An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Cut It Out!


Like all food trends, Christmas cookies have come and gone throughout the years, as bakers search for the newest and tastiest treats to make for spectacular gifts. However, there is one particular cookie that has been invited back to the holiday parties for decades now, always popular to bake and receive. That would be the sugar cookie, so simple and yet with so very appealing, I tend to think that it has become such a staple of holiday cookie platters mostly due to its versatility. Easily flavored with spices and extracts to suit everyone’s tastes, it’s more of a blank canvas than anything else. Of course, the real draw for me is how easily shaped and decorated sugar cookies can be, allowing for an entirely new look every single holiday season, even if the recipe never changes.

While it would certainly be much quicker to make these classics as drop cookies, it’s all about the cut-outs, if you ask me. Endless varieties of cookie cutters catch my eye every time I find myself shopping for kitchen supplies, and now is the time of year I can put those impulse buys to good use. These shaped cookies can do more than just feed the stomach, but also treat the eyes, and quite possibly elevate one’s mood. The effort put into making these cookies into something special is what truly makes them a perfect gift. It takes a bit of patience, skill, and luck, but I have a few tips to help you get started in case you need some reassurance.

1. Always chill your dough thoroughly before working with it, even if the recipe you’re using doesn’t say to. It will be so much easier to work with when it’s cold, and you will get a smoother surface when it’s not so sticky as well. If you want to take out some extra insurance, you can also toss your rolling pin into the fridge beforehand as well!

2. Can’t find or don’t have a rolling pin in your kitchen? No need to run out to the store, an empty bottle or thick wooden dowel will work just fine.

3. Place your ball of dough directly on the silpat or piece of parchment paper that you plan to bake on. This is an especially good idea if you want to make more intricate pieces, as they are more likely to get mashed and distorted if you need to move them after cutting. You should still lightly flour this surface though, just to prevent any foreseeable mishaps.

4. Lightly flour the rolling pin and cookie cutters to prevent sticking.

5. Thinner is generally better when you’re gauging the thickness of the dough. Of course, you don’t want to so thin that you get holes or tears, but I prefer to keep it about 1/8 of an inch thick. However, as long as the entire length of dough is completely even, you’ll be in good shape. Just keep in mind that thicker cookies will take longer to bake, and are more likely to brown around the edges or stay soft in the middle. And depending on how you like them, that may be a positive thing, too!

6. Lay out as many cookie cutters as possible at once. You’ll get a better idea of how much space you have left, and how best to arrange them to prevent waste.

7. Press down firmly, making sure that the cutters push all the way through your layer of dough. If you remove the shape and discover that your cookie is still attached to the main dough in some areas do not replace the cutter and try again. You’re more likely to add extra unsightly lines than cut it out perfectly. Instead, carefully run a paring knife around the uncut edges, tracing the design exactly.

8. Remove the excess dough between your shapes in manageable strips. Don’t try to peel it all off at once, and definitely don’t rush. The smaller details will need some additional attention to stay intact, so break off the length of extra dough periodically and pick it up fresh from new corners if you get stuck.

9. If at any point your dough isn’t cooperating, chances are that it has simply become too warm. Pop the whole tray back into the fridge for a few minutes to cool down before proceeding and you’ll get much better results.

10. Re-roll scraps no more than two times; beyond that, the dough will become rather tough and unpleasant to eat. Of course, you could always use those cookies as ornaments so as not to waste anything!

That all sounds pretty simple now, right? So if you’re still with me, head on over to the post I wrote a year ago with a few tips on how to ice your perfectly shaped cookies once they’re baked and cooled.

Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

41 thoughts on “Cut It Out!

  1. Okay, fine… I’ll stop being lazy and actually take the time to chill and roll out some sugar cookies instead of just doing drops. Yours are lovely!

  2. it is sugar cookie season so these are great tips! thanks!!!

  3. I always have trouble with my sugar cookies so I’m glad you posted all of these tips! I’ll be making some for Christmas now!!

  4. Hell yes for cut-outs!! They’re cute and quick ;-)

  5. Lovely tutorial! Snowflakes have always been my favorite seasonal shape.

  6. Oh, how I remember those gorgeous snowflakes from last year! Thanks for the great tips, Hannah. :)

  7. Baking and decorating cut-out cookies, sugar and gingerbread in particular, is one of my favorite things about the holidays. I have friends over for a bake-a-thon every year and we keep all the ovens in my kitchen on constant rotation. It’s great fun. Thanks so much for all the awesome tips!

  8. yummmy! i am hosting a christmas party for my little one so I am sure i will need to go buy new cookie cutters for that!

