Cut Out Cookie Recipe Tips: How to Perfect the Holiday Sugar Cookie

Baking cut out cookies at Christmas is a time honored family tradition in many homes. Most of us have childhood memories of helping mom or grandma flour the counter tops, roll out the dough, and choose from an assortment of holiday shaped cookie cutters. It’s true that sugar cookie cut outs are quite simple to make, with most recipes consisting of fewer than six ingredients. However, regardless of the particular recipe you choose, there are a few basic principles that should go into making any type of cut out cookie recipe. In this article, we’ll discuss a few tips that will help you perfect the art of holiday sugar cookie cut outs.

First, follow your recipe to the letter. If it specifies butter at room temp, then make sure you soften your butter well in advance. If you forget, don’t think you can simply zap it in the microwave for a minute to make up for forgetting to soften it on the counter. It’s also important not to over-mix any dough recipe containing eggs, which most sugar cookie cut out recipes do contain.

Next, make sure your dough is adequately chilled. Most problems with cut out cookies occur because they are difficult to transfer from the counter top to the baking sheet. If this is true for you, it may be because your dough isn’t cold enough. It should be chilled in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour.

Make sure you are using a good quality rolling pin, and for the best results, invest in rolling guides. These are simply rings that fit around each end of your rolling pin, ensuring that the dough will be rolled to an even thickness all over. If cut out cookies vary in thickness, which can easily happen to even the most accomplished baker if he or she isn’t using rolling guides on their pin, then they won’t bake evenly. Some cookies will come out of the oven too brown, while others will be under-baked and doughy.

Choose good quality cookie cutters. Opt for cutters made of metal as opposed to plastic, because they will hold their shape better while in use. Carefully transfer the cut out shapes to your baking sheets, making sure to leave enough space between them for some expansion in the oven. Next, call upon a little extra patience, and chill your baking sheet full of cookies in the freezer for about 15 minutes before you put them in the oven. This may seem fussy, but this one simple step is the trick to keeping the edges distinct and baking perfect cut out cookies. Don’t skip this step, even if you’re in a hurry.

If you own an oven thermometer, pop it in your oven to be sure you have exactly the right temp before putting your baking sheet in. It’s surprising how many ovens are off by as much as 10 to 15 degrees, which can make a significant difference in how baked goods turn out. Sugar cookie cut outs are done when the surface of the cookie springs back when lightly pressed, or when the edges are just beginning to brown.

When you remove the baking sheet from the oven, set it on top of a cooling rack for a minute or two before removing the cookies themselves to a cooling rack to cool completely. To store cooled cookies, place them in an airtight container, making sure to separate each layer with a piece of wax or parchment paper so they won’t stick together.

By following these simple steps, practically any cut out cookie recipe will yield beautiful results. So whether you’ve tried baking sugar cookies before with less than stellar results, or if you are a seasoned baker who makes cut out cookies ever year, try applying these basic steps to your favorite recipe and see what happens. You may turn out your best batch of sugar cookies yet!