| |

Ultimate Guide To Cut Out Cookies

Would you like to make cut-out cookies but are on the fence because you don’t know how? I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to cut-out cookies that includes all the tips and tricks from the basics of cookie dough making, to troubleshooting spreading, air bubbles, storage and more.

Baked cookies on a cooling rack.

Making cut-out cookies at home is a fun activity for kids and adults alike. Whether you’re baking for holidays, special events, or just because. My detailed guide to cut-out cookies includes tips on cookie dough making, how to roll the dough, cut out shapes, bake, store, freeze and package cookies. Guide to cut-out cookies also covers common problems and how to solve them.

Before you can make any cut-out cookies you need a good recipe. Not all cookie recipes are suitable for making cookie cutter cookies. It’s important that you use a rolled cookie dough recipe. Use your tested recipe or try one of my favorite cut out cookie recipes.

DO YOU HAVE VEGAN AND GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES FOR CUT OUT COOKIES?

I LIKE SOFT SUGAR COOKIES, DO YOU HAVE A RECIPE FOR SOFT COOKIES?

Absolutely, try my Soft Sugar Cookies. You can also try this seasonal variation Soft Pumpkin Cookies. Both recipes include delicious butter frosting recipe.

CAN I USE OIL IN PLACE OF BUTTER IN THE COOKIE DOUGH?

There are cut out cookie recipes that use oil (via A Bright Moment) but I have yet to try and make rolled cookie dough using oil.

Before you start mixing the cookie dough, make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.

HOW TO TELL IF BUTTER IS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE

Room temperature of butter is 66-67F. If you can bend the butter without it breaking in half and without your fingers sinking completely into the butter it’s good to go. Or when pressed it should give slightly, but your fingers shouldn’t sink completely into the butter. That would mean butter is too soft. How to bring butter to room temperature?

Stick of butter at room temperature.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN BUTTER IS TOO SOFT

Using a butter that is too soft is a very common problem when making rolled cookie dough. If you suspect that butter is too soft place in the fridge for 10 -15 minutes to firm up before creaming it with sugar.

  • Using butter that is too soft doesn’t allow for proper creaming of sugar and butter, as sugar crystals just melt into the butter without properly aerating it, or the air bubbles will collapse in baking, hence the cookies will be dense, collapsed and chewy.
  • To amend the stickiness you’ll be temped to add more flour and if you, this will result in cookies that are tough.
  • Cookies made with this cookie dough tend to spread in baking.

SHOULD I USE UNSALTED OR SALTED BUTTER

Baking recipes usually call for unsalted butter and that is what I use, unless I’m using vegan butter, which usually comes salted, and because unsalted vegan butter is harder to find. If all you have is salted butter you can make cookies with it, but you might need to adjust or skip the salt in the recipe.

So why does that it matter what kind of butter you use? (via Bob’s Red Mill)

  • UNSALTED BUTTER
  • Unsalted butter is fresher than salted butter.
  • It doesn’t contain salt, and that gives you the freedom to add as much or as little salt to the recipe.
  • SALTED BUTTER
  • Salt content in salted butter varies from brand to brand.  It can be anywhere from 600mg sodium to 920mg sodium. This can be important if you are trying to control salt intake.
  • Salted butter also contains more water than unsalted. Though not troublesome in cooking, this extra water can cause undesirable results when baking. For example, it can produce cookie dough that is too sticky or dough that doesn’t hold its shape.
  • Salt acts as a preservative; therefore, salted butter has a longer shelf life, 3-4 months and most likely, it’s not as fresh as unsalted butter.

CREAMING OF BUTTER AND SUGAR

When room temperature butter (about 67F) is creamed with sugar, sugar crystals are pushed into the butter. They create tiny air bubbles in the butter, making it aerated and fluffy. In the oven, with the help of the heat and leavening agent these tiny bubbles expand. This contributes to the overall texture, lightness of the baked cookie, cake, etc.

Many cookie recipes call for a creaming  of room temperature butter and sugar (via Handle The Heat). This is an important step in the cookie dough making. For optimal results cream room temperature butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes In the end mixture should be pale in color, sugar crystals should no longer be visible, and the mixture should increase in volume by about half.

HOW TO BRING COLD EGGS TO ROOM TEMPERATURE

It’s important to use room temperature eggs. If you forgot to take the eggs out of the fridge, submerge cold eggs into warm water for 5-8 minutes.

