- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 2 hours
- makes 40 cookies (depending on the cookie cutter size; you can halve or quarter the recipe)
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!
This recipe was re-tested and revised in January 2022, based on helpful feedback from the community. We hope you give these a try again and let us know how it goes! —Amanda Hesser
Test Kitchen Notes
There's no better time to make cookies into fun, festive shapes than the holidays. Keep in mind that this recipe makes a lot of dough, so much so that you can make up to 80 cookies, depending on how you shape them, of course. But we say the more cookies, the better! It's definitely an ideal time to host a cookie decorating party, but you can halve or quarter the recipe if you don't anticipate on making this many cookies. Yes, the recipe calls for 1¼ pounds of butter as well as 4 cups of sugar and 8 cups of all-purpose flour. With pantry ingredients and lots of optional add-ins, you'll soon discover that this will become your go-to sugar cookie recipe. And what better way to use up all those baking ingredients you have lying around?
One of the keys to these cookies is making sure that they're very thin, so about ⅛ inch thick, when you're rolling out the dough. This results in the best texture by far and will make cutting and shaping them easier. The best part is that you can make these cookies well ahead of time. Amanda, the developer, made them for the holidays, then stored them in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and was then able to eat the cookies for Easter, four months later, and they were still as good as the day she made them. Pretty amazing, right? So go ahead and bake and shape as many cookies as your sweet-lovin' heart desires. —The Editors
sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
fine sea salt
all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
Finely chopped walnuts or sliced almonds (optional)
Sanding sugar (optional)
Dried citron or candied cherries, finely chopped (optional)
- A day before baking the cookies: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand, in a large bowl with a wooden spoon), mix the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, mixing until incorporated after each addition, then mix in the vanilla and salt. Gradually work in the flour and mix just until incorporated; avoid overmixing. Divide the dough into halves and shape each dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, add some cold water. Take out one disc of dough.
- Generously flour your work surface. Turn out the dough, then flour again. Roll the dough about ⅛ 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 parchment-lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Brush with a bit of water and decorate with chopped nuts, sanding sugar, or diced citron, whatever you like!
- Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges; I like to turn the baking sheet 180 degrees after 5 minutes to help them bake evenly. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Repeat with the remaining 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.)