I have written about cutout cookies before, so I will try to bring everything together in this article. Cutout Cookies are fun for either the little ones, or even older kids-at-heart. It was a ritual in our house for the girls to decorate cookies; I have a blurry picture of when they were just 6 and 8 years old sitting up at the kitchen counter decorating cookies. And a few years ago, we had an adult decorating party where all of us were over 65 years of age.
Over the Christmas Holidays, I took all my cookie decorating supplies to Seattle; Mindy wanted to learn about decorating cookies like I showed in my article about the cookie decorating class. While my results are in that article, these snowflakes are what she created.
About a year ago, I spent considerable time trying to find a recipe that would allow me to make cutout cookies that didn’t spread when cooked. I wanted to make two identical hearts such that I could stack them. I wanted to cut a small heart out of the top cookie so that I could fill it with red for a different valentine cookie. I never did solve the spread problem, but I found that Short Bread cookies seemed to spread the least. So, I initially said that we should use Short Bread cookies for cutout cookies.
Then, I took the Decorette Shop‘s cookie decorating class; they were using Sugar Cookies for cutouts! So after class, I came home and pulled out several recipes and started testing them as the basis for my cutout cookies. I had also learned between the class and one of the recipes I found that I should freeze the cookies before cooking them to reduce the spread. So I am putting all that new knowledge into this article and recipe for cutout cookies.
Ethel’s Sugar Cookies
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
- Cream the shortening, butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes.
- Add eggs and flavoring and mix until creamy.
- Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Divide the dough into two parts; put each part in a sheet of plastic wrap.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- On a lightly floured surface, unwrap one package of dough and roll to 1/4 inch thick.
- Cut out the desired figures with cookie cutters and place on an un-greased baking sheet. If NOT icing the cookies, sprinkle with sugar before cooking.
- Put the baking sheet with the cutout cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes.
- Reshape the leftover dough into a disk and re-wrap it in the plastic wrap and put it back in the refrigerator to cool.
- Bake the cookies from the freezer for 8-10 minutes; let the cookies cool on the baking sheet elevated on a cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving the cookies off the baking sheet onto a cooling rack.
- While baking the first batch of cutout cookies, use the second package of cooled dough and repeat the above directions for rolling, cutting and freezing.
- Keep the cookies perfectly flat from the time they come from the oven until they are completely cooled on the racks; otherwise they will break. If they do break, try to fit them together again immediately. If that doesn’t work, you will be able to glue them together with icing later.
I originally thought that Royal Icing was just powdered sugar and water. That was what we used when the group of “over 65 years” decorated cookies. The problem is that the icing is too thin, and you can not pipe it into dams to stop the slow bleeding of colors into each other. Again, I learned that you need to thicken the icing and pipe dams around each color when I attended the cookie decorating class.
Decorette Shop Royal Icing
- 1/4 cup meringue powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 5 1/2 Tablespoons water
- 1 lb. powdered sugar
Place in grease-free bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.
Now the trick is to use this Royal Icing. The recipe gives you a version of icing that can be piped. Two things are now necessary. First, take some of the icing and place it in a clean bowl and add the food coloring you want to use. I actually decided that the Decorette Shop was correct and bought the “gel paste” food colors as they do not add a lot of moisture into the icing. but you can use the more liquid food colors available at food stores; just remember you may need to add more powdered sugar to take up the extra moisture and keep the icing pipe-able.
Once the icing is colored, you will want to thin out part of it so that it self-levels when put on the cookie. So first load some of the colored icing into your piping bag with a small(#3 or #4) tip. This will be used to build dams around the areas you want to color. Thin the rest of the icing with a very small amount of water; like a teaspoon amount at a time, and then mix it in real well. You are trying to thin the icing to the point that when you drop some of it back into the dish, it self levels in about 5 seconds.
Hints and Suggestions
- Don’t try to cut out cookies with the plastic cutters that are only 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, and have all the interesting markings that are suppose to transfer to the cookie. They are not worth the money. They mash the dough and it ends up stuck in the cutter. After trying to use them, I have settled on using only outline shaped cutters that are at least as deep as the dough is rolled out.
- To measure 1/4 inch thick for rolling out the dough, I made a couple sticks that I place on either side of the dough, close enough so the rolling pin stays at that height. I know you can buy bands that fit on the ends of your rolling pin to keep the correct thickness, too. I have also used a section of clothes closet dowel as a longer rolling pin so the dough can be rolled out wider, and more cookies can be cut at one time.
- If you break a cookie, you can use Royal Icing as glue to put it back together.
- At some point, the two packages of dough in the refrigerator will need to be brought together.
If you want to get more decorating ideas beyond just colored icing, you might look at the article I wrote after attending the cookie decorating class. You will find it here.