Classic cutout sugar cookies are the perfect base for lots of creative, fun holiday decorating. Use cookie cutters to make them into festive shapes, or simply cut them out with the top edge of a glass to make the versatile circle shapes.
The perfect sugar cookie is a cream-colored disk that’s soft and chewy in the middle and slightly crisp around the edges. While the sugar cookie is a basic staple of holiday baking, some find it tricky to create cookies that retain their shapes and don’t morph into bloated snowmen and deformed reindeer.
We’ve created a superb cutout sugar cookie recipe that yields cookies that are as enjoyable to make as they are to eat.
First, we use real butter for maximum buttery flavor. Then, we measure the flour carefully to ensure that the cookies have the right consistency; just a little too much will leave your cookies too crumbly. Weighing the flour might seem like overkill, but it makes a big difference!
You can add a touch of vanilla or almond extract for a little flavor boost.
Cutting shapes from the cookie dough
We recommend rolling the dough between two sheets of parchment paper while it’s at room temperature. (That’s much easier than rolling chilled dough.) The paper prevents the cookies from sticking to the rolling pin. Plus, this method requires less flour, which helps keep your cookies tender.
Stack the flat paper-and-cookie sandwiches on a baking sheet and allow them to chill before cutting.
Keep them cool until you need them: They should be as chilly as possible before you pop them into the oven. Tip: You can reuse those sheets of parchment paper.
Add a little flour to the cookie cutter to prevent sticking and cut as many cookies as you can from the dough before rerolling it. The less you roll the dough, the better the cookies will taste.
The perfectly baked, barely browned sugar cookies
Keep an eye on the cookies while they’re baking. The time needed will vary greatly depending on their size and thickness.
They are perfectly baked when they’re firm to the touch but not yet golden-brown; the dough should not indent when you touch it with your finger. If you like a crunchy cookie, though, let them brown a little.
Outlining the icing area on your baked cookies
Colored sugar and sugar pearls for decorating Christmas cookies
You can keep these cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for a month. You can make your cookies well in advance and have the cookie base ready for would-be cookie artists to embellish. So handy for decorating parties!
Place flour in large mixing bowl. Add baking powder and salt. Stir until well combined.
Using stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla extract. Mix well. Blend one more minute.
Slowly add in dry ingredients, 1 cup at a time. The dough will come together and turn into a ball. Be patient: This is a slow process.
Smooth freshly mixed dough into a ball. Cut into thirds.
With a rolling pin, roll first portion of dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Place sheet of dough in refrigerator. Repeat with remaining thirds of dough.
Chill sheets of dough overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Cut out cookies with cookie cutters, and place on cookie sheet. Return to refrigerator until ready to bake.
Roll any dough scraps and cut out additional cookies. Continue until all dough is used.
Ovens vary, but total baking time will be approximately 11–12 minutes. The size of the cookies makes a difference; cooking time will be less for smaller cookies. Tip for most even baking: Halfway through cooking time, move cookie sheet on oven's upper rack to lower rack, and move sheet from lower rack to upper rack.
After baking, allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move them to wire rack to cool completely.