Fancy decorated cookies, without the fuss

Maybe there was a time, long, long ago, when I actually enjoyed making cutout cookies. Perhaps I gleefully anticipated the rolling pin, flour all over the counter, cookie cutters, sticky icing, overturned bottles of food color, and crunchy red and green sugar underfoot.

If so, those happy memories are gone, disappeared like glad-handing politicians the day after an election.

I don’t like to make cutout cookies. I find them fussy, time-consuming, and devoid of any great reward at the end. And I know the reason why.

I’m not a looks person. At all. I’m a word person.

Show me a beautifully designed catalogue spread—luscious-looking food photography, an eye-catching design, gorgeous autumn colors—and I see an extra space between the words “tasty” and “brownies.” Or I see “it’s” where “its” is the proper incarnation.

I mean, these things jump up and hit me right between the eyes. Just like the clash between two subtly different shades of red that sends our art director up the wall.

So cutout holiday cookies? Yawn.

Hey, I’m not alone. I know there are others out there like me. You know who you are—you eat with your mouth, not your eyes. A bite of warm brownie is worth 10 intricately decorated cookie snowflakes. But there comes a time in every baker’s life when, fuss and fight all you want, you’re backed into a corner and HAVE to make decorated cutout cookies.

Maybe it’s your daughter’s 6th birthday party. Or the fact that you know your mom loves pretty holiday cookies, and she no longer has the energy to make them. Or your grandson is visiting, and says you simply must make reindeer cookies for Rudolph… One of these days, you’re going to make cutout cookies.

And when you do, take a page out of my book: Simplify. Imaginative use of a few basic cutters, some icing, and colored toppings are all you need to make some pretty darned good-looking cookies.

If you love to spend hours piping icing from a pastry bag, go for it; check out our cookie decorating tips. But if you’re more of an “I’m in a hurry let’s get this over with” decorated-cookie baker, follow the steps below for fancy, fuss-free cookies.

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Let’s start with some cookie basics: butter and confectioners’ sugar. Plus an egg yolk, salt, and eggnog flavor, in a salute to the holidays. Substitute vanilla, almond or your own favorite flavor, if desired.

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Beat till well combined.

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Add the flour. At first, the mixture will look very dry. Just keep beating…

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…and it should come together. If it looks like it’s simply not going to become cohesive, dribble in 1 tablespoon of water to help it along.

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Scrape the dough out of the bowl, divide it in half…

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…shape each half into a rough disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

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Meanwhile, flour your work surface. Well, there it is again—my silicone rolling mat! If you read this blog regularly, you see how often I use it.

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Take one of the pieces of dough out of the fridge, flour it, and place it on the mat.

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Roll it 1/8” thick; it should roll pretty easily. If it starts to stick to mat or pin, pick it up (a giant spatula works well) and throw more flour underneath, and dust a bit more flour on top. Don’t go crazy; you want to use just enough flour to prevent sticking. Too much, and your cookies will be tough.

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There! A nice 1/8”-thick circle. By the way, if you have any trouble rolling the dough that thin, do the best you can; you’ll just end up with thicker, less-crisp (but still yummy) cookies.

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Use your favorite cutter(s) to cut shapes. I love my star cutters; stars (and hearts) are always in season, in my book.

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Now comes the “ah-HA!” part: use a smaller cutter to cut out the centers of some of the cookies.

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Here we have large cookies; large cookies with centers cut out (and sprinkled with sparkling white sugar); and the smaller cookies cut from from the centers. Just two cutters, and look what you’ve made already—a nice array of stars.

Cut as many cookies as you can from the first piece of dough, re-rolling and cutting the scraps. Then bake the cookies. While the first batch is baking, roll and cut cookies from the second refrigerated piece of dough.

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The cookie on the left was baked for 12 minutes; the one on the right, for 14 minutes. Watch carefully: for light-colored cookies, you really have to watch through the oven window for the final 2 minutes or so, to make sure they don’t brown.

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I was just fooling around with my stars and made a little constellation. All work and no play… While the cookies are cooling, make the icing.

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This Simple Cookie Glaze, made from 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk makes a smooth, spreadable glaze that dries nice and hard; if the glaze is too thick, dribble in another teaspoon of milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

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Stir until smooth; a fork works fine.

This glaze is a little on the thick side, and it isn’t perfectly smooth when you apply it, but should settle into a smooth surface within half a minute or so. Glaze one cookie and set it aside for a minute. Has the glaze settled into a smooth surface? If so, it’s the right consistency. Remember, it’s easier to add more liquid than to stir in more sugar, so start with a glaze that’s thicker than you think it should be, then add milk little by little to adjust the consistency.

Add food color, if you like. I’m leaving the icing white, because I’m going to add colored sprinkles.

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Now for some suggestions. Drizzle/spread icing on a solid-center cookie.