ADDING EGGS TO THE CREAMED BUTTER-SUGAR MIXTURE

Most recipes will ask you to add egg or eggs to creamed butter-sugar mixture. Add eggs gradually, and allow for all the liquid to mix with fat and sugar before adding another egg.

HOW CAN I FLAVOR SUGAR COOKIES ?

To flavor cookie dough, you can use extracts, flavorings, baking emulsions, spices, citrus zest, or herbs.

  • Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Bean Paste – my Cut Out Sugar cookies I often use this magic trio: Vanilla, Almond and Lemon extracts. .
  • Lorann oil-based flavorings are great for flavoring cookie dough. Remember are ultra concentrated, therefore use only 5-7 drops. They are very concentrated.
  • Citrus Zests – I’m fond of citrus zests: Lemon, Orange, Lime Zest. I like to add 1 to 2 tablespoon per batch of sugar cookie dough, depends on the recipe.
  • Baking Emulsions – are water-based flavorings. They are heat-stable and the flavor doesn’t evaporate as much as with alcohol based extracts during baking. They produce stronger-flavored baked goods.
  • Ground Spices – try using cinnamon, cardamom. My friend Sweet Ambs uses cardamom and orange in her cookie recipe.
  • Freeze-dried fruit, notably berries can be pulverized and used in the cookie dough to flavor and color the cookie dough.
Extract in bottles.

WHAT FLOUR TO USE

I use all-purpose flour.

TIPS ON COLORING COOKIE DOUGH

It is paramount that you color your cookie dough before chilling or resting. The prime time to color cookie dough is right after you mixed it. Use concentrated gel food colors for the best results. Colorings that are too runny will alter the cookie dough structure.

Cookies in a shape of American flag, stacked on a light blue plate.

HOW TO MAKE CONFETTI COOKIE DOUGH

To make confetti cookie dough it’s best to add the sprinkles right after you add the flour.

Cutting a round cookie into wedges.

I highly recommend that you chill the cookie dough before cutting out the shapes.

HOW TO CHILL COOKIE DOUGH FOR CUT OUT COOKIES

  • You can chill the cookie dough as a disk, well wrapped in food wrap. When using this method disk of dough can become rock hard. Don’t panic, you can still roll it out. Follow these step when rolling out chilled cookie dough disk.
  • Or you can roll out freshly made cookie dough while it’s still soft, between two sheet of parchment, silicone mats or food wrap and chill it on a tray.

BENEFITS OF CHILLING THE COOKIE DOUGH

  • Chilling and resting of the cookie dough aids in dough hydration – flour becomes more hydrated and dough, as a result is less sticky. Flour hydration is especially important when making Gluten Free Cookies.
  • Chilled cookie dough is less likely to be sticky, and doesn’t require additional flour when rolling. Too much flour can yield a touch cookie.
  • It also contributes to concentration of flavors.
  • It’s easier to cut out cookies from chilled dough, and transfer them onto a baking sheet without deforming the cut outs.
  • Chilled cut out cookies keep their shape better during baking, there is a lesser chance of spreading.
  • If hand-cutting the cookies chilling is paramount to prevent cookie dough dragging, and it yields clean, crisp edges.

CAN I SPEED UP THE CHILLING PROCESS?

If you are short on time you can speed up the chilling process – freeze the rolled-out cookie dough for a short period of time – 20 to 30 minutes. Cut out shapes and bake.

HOW LONG CAN I KEEP THE COOKIE DOUGH IN THE FRIDGE?

  • You can keep the cookie dough disk in the fridge for up to 3 -4 days. After that you can either make the cookies or freeze the cookie dough for later. Up to 3 months. Learn how to freeze cookie dough at different stages.
  • Rolled out sheet of cookie dough between parchment or silicone mats, if properly covered with food wrap it keeps in the fridge also for about 3 days, however I find that it slowly starts to dry out around the edges after 12 hours.

WHAT SHOULD I ROLL MY COOKIE DOUGH ON?

I like to roll out cookie dough between two sheet of parchment, food wrap or silicone baking mat. I’ve been using oversized Dough EZ rolling system to roll out my cookie dough for years, and I love it. It helps to eliminate excessive use of flour.

Parchment sheets and baking silicone mats.

WHAT KIND OF ROLLING PINS DO YOU USE?

I use several rolling pins. You don’t need any special rolling pins if you already have one.

