Cookie cutters are a lot of fun to work with, since you can create cookies in all kinds of amazing shapes and designs. The one thing that you really need for cut out cookies is a good cookie dough that is versatile and easy to work with. This recipe for Cut-Out Sugar Cookies is a great choice for just about any type of cookie cutter that you might have in your pantry. The cookies are sweet and buttery, with a hint of vanilla to them. They are excellent on their own, but plain enough that they can handle the addition of some icing or glaze if you decide to decorate them, too. The dough also holds its shape extremely well, which means that you can use very detailed cookie cutters and the dough will still hold its shape after baking.
Vanilla is the most versatile flavor for these sugar cookies, but if you get bored with vanilla, it is easy to add other flavors into the dough. You can substitute a portion of the vanilla extract with another extract – lemon, almond, peppermint, etc. – or you can stir some fresh citrus zest into the dough for a bright pop of flavor. The cookies will be slightly crisp when they’re rolled out to about 1/4-inch thick. For a slightly softer cookie, you can roll the cookie dough out thicker or decrease the baking time by a minute or so.
This dough is very forgiving and can be rolled out multiple times. It also keeps very well in the refrigerator for several days when well-wrapped with plastic wrap, if you want to make it in advance and have it on hand. The only thing that you’ll need to keep in mind when working with this dough is that it can become very firm when it has been in the fridge for a long time, so you may need to let it warm up for a few minutes before trying to roll it out. If you press your dough into thin discs before refrigerating, you shouldn’t have much of a problem. If the dough becomes slightly sticky as you work, just pop it back into the fridge for a few minutes before continuing to work with it to keep your cut-outs nice and neat.
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract (and lemon zest, if using), then gradually blend in the flour mixture with the mixer on low speed. When the dough comes together, divide it in half.
Press each portion of the dough into a flat disc and wrap well with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take chilled dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a lightly floured cookie cutter to cut desired shapes, then transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 11-14 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies, until cookies are just beginning to turn light brown at the edges. Cool cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield depends on the size of the cookie cutters used, but this will make a large batch of cookies!