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Put a cutout-center cookie on top: instant linzer! I’m using six-sided Stars of David cutters here. Celebrating Chanukah? Our nested set of six-sided star cutters makes pretty treats.

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Sprinkle sparkling sugar atop the icing in the center.

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Here’s another way to decorate. Ice a solid cookie, using your fingertip to spread the icing all the way to the edges of the cookie.

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Then simply sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

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Sparkly blue cookie!

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Ice a solid cookie…

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…ice a cookie with its center cut out…

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…decorate with sprinkles

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Sandwich atop the solid iced cookie…

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…and add sparkling sugar in the center.

I tell you, I’m SO not a cookie decorator, but this was actually kind of fun, and certainly easy. None of that piping or fiddling around with tweezers and toothpicks that devoted cookie decorators fuss with. Not putting anyone down here; simply saying spending a whole lotta time decorating cookies just isn’t for me.

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It helps to do all of this on a piece of parchment, in order to keep the spills contained.

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Here are some of the finished cookies. All I used was two sets of star cutters: standard, and six-sided; and four kinds of colored sugar. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Holiday Butter Cookies.

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P.S. What do you do when you had to test that cookie dough one more time, and no way were you going to fuss with cookie cutters? Use a rolling pizza wheel to cut squares, bake, and splatter with leftover chocolate ganache. Hey, looks like something you’d serve at a NYC dessert party, no?

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P.P.S. Couldn’t resist sharing this photo of the first snowfall, taken out our window here in the Web-team room at King Arthur. The picnic tables won’t be getting much use for the next 6 months, but we still like to venture outside and get some fresh air on our breaks, as hardy members of our purchasing team demonstrate.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Trisha

    Ok, but how do you get the cookies moved to the cookie sheet without getting them all mangled? My gingerbread men always look like they are posing for running photos!

    Well, you know what the Gingerbread Man said: “Run, run as fast as you can…” Not what we want with cookie dough, huh? Trisha, work quickly, while the dough is still cold. Make sure your work surface is well floured. What usually happens with me is I cut the cookie, the dough sticks right in the cutter, and I move it cutter and all to the cookie sheet, where I just nudge the cookie out of the cutter with my finger. But the key is chilled dough; it’s movable when chilled, tough to deal with when warm. If necessary, divide your dough into smaller pieces and cut out fewer at a time, so the remaining dough stays cool in the fridge—though remember, you can’t roll dough out of the fridge immediately. Maybe divide it in four pieces, roll one out while the next piece is warming on the counter, then take the third piece out of the fridge to warm while you roll the second piece out… sound good? You can do it! PJH

    Reply
    1. Mike

      I use pan spray lightly on the cuter and mini spatula to move the guys, if you roll to thick ness you want on pan linner and sheet pan on bottom freeze them they seem to keep in shape too.
      Other is never give up, flea ing cookies could be just as yummy

    2. Christina

      I roll my dough out between sheets of parchment paper. Then I stack the sheets of dough in the fridge on a sheet pan. When the dough is chilled, I cut the cookies, removing the surrounding bits and leaving the cookies on the paper. Then I just put the whole sheet on a sheet pan and pop it into the oven.

  2. Robin

    Do you have any suggestions on how to store iced cookies? these would be fun to make with my grandson, but I always shy away from iced cookies because you can’t stack them to store them. They stick together.
    Help!

    Robin, the icing on these cookies dries hard and shiny. I haven’t had problems with sticking. Still, I recommend separating the layers with parchment or waxed paper; makes it less likely the cookies will jostle one another and maybe knock off one another’s sugar decos. PJH

    Reply
    1. deb4325

      Layers of waxed paper work very well for iced cookies. Let them dry for a few minutes after icing, then layer them closely and cover with a layer of waxed paper – then add another layer. It works very well.

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      I use waxed paper a lot too, Deb – old-fashioned, but works very well. Thanks for the reminder. PJH

  3. Christine

    Your cookies look beautiful! I have always been afraid to cut cookies on the silicone mat, I thought it would damage the mat. Is that not a concern?

    Cut very gently on silicone. If you don’t ram your hand down on the cutter, applying just enough pressure to cut the dough, you should be fine. I haven’t had a problem, using the cutters we have here… PJH

    Reply
  4. Mike T.

    Looks good. My sisters, mom and I get together every year for “Cookie Day”, complete with pizza and wine. This year CD is December 6th… I’ll see if I can squeeze these into the list… ;-)

    Pretty tasty, Mike, esp. with the Fiori – PJH

    Reply
  5. Janene

    I am certainly relieved to know that I am not the only one who isn’t crazy about cutout cookies. Indeed they are pretty but not worth the extra effort. But I certainly do like the idea of the cookie squares drizzled with the ganache. Those I would probably do!