  • White Silicone Rolling Pin(20-inch) – It’s designed to work with fondant but works superbly with the cookie and yeast dough. I love that it super wide and can roll a whole batch of cookie dough all at once.
  • Joseph Joseph Wood Rolling Pin
  • Joseph Joseph Wood Rolling Pin – is a popular choice among bakers because it has a built in rolling guide system and comes with a set of 4 rolling guides/disks.
  • Each end of the rolling pin has a screw and disks can be secured on ends providing desired thickness to your cookies.
  • To keep wood rolling pin in a top shape once in a while I treat it with a Food Grade Mineral Oil.

WHAT ARE ROLLING GUIDES

If you don’t have a rolling pin with the rolling guides attached, to ensure even cookie thickness you can use rolling guides. The idea is to place rolling guides on each side of the cookie dough. Then place the rolling pin on top of guide and push the cookie dough as you are rolling the pin, rolling guides will only let you go as far, and you’ll achieve even thickness of the cookie dough easily.

  • Unused Paint Sticks : Thickness of these can vary from store to store. These were the first rolling guides I have ever used. I glued 2 of them together to reach the thickness I wanted. I’ve used them for many years and and I still have them and use them occasionally.
  • Untreated Wooden Rods : These can be found in the lumber section of your hardware store. They come in different sizes so you can choose the size you need. Wood rods pictured above are both ¼ thick (0.64cm). Use untreated wood only!
  • Silicone Rolling Guides : Commercially produced for bakers.
  • Thick Bamboo Skewers : If you are in a pinch you can use bamboo skewers.

HOW THICK DO YOU MAKE YOUR CUT OUT COOKIES FOR DECORATING?

I roll my cookie dough to ¼ inch (0.64cm/little over 6mm) thick. Cookies that are not meant to be decorated I tend make those a bit thinner, for example Linzer Cookies.

ROLL OUT FRESH COOKIE DOUGH

To roll out a freshly made cookie dough, place the cookie dough onto a parchment/silicone mat or food wrap. Put the rolling guides on both sides of the dough. Layer the second piece of parchment on the top. Roll the dough out with a rolling, keeping the rolling pin on the rolling guides, as you turn it. Rolling guides will let you push the dough down only so much, ensuring an even thickness throughout.

  • Once you have a sheet of fresh cookie dough rolled out you can carefully slide it onto a flat tray, such as cutting board or a baking sheet and chill it for at least an hour before cutting out cookies.
  • If you are in a hurry you can speed up the chilling process by freezing the sheet of dough for 20-30 minutes.
  • And if you don’t have time to cut out cookies in an hour, it’s okay. Cover the cookie dough with food wrap, taking care to cover the edges well and then chill it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I find that it starts to slowly dry out around the edges if kept in the fridge for longer.
Rolled out cookie dough between two parchment sheets.

Cookie dough formed into a disk, once chilled for several hours, it becomes quite hard to roll out. Don’t panic. Bellow I share my steps on how to roll out rock hard cookie dough.

Cut the cookie dough disk into quarters. Microwave one ¼ of cookie dough on high for 5-7 seconds. It should be sufficient to soften the dough so you can roll it out. However, you don’t want it to be super soft. Cut up the remaining quarters into smaller bits.

Place softened/microwaved 1/4 of the cookie dough onto the work surface, between 2 rolling guides. Roll out the dough.

Cut out cookies and transfer them onto a baking sheet.

Cutting out sugar cookies with a cutter.

Gather scraps and add one piece of still chilled dough you set aside, re-roll and repeat.

COOKIE DOUGH IS STICKING TO THE ROLLING PIN OR WORK SURFACE

The cookie dough that is too soft can stick to the work surface and even to silicone mat or parchment. this could be a result of using butter or other fat that was very soft. If this happens chill the dough and/or try to use a small amount of flour on your work surface. If using silicone mats or parchment, very lightly dust the mat and top of the cookie dough with the flour.

I use metal, (stainless steel, aluminum, copper), plastic, 3D printer cutters or cookie cutter templates. If you don’t have a certain shape you can make a template and use it to hand cut cookies. How to make a cookie cutter template, and how to hand to hand-cut cookies with templates.

  • When working with dough that is on a stickier side, like my sour cream cookie dough, I highly recommend dipping cookie cutter in the flour, shake off the excess flour and then cut out cookies.
  • Otherwise I try not to use additional flour, if it’s not necessary.
  • Firmly press the cutter down to cut thru the cookie dough.
  • In case the cutout stays in place, you can lift the silicone mat or parchment and carefully lift up the cut out with your hand.
  • Or if the cutout gets stuck in the cookie cutter, very gently push it out with your fingers, straight onto the palm of your hand or straight onto the baking sheet.
  • Transfer unbaked cookies onto the baking sheet lined with parchment of perforated mat.
Cutting out sugar cookies with a cutter.
Cutting out cookie dough with a metal cookie cutter.

