My Favorite Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

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Sugar cookies!  I won’t lie – in general, they’re not my favorite.  They always look cute, and are fun to make and decorate, but flavor-wise, I always thought we could do better.  I mean, give me a choice between a fatty chocolate chip number and a perfectly iced sugar cookie, and there’s no mistaking which one I’m going to choose (the former, for the win every time).

There’s something inherently nostalgic about the sugar cookie, sure, but why are they always so bland?  Or overly sweet, or pale and pasty and just kind of fake-tasting?

We can do better!

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Here, I present to you: sugar cookie redemption.  These are simple and just sweet enough, perfectly buttery, light and tender-crumbed – you’ll enjoy eating them as much as making them!  And that is saying something.

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So, yes, these are the “caramelized” version – let’s not go straight to “burned,” okay?  (I mean, I can barely see my toes anymore, so give a girl a break…) But you’ll do better than I will, and might actually set a timer so you don’t get to chatting with your mom on the phone and completely forget about the COOKIES IN THE OVEN.  So.  That’ll be good.

And, if you’re celebrating Valentine’s day this weekend, these little guys are perfect for cutting into hearts and busting out the cute sprinkles (if that’s your thing), or maybe just, not?  It doesn’t matter.  Either way we have cookies.

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My Favorite Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Barely adapted from The Kitchn

I love how these come out perfectly every time, and never lose their shape in the oven (chilling the dough in the freezer is key!).  They’re also super adaptable — add a splash of almond extract or a touch of orange zest to the dough, and you’ve got yourself a whole new cookie profile.

I love simple sprinkles on top, but feel free to go nuts with glaze or icing or a chocolate-ganache-cookie-sandwich situation — it’s your (cookie) party, after all.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined.  Add the sugar, and cream together until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla and lemon zest, and beat to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and beat gently, just until a soft dough comes together.

Divide the dough into two balls, and roll each ball out between two pieces of parchment paper until 1/4-inch thick.  Leave the rolled-out dough between the parchment, and transfer to a sheet pan, stacking the parchment-sandwiched dough slabs on top of each other.

At this point, the dough can be flash-frozen – place the sheet pan in the freezer until the dough is firm, then remove the cookie dough from the sheet pan, wrap the dough slabs tightly with plastic wrap and store in the freezer until ready to use.  (Simply let the dough thaw at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting cookies and baking).

If you want to use the cookie dough right away, let it chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or the freezer for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Once chilled, cut out shapes in the dough with cookie cutters, and arrange on the prepared sheet pan.  If you like, brush the unbaked cookies gently with water and top with colorful sprinkles (if you want to ice or glaze the cookies, don’t do this).

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the sides are lightly golden (set a timer! Otherwise you’ll end up with “caramelized” cookies, like mine.  Oops).  Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.  (If using glaze or icing, make sure cookies are completely cool before decorating).

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size.

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4 Responses to My Favorite Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

  1. Caramelized. Hehe. I thought maybe you just liked a really crunchy well-done cookie!

  2. Maggie says:

    Oooh I will try these. I am a huge fan of all sugar cookies, but these look especially delish!

  3. Nancy says:

    if you have access to back issues of Cook’s Illustrated suggest you check Nov/Dec 2003 (#65) for “Glazed Butter Cookies” also a cream cheese recipe. With no leavening, hence puff, they use an interesting creaming method.
    Since then this has been my go to “sugar cookie”. I will add this to my stash. Thanks

  4. Nancy says:

    Cook’s Illustrated published a cream cheese sugar cookie in the Nov/Dec 2003 issue #65. With no leavening, hence puff, it uses an interesting creaming method and makes a nice cookie for “sandwiching”. I look forward to trying these for the slight rise from the baking powder. Thanks

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