Holiday Cut-Out Cookies

By • November 26, 2012 • 30 Comments

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Author Notes: This is my mother’s recipe. She’s a stickler for details, which plays to her advantage when it comes to baking. Her cut-out cookies are always the thinnest and prettiest and have the most restrained amount of decoration. Contrary to the plump and pale versions you often see, cut-out cookies should be very thin with browned edges, so they’re crisp and nutty! - AmandaAmanda Hesser

Food52 Review: “These cookies really do improve with age, so it’s a smart idea to make them at least 2 weeks before you want to eat them. This is also a healthy challenge. Be strong!” - AmandaThe Editors

Makes 80 cookies (depending on the cookie cutter size; you can halve or quarter the recipe)

  • 1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white
  • Finely chopped walnuts or sliced almonds (optional)
  • Sanding sugar (optional)
  • Dried citron or candied cherries, finely chopped (optional)
  1. A day before baking the cookies: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or by hand, in a bowl with a wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one by one, mixing after each addition, then the vanilla. Gradually work in the flour until a dough forms. Wrap the dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat the oven to 350° F. Whisk together the egg white and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Cut the dough into quarters and keep three-quarters cold while working with the first quarter.
  3. Generously flour your work surface. Lay down the dough. Flour again. Roll the dough into a large circle, about 1/8-inch thick -- and no thicker! Use cookie cutters to cut into shapes. It helps to dip the cutters into flour between every 2 cookies; this will prevent sticking. Place the cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Brush with the egg wash and decorate with chopped nuts, sanding sugar, or diced citron -- whatever you like!
  4. Bake the cookies until they are lightly browned on the edges, 8 to 10 minutes -- I like to turn the baking sheet 180 degrees after 5 minutes to help them bake evenly. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. (Repeat with the rest of the dough.) Place the cookies in a tin or storage container with a tight lid and let age 1 to 2 weeks to bring out the flavor. (I have eaten them at Easter, 4 months later, and they were still delicious.)
Jump to Comments (30)

Tags: baking, Christmas, cookies, gifts, holiday cookies

Comments (30) Questions (1)

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8 months ago Ella

Do you store these at room temp or in the fridge?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

8 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Room temp.

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8 months ago Ella

Thanks!

Ashley

11 months ago Ashley Marie

LOVE LOVE LOVE. We made these with mini star/snowflake/Christmas tree/gingerbread men cookie cutters, brushed some of them with egg white and water and others with egg yolk and water, then sprinkled with either large sugar pieces or Christmas sprinkles or nothing at all and they were all gorgeous! The mini ones just look so good as adorable fillers for your cookie bags/boxes for neighbors and friends.

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12 months ago Barb

Does it matter if I use salted butter?
Barb

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

12 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

It's so funny that you ask this because I was just at the grocery store 10 minutes ago, buying butter for this recipe and wondering the SAME THING! I actually bought both so I could do the dough half salted/half unsalted, just to be safe. So I don't know the answer yet but I will tell you that the "secret" to these Secret Cookies is using salted butter: http://food52.com/recipes...

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12 months ago I_Fortuna

I, too, have been looking for a new cut out cookie recipe. These are beautiful! I will be using sugar free Swerve powdered sugar for the royal icing since we are diabetic as are our neighbors. I was so glad I found it because I was looking all over for a sugar free icing. These cookies look like they will hold up well. I would like to use this recipe for Springerle cookies, will it work for them? Thanks for this recipe!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

12 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

I'm not sure the dough will be stiff enough to hold the springerle shapes but it's worth trying -- also I have a springerle recipe on the site here: http://food52.com/recipes...

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12 months ago Trena

I just made a batch of these beauties. They are the most delicious cut-out cookies I've ever had! Sorry mom.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

12 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Trena, so glad they turned out well!

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12 months ago Richa Gupta

Hi Amanda..I've never baked sugar cookies before and I want to surprise my family this year with decorated sugar cookies. Can I decorate these with Royal Icing in pretty colors as well?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

12 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes -- sure! They'll look great.

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about 1 year ago Sunnycovechef

I can't wait to make these cookies, my mom made similar ones. I think the secret is in making them thin.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Totally agree! My mother was adamant about getting them thin -- and she rolled out the dough on cold marble so she could get them thin without warming up the dough.

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12 months ago chantalemarie

These are really fantastic. Strait in to my little black binder where only the best recipes go. Thanks again. I like these so much, I suspect they will be in the cookie tin more often than Christmas. I've made the dough twice in the last month!

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about 1 year ago chantalemarie

Thanks Amanda. Thanks for sharing this really great family recipe. I have tried a ton of sugar cookie recipes always wondering why they are so paltry. Thanks for all the great tips. I really love that these get better with age, thought that is hard to imagine. On my list this year for sure!

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

about 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, and hope they turn out well for you!

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almost 2 years ago IowaHeirlooms

This is a great recipe, thank you. Perfect for holiday baking. Very forgiving dough (I'm the one who kept it in the fridge for a week before I got back to baking it.) Can be rolled quite thin, holds shape, crisp and sweet and very pretty with crushed nuts on top. I pressed the trimmings together and rolled them into a cylinder, chilled it again, and sliced into thin rounds for the last pan so I didn't have to waste a bit of dough. love it.

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almost 2 years ago IowaHeirlooms

oh dear--how long can the dough be kept before baking? this recipe looks great, I made a batch right away, put it in the fridge, and missed my window for baking the next day. It's been in the fridge for a week--can I still bake with it? many thanks

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

almost 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks to all the butter and sugar, it keeps for a week or two, so I think you're all set.

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almost 2 years ago IowaHeirlooms

hooray and thank you. baking tomorrow!

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almost 2 years ago Madame Sel

Do you age the cookies in fridge or on the counter? Can you freeze the finished cookie?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

almost 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

On the counter, in a tightly sealed container. My mother puts them in a large tin, lined with wax paper. I've never frozen them but I don't see why not. They're a firm cookie so they should hold up. Not sure how the sanding sugar would do, though.

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almost 2 years ago Renée (RJ Flamingo) Joslyn

Can you provide an approximate baking time? You know - roughly how long should they be in the oven before I start peeking? :D

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

almost 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Whoops! Sorry about that -- just fixed it. If it's not showing up yet, the time is 8 to 10 minutes, and I turn the baking sheets halfway through to help them bake evenly. Also, the timing depends on how thinly you roll them. 1/8 inch will take 8 to 10 but any thicker can take a minute or two more. Keep an eye on them, they turn quickly!

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almost 2 years ago Renée (RJ Flamingo) Joslyn

Thanks!

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almost 2 years ago Als2317

How well does this dough freeze? I would like to make some this weekend, and then again in a week or two. Can't wait to try them! Thanks.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

almost 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Well! The cookies in the photo above were made with dough that was previously frozen. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap -- we did 2 layers -- then stick it in the freezer. I let it thaw overnight in the fridge.

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almost 2 years ago Angela

the concept of these reminds me a lot of my mother-in-laws Christmas cut-outs! before I made cookies with her, I thought they should be "plump and pale." I'll try these (and the sweet potato latkes) this weekend with our son!

P.S. I love that you admitted to eating Christmas cookies at Easter. Too awesome! :)

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almost 2 years ago thirschfeld

I have been looking for a new cut-out cookie recipe. Seems I have tried them all and never been happy with any. This one looks really, really good!