    Reply
  6. Bridget

    I love your stars…and the chocolate drizzled ones! I have a “thing” for decorated cookies…my obsession is detailed on my blog. :) I’ll be happy, honored, to offer my services as a “guest cookie decorator” when you don’t want to make them. (I’m working on some fall-ish cookies today.)

    You go, girl – I’m always in awe of people who are good at cookie decorating. Definitely not a skill I possess. Good luck with your fall-ish cookies… PJH

    Reply
  7. Weaver

    We live in a cold, drafty house so keeping the dough chilly enough to get to the pan isn’t a problem but a good tip for if you are having trouble is to put a cookie sheet in the freezer and lay it over the dough after rolled and before cut to help re-chill it.

    I’ve been looking for a recipe for these. can’t wait to give it a try!

    Reply
  8. LinC

    What temperature should the cookies bake at? I don’t see it in the recipe. Thanks! Hello! 350 degrees. Adjust accordingly – the thickness of your cookies will determine the exact baking time. Elisabeth @ King Arthur Flour

    Reply
  9. Sue

    To get your cookies to the baking sheet without mangling them, you might consider placing your rolled out dough on parchment paper, cut out the cookies, and then remove the dough that you don’t want baked. After cutting you can slide the entire piece of parchment paper onto the cookie sheet and bake without ever handling the unbaked cookie. They’re easy to remove from the baking sheet and parchment paper without breaking too.

    Absolutely, Sue – great tip, thanks. PJH

    Reply
  10. Nel

    I went berzerk and bought a whole bunch of cookie cutters in wonderful shapes because I thought I would lo-o-o-ve to decorate fancy cut-out cookies.

    I don’t know WHAT I was thinking of! I still think making and decorating cut-out cookies is a whole lot of work and not worth the effort. Sure, you get gorgeous cookies and everyone oohs and ahhs. But they seem to be more glitz than flavor, it takes forever and I just can’t be bothered. I’m a drop-cookie kind of girl.

    That said, though, I DO have a recipe for a mocha-flavored cookie that’s dipped half in white chocolate and half in dark chocolate. They taste as wonderful as you’d imagine. My problem is getting the chocolate to harden and stay hard. Ganache – in my experience – won’t harden up and stay hard. I can’t stack the cookies to transport them.

    Is there some mess-proof way of ‘icing’ cookies with chocolate so that you get a coating that won’t melt if you so much as have a warm thought when you look at them?

    When I made hand-dipped chocolates, oh-so-many years ago, I didn’t have any trouble with my chocolates hardening up properly. But when I dip cookies in chocolate, it seems that no matter how long I wait, if I stack them, I get a gooey mess.

    Any ideas? Keep them in a single layer, not touching. put parchment on top then another layer of cookies. Are you using ganuche or straight chocolate? The cookies should be room temperature when you dip them. Mary @ KIng Arthur Flour.

    Reply
  11. Joie de vivre

    Those look absolutely gorgeous. I also think cutout cookies are kind of fussy, but these are so pretty, they look like they are worth the effort.

    Nice thing is, these are much LESS effort than most, since you avoid multiple colors of icing, and multiple fancy cutout shapes. You can do a lot with just white icing, colored sugar, and some graduated cutters. Have at it! – PJH

    Reply
  12. mary lenaburg

    How do you get the sugar to “stay” on the sugar cookie if you don’t want to ice them?

    Hi Mary – Take the egg white you have left over from the egg yolk you use in the recipe. Mix with 1 tablespoon cold water. Paint onto the cutout (unbaked) cookies, sprinkle with sugar, and bake. The eg white will “glue” the sugar to the cookies. PJH

    Reply
  13. Lyna

    The wealth of information and inspiration freely available in this blog and elsewhere on the site is supurb. Only to help KAF reach toward perfection do I mention an apparent error. Your link “cookie decorating tips” goes to ‘Decorated holiday cookies’ and at the end of the section ‘Making the cookies’ it has bit missing. The last sentence reads,”For more opaque glaze… try ” —- no recipe name given.
    I love to see your photos, but we escaped Michigan for Alabama 26 years ago, and haven’t needed a snow shovel since. I prefer snowflakes on the cookie tray!
    Thanks for letting us know of that error. It’s customers like you that keep us sharp and at our best. Mary @ King Arthur flour

    Reply
  14. Alissa

    YES!! I, too, prefer words over pretty visuals and great taste over attractive food. However, I have 2 young children who LOVE to decorate cookies. I have fond memories of decorating cookies as a child but my mom took the easy way out with slice and bake cookies. YUCK! What’s a girl to do? Thanks for the answer. Can’t wait to try them for the holidays.