  9. I suck at cutting out / decorating cookies – I love the tip about cutting straight out onto the cookie sheet though, mine always get all skew whiff when I lift them up!

  10. thanks for the tutorial! i think i’m going to conquer cut out sugar cookies this year, for sure.

  11. Superb tips! I haven’t made sugar cookies as an adult, I hope I get a chance to soon! And I will definitely follow these steps!

  12. Holiday cookies are one of my favourite things about the season! It seems like nearly every culture has a sweet biscuit they prepare around winter solstice – so many possibilities! I just love your snowflake cutters – adorable!

  13. Just not the holidays without them.

  14. Your photos are gorgeous! And you just inspired me to buy and use cookie cutters!

  15. My favorite part about the holidays! The cookies…especially sugar cookies! Thanks for the tips…and for invoking memories of making cookies with my mom when I was little with the wonderful photos!

  16. Sugar cookies are so much fun to bake! I just wish I liked the taste of them more. But who could resist their cuteness?

  17. I have more baking tools than most people I know…but you sure have me beat! Now I’ll need to add cookie cutters to the list. This post has me convinced that pretty cut-outs would be so much more fun to make than drop cookies!

  18. Gasp! I just found your blog and I’m in love! My son is allergic to dairy and egg, so we make lots of vegan treats. Not only is your blog informative, it’s beautiful as well. Thanks!

  19. loved the snowflake ones!
    oh and great tips!

  20. Thank you for your sugar cookie tips! I will definitely use them very soon.

  21. eek! i would totally not cut directly onto my silpat. some of my cookie cutters are as sharp as knives! good idea, though. i would definitely do it on parchment paper.

  22. Hannah, thank you so much for the gift! I got it in the mail yesterday, and I posted a picture and blogged about it today. I appreciate it so much, thanks again :)

  23. thanks for the pointers Hannah. I haven’t really made successful cut out cookies in years. Well ok not since I was a kid baking with my mom. This will help me a lot.

  24. Great tips. Do you have a tried and true recipe for sugar cookies?

  25. how lovely. these cookies look absolutely perfect. i love snowflakes :)

  26. Thank you so much for posting this! :)

  27. This is my first visit to your site, and i love it! Beautiful pictures and fantastic tips on cut out sugar cookies (just in time for my baking endeavors this weekend!).

  28. I’ve been afraid to push cookie cutters down on my silpat. You haven’t had any troubles with it cutting into the mat itself? Hmmm . . . that would make things so much easier than trying to transfer cookies to the sheet!

  29. wonderful tips! I’ll be making and decorating my first batch of Christmas sugar cookies ever. :D this post totally just pumped me up

  30. Love your cookbook. I am searching for a rootbeer extract so I can make the rootbeer cupcakes in your book, but all I can find are Zatarain’s and Hires and they are not very natural or they do not list the top secret ingredients, so I assume they contain nasty chemicals. Which do you use/recommend? Thank you.
    James Rohrbacher

  31. Great new blog layout! Thank you for all the useful cookie tips.

  32. I love the look of cut out cookies, especially when iced.

  33. sugar cookie are my absolute favourite. I didn’t even like them as a non-vegan, but now I’m such a cut-out fanatic, they’re just too much fun!

  34. Very useful tips! I’m planning to make roll-out cookies for the first time. I’m still nervous about making and rolling out the dough.

  35. also wondering if you have a tried-and-true vegan sugar cookie recipe? thanks!

  36. Hi Hannah,

    You are always a source of inspiration for me. This morning I saw that on the Gourmet magazine website they have recipes for their ‘cookie of the year’ from 1941 until 2000. Many of them are not vegan (okay a lot of them), but, the recipes and presentations might be inspiration for the development of new vegan treats. I know as a fellow Daring Baker, you are used to trying to veganize baked goods!
    I think I might play with a few of these recipes for upcoming cookie exchanges and thought you might be interested in seeing them as well. Here is the link:

  37. Pingback: Whole Story » Blog Archive » What We’re Reading…

  38. thank you so much! getting ready to do 30 pumpkins for the Kindergarten class and can’t wait to try your tips!

    Many Thanks,

  39. How do keep the edges nice an crisp without rounding?

    • Hi Amy,

      That depends a lot on the recipe itself; If it’s prone to spreading, you need to anticipate that you won’t be able to get perfectly sharp edges out of it, and select simpler shapes. You can cut down on the spreading to a degree by chilling the cut cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking, though. Just get the sheet of frozen cookies right into the preheated oven without giving them a chance to thaw.

      Happy Baking!

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