WHAT IS THE BEST TEMPERATURE TO BAKE CUT OUT COOKIES?

Range of temperatures for baking cut out cookies varies from one recipe to another, but after looking at dozens of recipes, most of them use 350F to 375 F (180-190C) to bake cut-out cookies. If your oven is not distributing the heat properly you need to rotate the baking sheet halfway thru the baking to ensure all the cookies are baked evenly. But, don’t open the oven more than once for rotating the sheet midway. If your oven bakes evenly you can skip the rotating step.

I used to love the pale look of baked cookies when I first started making sugar cookies. But over the years, I became fond of caramelization – golden edges. It adds so much flavor. If you prefer golden edges bake the cookies for a little longer.

WHAT KIND OF BAKING SHEETS DO YOU USE?

I like to use light-colored rimmed baking sheets made from aluminized steel (made by USA PAN brand). Dark baking sheets have a tendency to cause quick browning of the cookies.

What is the difference between rimmed and rimless baking sheet? Rimless baking sheet is a flat, often called a cookie baking sheet. Since there are no walls to impede the heat flow, rimless baking sheet facilitates faster baking and browning, and cookies are baked faster. Learn more about baking sheet for baking. (via Serious Eats)

Baked cookies on a baking sheet.

DO YOU USE PARCHMENT, SILICONE BAKING MATS OR PERFORATED MATS TO BAKE COOKIES?

I prefer to use perforated mats and parchment sheets to bake cut-out cookies. I reserve silicone mats for baking drop cookies or delicious Fig Newtons.

Star and round cookie on a perforated mat.
Cut out cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

HOW CAN I TELL MY COOKIES ARE BAKED?

  • Bake until the middle of the cookies appear puffy and no longer shiny, and golden brown around the edges. If the centers of the cookies are still shiny and wet, bake for an additional 2 minutes and check again.
  • Bake larger cookies on one baking sheet and smaller ones on another. Don’t crowd the cookies on a baking sheet.
Baked cookies with a lollipop stick on the underside.

Cut out cookies, stored in an airtight container at room temperature will keep for up to 2-3 weeks.

MY COOKIES HAVE BUBBLES ON THE SURFACE

Sometime when the cookie dough is overworked and too much air pockets are in the dough, during baking bubbles can form on the surface of the cookies. Take a flat cookie spatula and gently press tops of hot cookies, immediately after you take them out of the oven. This flattens the bubbles.

Alternatively, before you bake the cookies, use a fork or tool with sharp ends and prick the cookies in the middle.

Cookies with fork marks on the top.

Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for 3-5 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies onto a cooling rack. Be sure to let the cookies cool before decorating them with icing.

BAKED COOKIES ARE TOUGH

This can be a result of over mixing of the dough or using too much flour. Avoid kneading the dough too much, this can aid in gluten development

HOW TO PREVENT COOKIES FROM SPREADING TOO MUCH?

  • Make sure to use a room temperature butter when making the dough. If butter is too soft your dough will be softer than normal. I often experienced spreading when I used very soft butter.
  • Properly chill the dough before cutting out shapes. Keep in mind that the dough shouldn’t be very soft. Once you cut out shapes, place them onto the cool baking sheet lined with a parchment paper.
  • Don’t place unbaked cookies on a warm baking sheet. Try not to overcrowd your baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet with cut out cookies into the fridge and chill for 10 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes and then baker
  • You can also try omitting baking powder or use lesser amount to mitigate excessive spreading.
Square cookies.
Perfectly squared cookies baked on the perforated mat.

BAKING SUCCESS TIPS

  • Follow the tips how to prevent cookies from spreading (above).
  • Bake cookies until the center of the cookie has risen, or until golden brown around the edges if you prefer your cookies this way.
  • Bake cookies using a perforated mat. It helps eliminate or reduce the spreading of cut-out cookies and cookies bake with sharp edges.
  • Don’t open the oven more than once for rotating the sheet.
  • If your oven bakes evenly you can skip this step. Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for 3-5 minutes then carefully transfer cookies onto a cooling rack.
View from the above, rectangular cooling rack with cookies.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO MAKE COOKIES WITH A SOFTER BITE?

