You probably know the feeling of making it halfway through a cookie recipe and realizing, with so many steps left to go, that you’ve made a terrible mistake. It might be that the cookies are too complicated, or they’re too fussy, or you simply weren’t cut out for the type of dough-wrangling or delicate decorating that the recipe requires. Not every cookbook is a winner; if it were, you’d never need to buy 25 more.
But some cookie recipes feel, from the very first time you flip to them, like you’ve found your true match. With almost frictionless ease, you produce a batch of cookies that are not only delicious but as fun to make as they are to serve—and they’re as pretty as the professional cookbook photo. This is the type of recipe you’ll find yourself returning to again and again, one that you’ll find every possible excuse to pick up the ingredients for, “just in case” you need to make a batch this weekend. Here are The Takeout staff’s go-to cookie recipes that we’ve made a thousand times and we’ll make a thousand more. What’s yours?
My baking was a lot less colorful, both literally and figuratively, before Stella Parks entered my life. Her 2017 cookbook BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts is equal parts recipes and history lessons; she unpacks the stories behind our favorite treats while explaining how to make copycat versions of the best grocery store cookies and snack cakes at home. (Yes, the Hydrox vs. Oreo drama is fully explored.) The term “Lofthouse cookie” might not ring a bell, but the sight of these pillow-soft frosted sugar cookies will be familiar to virtually everyone. BraveTart’s version is easy to make, fun to pipe and frost, and the slight tedium of getting each cookie grocery-store perfect is buoyed by the excitement of presenting them to friends and loved ones, who will always oooh and aaaah and demand clarification that you actually baked them and that they’re not store-bought. They are endlessly customizable to the season or event: I just made a batch with orange frosting and chocolate sprinkles for Halloween, and they’ve gone over well at baby showers in shades of pink, blue, and yellow. Best of all, though, is the fact that the copycat tastes better than the real thing. There’s no chemical tang to the ultra-sweet buttercream, so you find yourself reaching for more and more until they’re gone. (I make them about half the size of Lofthouse for this exact reason.) —Marnie Shure, editor in chief
I’m pretty sure the first cookie I learned how to make was chocolate chip, from the back of the Nestle Toll House bag. I made them so often, I had the recipe memorized. Occasionally I would add food coloring because that made them look really gross and no one would steal them in the lunchroom at school. Over time, I tried other recipes. And there were a lot: the one where you use two kinds of flour and leave the dough in the fridge for three days, the one where you bang the cookie sheet every few minutes, the one where you roll the edges in sugar. But when I tried Joy the Baker’s version with brown butter, I was sold forever on brown butter: the extra caramel flavor, the subtle nuttiness. These days, though, I must admit that I, too, am devoted to a BraveTart recipe. It’s a variation on the old classic Toll House but with extra brown butter, and the great part about it is because it requires no extra refrigeration. When you want chocolate chip cookies, it’s because you have a deep and sudden craving for them and you don’t want to wait three days. —Aimee Levitt, associate editor
Some may think it arrogant to call out one of the fine recipes I’ve developed for The Takeout as my all-time favorite cookie, but I say that if I can’t throw 100% of my support behind my own darlings, then I’ve got no business being in the cookie game at all. When I came up with these Toasted Brown Butter Nut Shortbreads last year, I was born anew. I realized that my best years are still ahead of me, because it took me nearly two decades of baking professionally before I ushered this cookie into existence and into my mouth. They’re so pathetically easy to make, and the recipe makes me wonder how many times I’ve failed to notice the breathtaking beauty that exists in simplicity. If I can have my world rocked this hard by a cookie, then who knows what I’m capable of unleashing on the world in the years to come! I could invent a danish that cures cancer, or a sandwich that ushers in the second coming of Christ. —Allison Robicelli