    Have fun, Alissa – your kids will only be young for a short time. It’s so worth spending the time to do these seemingly little things, because they’re memory-builders- PJH

    Reply
  15. Adele Humphrey

    Do you happen to have a quick recipe for the chocolate ganache or a dark chocolate icing for dipping or drizzling over the cookies that will harden? Or can you just melt semi-sweet chocolate pieces and drizzle that?

    Also – when I bake butter cookies, I just sprinkle the colored sugar on the cookies, put them in the oven, and the sugar adheres to the cookie while it bakes. I’ve also used a small watercolor paintbrush to very lightly coat the cookies with water, sprinkle color sugar on them, and then bake. It sort of depends on how much sugar you really want on them. For me, the cookies are already sweet enough without adding too much additional sugar. But chocolate dipped cookies – now that’s a different story! There can never be too much chocolate on a cookie!

    Hi Adele – Try as I might, I can’t remember where I’ve stashed my drizzling chocolate recipe. It’s just chocolate chips melted with some vegetable to make it drizzlable – I believe it’s 1 cup chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons oil? Give it a try. Helps to refrigerate the cookies briefly after coating, to set the chocolate. Also, I’m thinking you could use shortening instead of oil, as it would set up at room temperature better- PJH

    Reply
  16. Joan Bjorness

    To avoid your cutout cookies from getting tough from the flour needed to roll them out, use confectioners sugar! I put some in a teaball infuser and shake it over my silicone mat and rolling pin — adds a bit of sweetness without the toughness!

    Excellent idea, Joan. I’ve done this with cocoa/chocolate cookies, but never thought to do it with confectioners’ sugar/vanilla cookies. Thanks! – PJH

    Reply
  17. Robby Griffin

    Love reading this blog, and I too, prefer to have a fabulous tasting something, rather than a pretty just okay. I must admit that the new sprinkles are too pretty to pass up and may need to get some so that I can adorn the tasty cookies with something equally as good as the cookie! One quick question, though, when you cut out the smaller stars, should you bake them along with the larger cookies, as their cooking time would be less? I could see me with beautiful large starts and toasted little stars. Or do they not need special attention? Or were they baked seperately on another sheet? Thanks again for all the goodies and inspiration!

    Robby, the little stars do get slightly browner than the big stars if you bake them together. But it helps if you put them in the center of the cookie sheet, surrounded by the bigger stars, as the cookies on the edge (the big stars) always bake faster. I’m just not that particular – didn’t mind having slightly browner little stars. But for sure you can bake them separately if you like. Have fun -PJH

    Reply
  18. Gayle Shelhamer

    I just have a question about the silicone rolling mat. I was so excited when I saw it thinking great now my cut out cookies won’t stick to my wooden mat any more and again I will enjoy making cut out cookies. Are you allowed to use cut outs on these mats? Won’t they damage them?

    Hi Gayle – I use cookie cutters on the mat, and press down VERY gently, just to cut through the dough. So long as you don’t push really hard on the cutter – don’t bear down on it – you should be fine. In fact, I cut biscuits and cookies both; but I wouldn’t use a rolling pizza wheel on it, that’s too sharp. PJH

    Reply
  19. Melissa

    PJ these are just what I am needing right now! Our church does a christmas program in December and we serve “homemade” cookies and hot cocoa at the end (since people have been outside for close to an hour). We usually need about 1,500 dozen cookies for the 4 night event. That’s a lot of cookies, but these look perfect for a nice change of pace and not too difficult to ice. Thanks so much!

    I love King Arthur and especially enjoy the blog.

    WOW – 1500 dozen cookies is as many cookies mentioned in one breath as I’ve ever heard! Holy mackerel… Good luck, Melissa, sounds like a nice affair. And these are nice, light, tender/crunchy cookies. It would be pretty easy to cut them in diamond shapes, actually – no re-rolling, and fast cutting. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  20. Kim

    This kind of cookie use to be a family tradition, starting when I use to help my mother to when I made them by myself for the family. We didn’t do fancy cakes or pies or candies, Christmas Cookies was our family thing. But than I got a job at a store in Michigan that is a Christmas store all year around and I worked in the eatery were we made Christmas cut out cookies all year around, spring, summer, fall, winter. I got burned out making them. Also my brother died and they was his favorite and kind of took the fun out of making them.

    I never had the problems of moving raw cut out dough from counter top to cookie sheet, or having them stick when they were frosted. I sometimes sprinkle the colored sugar on the raw cookie dough and I never do the egg white wash just straight onto the dough and they always stick. And I would make all different shapes and at home or work did different color frosting than.

    But I enjoyed reading this blog, brought back good memories and some nightmare ones….Christmas Cookies and Christmas music during the hottest part of a humid Michigan summer……LOL!!