Powdered sugar produces cookies with a softer, tender crumb. In most of the cases you can substitute granulated for powdered sugar for a tender cookie. To replace 1 cup granulated sugar you can use 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar. Or replace 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour with 2 tablespoon of cornstarch, see if that is sufficient for your taste.

You can find my favorite cut out cookie recipes in the recipe gallery.

Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 to 3 weeks, if stored properly, in an airtight container or heat sealed.

CAN I PROLONG COOKIES’ SHELF LIFE ?

You can add one tablespoon of invert sugar syrup or agave nectar per batch. Both are hygroscopic and absorb moisture from air, keeping the cookies moist for longer. If packaged properly cookies will last for up to 4 weeks.

Cut out cookies can be frozen at different stages. You can freeze cookie dough, unbaked cutout and baked cookies.

HOW TO FREEZE A BATCH OF COOKIE DOUGH

You can freeze well wrapped cookie dough disk for up to 3 months. Let it defrost in the fridge overnight then roll it out, cut out cookies and bake.

FREEZING UNBAKED CUTOUTS

You can freeze unbaked cutouts for about 3-4 months, depends on the freezer. To freeze dough cutouts, place them onto wax paper or parchment on a flat, freezer-safe tray and freeze them for an hour. Then carefully layer frozen cutouts into a freezer safe container, between pieces of parchment or wax paper, or into ziploc bags. When ready to bake, distribute cutouts onto the baking sheet, and bake until lightly golden around the edges. You may need to add a minute or two of baking time since you are starting with a frozen cookie.

HOW TO FREEZE BAKED CUT OUT COOKIES?

How to Freeze Baked Sugar Cookies. Defrost cookies in the container for at least 2-3 hours prior decorating.

CAN I FREEZE DECORATED COOKIES?

Bake the cookies a usual. In this cakes you might want to remove cookies from the oven before they get too brown.

Decorate cookies with festive sprinkles. Mist the cookies with a little bit of water using a small spray bottle. Then sprinkle cookies with decorating sprinkles and bake as usual. Water makes the sprinkles stick better to the cookie dough.

If you are new to cookie decorating, I put together a Beginner’s Guide to Cookie Decorating and this is where you can learn all the basics.

WHAT KIND OF ICING CAN I USE TO DECORATE CUT OUT COOKIES?

There are several cookie icing recipes you can use to decorate cookies. The most popular is royal icing; some decorators use glaze icing, soft buttercream or crusting buttercream. And if you are in a hurry, fondant is another decorating medium you can use; plus, cookies with fondant are really easy to make.

Round cookies decorated with fondant, royal icing, glaze, and buttercream displayed on marbled slab.

DO YOU HAVE A SOFT BUTTER FROSTING I CAN USE TO DECORATE COOKIES?

I like using this Buttercream Frosting and if are looking for something with more seasonal flavor you can try delicious Maple Buttercream Frosting.

Decorated pumpkin cookie with maple buttercream.

Depending, if you are giving them as a gift or keeping them for yourself. If you want to give them out as favors, I would recommend that you package cookies. Either use a Hand Heat Sealer or if you don’t have one you can package them into clear bags and tie the bag tightly with a ribbon. Cookies packed and heat sealed will keep fresh for longer than those tied with just a ribbon.

Store packaged cookies in a carton box away from the direct sunlight. If you are making these for your family to enjoy on Holidays you can store the cookies in an airtight container layered between pieces of wax paper.

WHAT BOXES TO USE TO PACKAGE/DISPLAY COOKIES?

  • I personally use boxes from  www.brpboxshop.com , they sell their boxes in bulk, 100 pieces and I love them. I really like their brown boxes  10″x7″x1″ boxes, lid and bottom is sold separately. If you are not certain which goes with what, be sure to call. Folks at brpboxshop are very friendly, always willing to help out.
  • In case you don’t need 100 boxes, you can try  Nashville Wraps. They sell these cookie boxes in the set of 50 pieces.
  • You can use cookie tins that are available at discounted prices during holidays or visit your local bakery. Ask if they’d be willing to sell you couple of their boxes for a small fee.
  • Craft stores carry small bakery boxes as well. You can also use Take-out Containers and Jars for smaller cookies.
Bakery box with a window filled with decorated cookies.
Tutorial for this cookie puzzle is available in Haniela’s Cookie Club on Patreon.

TO MAKE CUT OUT COOKIES YOU NEED

This post containsThis post contains Amazon affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I use and love. Learn more about my affiliate policy here.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *