Sugar Cookie Cutouts

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Nice, thick, soft, chewy sugar cookies decorated with a sweet vanilla icing, sanding sugar, and candies.  They just scream Christmas!  I’ve been baking these Sugar Cookie Cutouts, along with Gingerbread men, every Christmas for probably the past 20 years.  This recipe is adapted from a recipe for Sugar Cookies in a cookbook I was given years ago titled “The Christmas Cookie Book”, by Lou Seibert Pappas.  I love to bake these and give them away to friends and family because everyone loves them so much.  They do require a lot of time, but like my Gingerbread Cookies, I split the work up into three stages:  make the dough one day, bake the the cookies within 3 days or freeze the dough, then decorate them and package them up the final day.

I typically make a double batch of dough — one batch to freeze and one batch to bake within the next few days.  I split the dough into four disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator or freezer.  If freezing, wrap in aluminum foil as well.

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When you’re ready to bake the cookies, you’ve got to let them sit out at room temperature until the dough becomes softer so it’s easy to roll.  I’ve been guilty of microwaving my dough in the plastic wrap for only 10 seconds in a pinch (meaning I forgot to pull it out earlier).  Not ideal, but hey, it works.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface.  I invested in a large silicone baking mat several years ago for my dough rolling needs, and I highly recommend it.  It keeps the counters clean too.  That’s always a bonus.

Now, a word on cookie thickness.  I like my cookies soft, thick, and chewy, so the dough should be about 1/4″ thick, maybe even a little more.  If you like them thin and crispy, roll them to about 1/8″ thickness.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet to keep them from sticking and to keep you from having to wash one more thing.  The thicker the cookie, the longer the baking time, so just keep an eye on them.  When the edges have browned ever so slightly, they’re done.  Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool.

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Can’t you just smell them?

I like to place the cooled cookies on a sheet of waxed paper for the decorating process to keep my counters cleaner.  Again, I’m all about saving myself some clean-up time.  Making sugar cookies can be a very messy job, but you can limit the mess!  As for the icing, there are lots of ways to go.  You can get real fancy and make royal icing with meringue powder, or make a simple vanilla icing, which I did for these, or the simplest of all, milk and powdered sugar icing.  I have tried them all.  Personally, the flavor of royal icing was not for me, but I will say that it is great for piping and it really stays put.  I’ve often used the milk and powdered sugar icing, which is just dumping a bunch of powdered sugar in a bowl and adding a little milk at a time until it’s the right spreading consistency for you.  When I’m really lazy, I just buy a bottle of Wilton’s white icing in a big squeeze bottle and pipe it around the edges.  It’s great when you want to cut corners.  As I mentioned, I made the simple Vanilla Icing this year and piped the icing around the edges of the cookies using a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip.  I’m not a great decorator as I don’t have a lot of patience.  I decorated 7 dozen sugar cookies and gingerbread men by myself as my kids didn’t want to help, and by cookie #30, I was already growing weary.

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This is but a few dozen of them.  I ate the rest…..just kidding.  I really did give most of them away.  Once the cookies are decorated, leave them on the counter to set.  Package them in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper for about 4-5 days.  No refrigeration necessary.

These cookies are a fabulous gift, and a great addition to your Christmas cookie platter.  Who doesn’t like a shiny, delicious, sugar cookie?   Enlist some help from your kids or family members — it’s a great way to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.  Start your baking tradition today!

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs
 
Sweet and buttery sugar cookies are made irresistible when they're cut out into shapes, topped with vanilla icing, and decorated with sanding sugars and the candies of your choice.
Serves: 6 dozen or so, depending on cookie cutter size and thickness
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Vanilla Icing:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk. Add to the butter mixture, beating just until combined.
  3. Scrape half of the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk, wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hours or use within 3 days. Repeat with the other half of the dough. If freezing, also wrap in aluminum foil and place in the freezer for up to one month.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to ¼" thickness for softer, chewier cookies, or ⅛" for thinner, crispier cookies. Cut into desired shapes using lightly floured cookie cutters. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet about 1½" apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, or leave plain and ice after they're baked.
  5. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
  6. For the Vanilla Icing, sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Stir in the hot water, corn syrup, and vanilla until continue to stir until smooth. Add more hot water if necessary. Spread the icing over the tops of the cooled cookies, or pipe it on with a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip. Immediately sprinkle with sanding sugars, and decorate with the candies of your choice. Let the cookies stand at room temperature until the icing has set.
  7. Store cookies in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper for 4-5 days.