    Oh, Kim – I can imagine, Christmas in Michigan in July… PHEW! I can see why you might get burned out on holiday cookies! But glad you enjoyed reliving old times here- PJH

    Reply
  21. Deb Zemek

    Hey, you’re one of us! I too belong to the “Oh no, did you see that? They used an apostrophe” or “they didn’t use an apostrophe…where were they on contraction day in English class?” I notice them all…mispellings, incorrect grammar and lack of/overuse of apostrophes. It drives me nuts. It drives everyone around me nuts. It’s nice to know there are more people out there like me!

    I too bought a big star cookie cutter and a little star cookie cutter on the advice of my mom who thought this very idea was a good one! I hate making cutout cookies but they do look great in my cookie baskets. I’m actually looking forward to making these!

    Deb, I always judge a restaurant by whether they spell “prosciutto” right – it’s the first thing I look for. I’m astounded at the signs I see – even neon signs! – with misspelled words. And the copy-editing of books and magazines these days… well, don’t get me started. Yes, I well recall 8th grade English class and Mrs. Murphy – we called her the Great Stone Face – watching us oh-so-painfully diagram sentences on the blackboard… So, tell your mom, GREAT idea. I especially like stars, too. Have fun- PJH

    Reply
  22. Lee

    Ooo! Ooo! I have a fun way to use star cut out cookies! We bought a set of graduated sized star cutters a few years ago (I think from KA?) anyway my little ones discovered you could stack the stars and make a tree! Put the largest star on the bottom and stack them up largest to smallest with icing glue then spoon, blob, drizzle, etc. more icing over the finished stack to look like snow/icicles and toss some colored sugar or sprinkles on for ornaments. If you use two of each size stacked so the spokes alternate you can get an even taller cookie tree. I’m with you, I don’t like doing cut-out cookies but I don’t mind letting the kids do it for me! :)

    Oh, yeah – forgot about that! Great idea, Lee. Great two ideas: 1) Make star trees, and 2) Don’t make star trees – let the KIDS make star trees. I’m with you- PJH

    Reply
  23. Jennifer

    Thank you for this recipe. We’ve (my mom and sisters) have lost the recipe we had while growing up. We’ve been trying to find a good replacement and have found mostly bad or really complicated recipes. We’ll have to try this one when we do our holiday baking. (and see how kid friendly it is.) With Mom’s grandkids ranging from 17 yrs down to 6 months we make the dough and let the kids have at, while we make the more “complicated” and grown up cookies.

    Hi Jennifer,
    I hope this recipe works for your family and who knows, it may become the new ‘traditional holiday cookie’ for someone in your family. Have a wonderful time baking and visiting with your family.

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  24. Joseph M. Burroughs

    I make a lot of cut out cookies. I find that to avoid them form getting tough, I slice open a zip top bag leaving the folded bottom intact and roll the chillded dough between the folded plastic. The freezer weight bags work the best and no extra flour is needed for rolling. It can be used over and over again as well.

    The plastic bag technique is popular in the test kitchen too. Susan Reid uses it for all pie crusts and cookies. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  25. Terri

    I am making and decorating cookies with a bunch of kids at church next month. I will try your recipe and decorating techniques with them.

    Hi Terri,
    Have a great time baking with the kids. It is always neat to see the different combinations and unique designs they come up with, I am always amazed.

    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  26. Nene

    I wonder… if you added cocoa powder to the glaze recipe, will you get a similarly hardening chocolate flavored glaze? For those of us who dislike sugar sprinkles. :-)

    Hi Nene,

    You could try adding some cocoa powder to the glaze. You’ll have to play with the amount until you get a consistency and look/flavor you are happy with. You can also try PJ’s idea and use leftover melted chocolate or ganache. Yum!!!
    Happy Baking!
    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  27. Denise

    I’m so glad to hear that there are other people out there who are “eat with you mouth” people. I’d much rather have something that tastes good than looks good! That’s my problem with cut-out cookies, so much work — rolling, cutting, baking, decorating and the taste is usually kind of blah. I don’t have the time or patience. Your cookies looked so good with the sugars that I’m going to have to get some. That looks so much better than the colored sugar you get in the grocery store!!

    Thanks again for another great recipe and advice. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve been inspired to bake after reading about it here!! :-)

    Reply
  28. Margy

    My sister and I traditionally get together to make sugar cookies for the holidays every year. We cut most of them ith a round cutter, sprinkle with colored sugar and bake, then stack them in Pringles cans to store. We used to have a lot of breakage since the dough is rolled so thin; hasn’t been a problem since we started doing this, and makes the process seem to go faster (we’re talking about 6-8 hours of rolling and cutting!). We always save some dough for the kids to roll out and decorate after school (What, you made the sugar cookies without us!!) We make stained glass cookies by cutting out the centers just as you did, but filling it with crushed hard candy before baking; it melts into a lovely clear window. Just be sure to use foil or a silpat underneath, or your cookies will be permanently glued to your cookie sheet! (done it! :-O)

    Reply
  29. Nel

    Back to the thing about chocolate-coating cookies… I followed the recipe the first time. It says to use 6 ounces of semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted, with 4 teaspoons of shortening. I dipped the cookies when they were completely cool – even cold, since I did it in winter, and had a window open in the room while I was working, to help the chocolate set faster. This was an absolute disaster. I ended up with mess. The chocolate simply WOULD NOT set up, no matter that I left them overnight in a cool room. (I don’t like to refrigerate chocolate ‘coating,’ since the moisture in my fridge can cause a ‘mist’ of moisture on the cookies.) I tried refrigerating them, despite my scruples about that, and the chocolate coating was STILL tacky when they came out of the fridge. It got soft and gooey again and never hardened up.

