicately crisp and lightly sweet Butter Cookies melts in your mouth. Made with high fat, European style butter, these cookies are exceptionally rich and made small, just 2 or 3 bites of bliss!
My inspiration for these cookies came from this recipe by Melissa Clark in the New York Times. I was initially puzzled by the title, Cultured Butter Cookies, and discovered in the entertaining comment thread that I wasn’t alone. Among the hundreds of rave reviews, there were many people who were unfamiliar with what exactly ‘cultured butter’ was. One commenter quipped that they might need to take their butter to the opera or teach it French for it to qualify for the recipe.
In Melissa’s defense, the title would have been equally odd as, High Fat Butter Cookies or European Style Butter Cookies. But high fat butter is indeed the key to these delicious cookies.
What is cultured butter?
Before butter was made in factories, it was often churned from the cream of several milkings that had naturally begun to ferment, thus developing bacterial cultures. So butter from this fermented cream was termed ‘cultured butter.’ The modern method of making cultured butter is to add bacterial cultures (as is done to make yogurt) to pasteurized cream. In both cases, the result is a full flavored, high fat butter.
High fat butter is often called European style butter because the standard fat ratio (to that of water and milk solids) is at least 82% and often 85%. This is higher than the average of around 81% in the US. The term is more about the amount of fat in the butter than about where it was made. Even when cultured or high fat butter is produced in the US, it’s still typically referred to as European style.
But enough with the science lesson, let’s talk about the cookies. In flavor they remind me of the Danish butter cookies I grew up eating from a giant blue tin filled with crinkly paper muffin wrappers stacked with 2 or 3 cookies. But these Butter Cookies taste fresher, more buttery: better.
The cookie dough is simple to make, but I recommend precision with the ingredient amounts, ideally using a food scale (I never bake without one!). You’ll roll the dough into narrow logs, coat them in crunchy sugar (be sure to read recipe note #3), then slice and bake.
I have good news if you want to make this butter cookie recipe ahead of time: the dough freezes beautifully. There’s no need to thaw before baking, just add a minute or so to the baking time. I like to pre-slice the dough logs before freezing. If you freeze them without slicing first, a thin bladed or serrated edge knife works best to slice when frozen.
Pro Tip! To keep your dough logs round, wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a cardboard tube from an empty paper towel or wrapping paper roll. Cut the tube crosswise to your desired length, then all the way through lengthwise, making it easy to insert the dough log.
If you’re in a baking mood, don’t forget these other favorite cookie recipes: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies, Cowboy Cookies. And these, Soft Sugar Cookies, another go-to holiday cookie, topped with buttery sweet Sugar Cookie Icing.
How to Make Butter Cookies
Step 1: Sift dry ingredients together into a medium bowl. Set aside.
Step 2: Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg yolk and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Step 3: Form dough into a ball and transfer to work surface. Divide in half and roll each half into a 1 1/2-inch diameter log. Roll each log in demerara sugar. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
Step 4: Slice dough logs into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Arrange one-inch apart on parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 325˚F for 18 minutes. Let cool slightly then transfer to wire rack. Once cool, store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
Butter Cookies Recipe Video
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 250g
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 3g
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup salted European style butter ~85% fat butter, see recipe note #1
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar 130g
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup demerara sugar 55g, see recipe note #2
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolk and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured work surface (see recipe note #3). Divide dough in half with bench scraper or sharp knife. Roll each half into a 1 1/2-inch diameter log. Brush off excess flour.
- Sprinkle demerara sugar onto a sheet of parchment paper. Roll each dough log in sugar until well coated. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or more.
- When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325˚F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice each dough log into 1/4-inch thick rounds and place on prepared baking sheets at least 1-inch apart. Bake 18 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and edges. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes) before transferring to cooling rack.
- Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
- European Style Butter or cultured butter is a higher fat butter vs. many in the US, look for 85% butterfat. There are many foreign and domestic brands that make this style of butter. If you are using unsalted butter, increase the sea salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
- Demerara sugar is a coarse sugar that is less refined than standard brown sugar.
- A lightly floured work surface keeps the dough from sticking as you roll it into a log, but makes it difficult for the demerara sugar to adhere. Brushing off the flour before you roll in sugar is helpful. For maximum sugar adhesion, don’t flour your work surface and work quickly to roll the logs to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface.
- The dough logs freeze beautifully! You can slice and bake the logs straight from the freezer, no thawing required. Just add a minute or so to the baking time.
- Note that the baking time is per batch of cookies.