    I needed to transport them, so I stacked them in single layers with parchment between each layer. (Waxed paper is not a universal kitchen supply; it doesn’t exist in the country where I live. There is a shiny ‘sandwich-wrapping’ paper, but it isn’t waxed.) I stored them in the fridge this way overnight. Within a two hours, when the box was opened, there was a mess because the chocolate coating was sticking to the paper, to people’s fingers, and was soft and gooey on the cookies.

    The next time I used the recipe, I did not use the vegetable fat. When I made hand-dipped chocolates, we didn’t add vegetable fat, just used high-quality chocolate. I figured if the chocolate was hard in the bar on the shelf, it would eventually harden on the cookies. It did firm up much better, but it was still tacky and likely to come off on people’s fingers.

    I have a hard time believing that ganache – even a thick one, like we use for truffle centers – would not be too soft for the kind of hard chocolate coating I’m trying to get. I want something that will allow me to put the cookies out on a plate at room temperature, and not have the chocolate coating left behind on the plate when someone picks up a cookie. And of course, I want to be able to store the dipped cookies. I can’t have five dozen cookies laid out in a single layer on my countertop. But that seems to be the only way to store cookies with a chocolate coating.

    How do the pros get chocolate-coated cookies to have a firm chocolate coating? There’s got to be a secret out there.

    Hi Nel,
    The firm coating with ‘snap’ to it is tempered chocolate. This means the crystals in the chocolate are aligned and the chocolate sets up to a firm shiny coat. The easiest way to temper chocolate is to melt slowly 3/4 of the chocolate you are using, then take it off the heat, add the last 1/4 and stir gently until it is melted. A few small unmelted chunks is fine. If you can dip the tip of a knife into the chocolate and it sets to a firm hard coat in less than 1 minute, you are good to go.

    Hope this helps.
    Happy Baking! MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  30. Nel

    Another reason for not doing sugar cookies or cut-out cookies was that – as another poster said – the flavor always seems blah. As kids, we used to lick of the sugar frosting and then try to ditch the hard, flavorless cookies. Last time I made cut-out cookies, I used a combination of orange and cream flavorings instead of vanilla or almond. (Not sure you can get cream flavor in the US; it’s in every grocery store in Poland, where I live, though.) The flavor was like an orange creamcicle, if you have those where you are. Very nice. I was just making pastel, frosted cookies for spring, so the pale pink was flavored with raspberry (I stirred raspberry juice into the icing for color and flavor – very delicate), I made a pale tan colored and flavored with espresso powdered ‘melted’ in a few drops of vanilla, and pale orange (with squeezed-out finely grated orange zest for the color and flavor: food coloring isn’t used over here except those tablets for Easter eggs).

    I was surprised how delighted my colleagues were with these ‘plain’ cookies, especially after such exotic treats as maple-walnut cookies and cranberry-white chocolate-walnut cookies, ginger creams and snickerdoodles.

    Nel, our Fiori di Sicilia flavor is orange and vanilla, and gives that same Creamsicle effect – YUM! PJH

    Reply
  31. Nel

    Thanks for the tip about tempering the chocolate – which is what I did when making chocolates by hand. I’ll try again, but while it DID harden on a knife, it just didn’t get brittle on the cookies. Grrr…

    I find that Fiori di Sicilia, being vanilla and orange, isn’t the same as cream flavor and orange. In Poland, they use cream-flavor for things like pudding – cream flavored pudding is popular here. You can even buy cream-flavored ice cream – go figure! (But since the word for ‘ice cream’ here really translates more like ‘ices’ and usually has skim milk, not cream, maybe cream flavor makes sense!) When I put together cream flavor and orange, it tastes like cream, not vanilla. It’s hard to describe how cream plus orange tastes. Add orange to whipped cream, or think orange ice cream, perhaps. No – I know: orange sorbet with lots of real (not ultra-pasturized) cream blended through it. But really CREAM flavored – no hint of vanilla at all.

    Reply
  32. Teresa

    Just made some of these. They taste great and I like the little snap from the cornstarch. As much as I like the way cutout cookies look, they are too time consuming for gifts. Besides, I might end up eating most of them.

    I made the mistake of only using 1 stick + 2 Tbsp of butter in my first batch. I realized it when after adding the flour, it didn’t quite come together. So does anyone have suggestions on salvaging the dough or is there something else I can make with it? I’d just hate to throw it out.

    I wonder if you melted that other stick of butter and mixed it in slowly, if that would work. If it does, chill overnight before using. I think you might be able to do this; certainly better than throwing out. Otherwise, you can add more flour, cinnamon, and turn it into streusel topping! – PJH

    Reply
  33. Jennifer

    When I moved from PA to CA I found many of my butter rich cut-out cookies almost impossible to roll, cut and not have them melt.

    I have found two solutions – First one is inexpensive and simple. I roll my dough on parchment paper, cut the designs and pull up the leftover dough, leaving the pretty cut-outs in place. I then slide the parchment onto my cookie sheet.

    Second solution was a gift called a Big Chill Pastry Board. Has ice packs that you store in the freezer and place inside the pastry board before rolling the dough.

    Reply
  34. Teresa

    Thanks PJ! I crumbled up the dough as finely as I could and then added the stick of cooled melted butter. I chilled it overnight as suggested and it worked out fine. I’m glad to have salvaged the batch of dough, though I’m looking for another scoop and bake holiday cookie. I too am a lazy baker.

    Glad it worked for you, Teresa. Stay tuned for my Vanilla Dreams blog next Tuesday; in the meanwhile, check out the recipe online… PJH

    Reply
  35. Angela

    Hello Everyone..

    I was so excited to find this site and all the goodies that they sell for baking..since I am a nut when it comes to baking and cooking I am looking foward to collecting some good information and meeting others that have the same thing in common!

    I have a ton of good cookie recipes that I can share with those interested.
    Ruggleah is one of my favorites..a lot of work..but well worth it!

    Reply
  36. Pam

    This receipe is wonderful. I’m on my 3rd batch. My black lab enjoyed the entire first batch. I use cofectioner’s sugar when rolling out instead of flour.

    Reply
  37. Amy

    Just out of curiousity, what happened to the recipe for Gold Standard cutout cookies that used to be on the site? That recipe is fantastic. The dough is a dream to work with and the Fiori di Sicilia is an amazingflavor.

    These have been renamed; Holiday Butter Cookies. Sorry for the confusion. Frank from KAF.

    Actually, the Gold Standard recipe was renamed AND amended. We found this new version produces a noticeably tastier, somewhat more tender (yet still very crisp) cookie. PJH

    Reply
  38. Angela

    I have been baking real butter sugar cookies for many years & I can say, I have not tasted a better version than my own… even in a upscale pastry shop. Yes indeed they are ALOT of fuss & VERY time consuming. However, if you have ever tasted a truly great sugar cookie, there is nothing like it! Every year family & friends rave about my cookies & look forward to my cookie gifts.
    (Warning: being an artist & probably spending way too much time on decorating & designs is definitely exhausting)

    I believe what makes a truly tasty sugar cookie is using the best ingredients you can buy. Since discovering King Arthur flour years ago, it’s the only flour I use. Also rolling them thinner, & baking them for the precise time… not too light & not too dark.
    Perhaps what turns people off from sugar cookies most often are the obnoxious icing colors, bright colored sugars/sprinkles & cookies rolled too thick? I personally, don’t find any of this appetizing.
    Decorating cookies can be lots of fun with the little ones.They can be absolutely beautiful & don’t have to appear so juvenile.
    Try decorating your cookies with very light pastels (tiny drops of color) or even just white royal icing & non-colored sugar tends to make them more appetizing, more desirable, and definitely more professional. Happy Baking to All & Happy Holidays •<I;o }

    Reply
  39. "Plain Jane"

    Like many commenters, I definitely don’t like to spend the time to make cut-out cookies. And usually the cookie itself has very little flavor.
    Then several years ago, I ran across a recipe that the dough is pressed into a jelly roll pan, baked, and immediately cut with a cookie cutter; after cooling, I decorate these. These are thicker than rolled cookies, and they taste so good!
    When I started pressing the dough into the pan the first time I made them, I kept thinking “This will never work. This just will not work!” But it did!!!
    I have used this same recipe to cut & decorate cookies for my daughter’s kindergarten class (she is now in graduate school!), to decorate cookies for a classmate’s bridal shower, decorate cookies matching the theme for an in-service training at work, etc.
    I don’t even attempt to make rolled & cut-out cookies, but these baked & cut-out cookies are terrific!!
    Wow! I’ve been baking cookies for 30 years now, and never heard of baking in a pan then cutting before. You can bet I’ll be giving this a try soon. Thanks for sharing!~ MaryJane

    Reply
  40. narfing

    Are these soft sugar cookies, or crisp like a shortbread?
    Thanks!

    They certainly look like a crisp cookie to me!-Jon

    Jon’s right – they’re crunchy/crisp. PJH

    Reply
  41. Diane B.

    I am so glad that the ones inside look closer to what mine look like, that picture on the front of the post with the three perfect cookies was a little intimidating.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I like to keep it real, Diane. I am NOT a fancy cookie maker! But I do usually try it once a year… Hey, beauty is only crust deep, that’s what I tell myself. And as long as they taste good, and people enjoy them – what does it matter if they look perfect? :) PJH

  42. JR

    Rather than using just flour to roll the cookies, try using a mix of half 10x sugar and half flour. This keeps the make-up of the cookies from getting to flour tasting.

    I roll the cookies so thin that after baking they are only potato chip thick. A winner with everyone. But, light on decorations, certainly not icing on them.

    Reply
  43. SMF

    PJ, I have for the last 24 years hosted an annual Christmas cookie decorating party. (After spending many many years as a child decorating them for giving away to teachers and such.) It is something I do enjoy, and it’s been fun over the years to learn new ways and techniques from the people who attend the party. I shall add some of the techniques you demonstrate here.

    Reply
  44. Lynn Spann Bowditch

    okay – please define for me the concept of “leftover” chocolate ganache. never heard of such a thing before in my life.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lynn, it’s what happens when you make a LOT – a REAL LOT – of ganache when there’s no one else around… :) PJH

  45. Noelle

    I am of the grammar police ilk, but a serious cookie decorator too. I do like to make decorated sugar cookies and enjoy the work as something to take my mind off more serious things. I have learned to roll my dough between two sheets of parchment before chilling, then slide the rolled dough into the fridge. About 20-30 minutes later, I cut it and can safely move the shapes to different pans. The chilled shapes also keep their shape better when baking, and I’m adding no extra flour to the dough. Certainly less mess too!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Noelle, that’s a great idea – I’ve never thought of chilling on parchment before the “dreaded” transfer, when so often shapes get all bent out of shape! Thanks so much for sharing – PJH

  46. RHytonen

    I did these (basically) but decided to make a log, chill and slice it.
    I like round, cut-edge cookies.
    I also added about 1/3 cup of Myers’ rum, and 1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla as the flavoring.
    As the wife was asleep I couldn’t find the confectioner’s sugar, so I used granulated.
    They came out perfect, well balanced, and delicious- mouth-watering, in fact-
    but maybe because I sliced them thicker than you would roll them,
    they took almost twice as long to bake. NP.
    Oh, also I mixed the dough with an elevator KA mixer, she said that’s unorthodox…I gather its usually done by hand.
    I think granulated sugar worked because I used the liquid of the rum and mixing it more dissolved it well. I like the lttle pits that baking out the alcohol creates in the cookies.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sounds like all your tweaks worked out great – thanks for sharing your experience here. And just a note – I always use a KA stand mixer to mix cookie dough; I never do it by hand. Cheers – PJH

  47. Stephanie

    First let me say that I am not a chef, my children think I should be a pastry chef so they gave me this email address.
    This is the best sugar cookie recipe ever, I added your lemon powder and wow.
    My only problem is that they did not hold their shape while baking unless I put them in the freezer for a few minutes on the cookie sheet to get really chilled and baked them at 375*.
    Is there something I have done wrong?
    Thank you for your help. A very avid King Arthur fan.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If it is warm in your kitchen, chilling the dough is an excellent way to help firm it up again.~Jaydl@KAF

  48. "Baker Jenn"

    I am prepping for a visit with the Grandkids next week and these cookies are on the list. Can I make the dough ahead and freeze it?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Yes, absolutely, Jenn. Get it to the point where you’d refrigerate, then freeze instead. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using. Good luck! PJH

  49. Barbara Macey

    Years ago I made many “cut out” cookies with lots of different shapes. So loved all of them & the fun the children & I had together.

    The children are now adults with no desire for cookies–I decorate the tree with the cutters & the coppery ones pick up the shining lights & are beautiful. People who see the trees always regret tossing theirs or giving them to charities.

    The cutters have so many wonderful memories–give them try. They can always be used again for cutting out cookies. Thank you PJ for your honest discussions/tips.

    Reply
  50. Marcia Wilheim

    I apologize in advance if this has been addressed. I live at an arid 7,000′ and baking can be a challenge! This cookie dough is wonderful, except it won’t hold together, even with addition of 1 T water.
    I think there was too much flour for my altitude. (?)
    Also the few I managed to bake (rolled 1/8″ thick w/medium star cutouts) were very brown at 10 min at 350. Hmmm….. ??
    But, THEY WERE DELICIOUS!!
    So, could you advise how to recast this recipe? Thank you so very much. LOVE KAF!!!

    Reply

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