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Saturday
Dec082012

Sugar Cookie Tips & a Giveaway!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

'Tis the season for sugar cookies shaped like trees and snowflakes. I recently spent an afternoon making 6 dozen cookies and, for the first time in my life, only a handful of cookies didn't turn out just right. After years of making sugar cookies that spread too much or baked unevenly, it seemed I had finally figured out the trick to perfect sugar cookies. It would be selfish not to share these tricks with you.

The real secret to perfect cookies? Refrigeration.

  • Refrigerate the sugar cookie dough for at least 1 hour before making the cookies. This helps the dough roll out cleanly and helps the cutout cookies keep their shape when transferring them to the baking sheet. Any dough you are not currently using should be kept in the refrigerator.

  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. You want the cookies to easily release from the surface, but you also do not want to incorporate much flour into the dough or it will give you problems later. Roll out the dough at least 1/4-inch thick and take care to keep it even. This keeps the cookies thick and soft, helping to prevent over-baking.

  • Once the cookies have been transferred to a baking sheet, immediately place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. This helps solidify the butter in the cookies and it will prevent the cookies from spreading at all during baking. The cookies should be hard to the touch before going into the oven. (If you live in a cold climate, I suggest taking advantage by placing the cookies outside on a deck or back porch if you don't have much freezer space).

  • Do not over-bake the cookies! Most recipes call for the cookies to bake for 6-8 minutes. You want to pull the cookies out of the oven before you see the edges begin to brown. A hint of brown means the cookies have already over-baked. To prevent this, you may need to do a test batch with a cookie or two to find the perfect time for your oven. Set a timer to keep the baking time consistent.

  • Allow the baked cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes to firm up before transferring to a cooling rack. Immediately put the empty baking sheet back into the freezer to cool down for at least 5 minutes. This prevents the warm cookie sheet from melting the butter in the next batch of cookies and causing the cookies to spread.

  • When rolling out the dough for a second time, I like to knead half the previously rolled out dough with fresh dough for at least a minute until they are completely mixed together. Usually when dough is rolled out a second or third time, the quality of the dough decreases because it becomes warm or the flour from the surface makes pockets in the dough, causing uneven cookies to form. Kneading the dough gets rid of the flour pockets and the addition of the fresh, cold dough helps bring the temperature back down.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. The refrigeration between batches might seem like a bit of extra work at first, but you will truly see the results when you find yourself with a batch of perfect cookies. I prefer to bake the cookies on an insulated baking sheet because it keeps the bottoms of the cookies from browning. Non-insulated baking sheets may slightly brown the bottom of the cookies in the same length of time.

To freeze cutout cookies, layer them in an airtight container by placing wax or parchment paper between each layer to prevent the cookies from sticking together. To thaw, place the frozen cookies on a baking sheet and thaw for 5-10 minutes. Cookies can be frozen for 1-3 months.

Pssst. Here is a link to my favorite sugar cookie recipe.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

And now, for something completely different, it's time for a cookie giveaway! I thought it would be fun to send out a tin of homemade holiday cookies to you. Yes, you! And so this holiday season, three lucky readers will find a box of handmade cookies sitting in your mailbox. I did something quite similar last year and found it so lovely I wanted to do it again. I want to share in the season of giving with you!

To find a box of cookies on your doorstep...

  1. Leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite holiday tradition. Make sure to include your email address when filling out the comment form so I can get ahold of you!
  2. You must live in the United States or Canada. I unfortunately cannot afford to send the cookies any further at this point (and I fear they may arrive shattered/stale if they traveled overseas).
  3. The contest will end on Wednesday, December 12th at 10 pm (CST). The winners will be chosen randomly and announced on Facebook and Twitter immediately thereafter (and on here Thursday morning).

Edit: The contest is closed and the winners have been chosen.

Reader Comments (199)

My family tradition is to have every family member that lives nearby to gather and have Christmas dinner together after going to church for the Christmas service.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenna
The one absolute constant for me at Christmas is the tree: I always buy a real tree and I love to decorate it with all the glass ornaments I've collected over the years. Other traditions come and go....but never this one....
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce
Just this year we started the Elf on the Shelf tradition, and it's already a favorite! Hope to do it for many years to come!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarla G
One of my favorite holiday traditions is one that my sister and I shared as kids. For as long as I can remember, we have an advent calendar that is an empty Christmas tree, and each day has a pocket that contains a small ornament that gets velcroed onto the tree. I would put the ornaments up for all of the odd days, and my sister would do all of the even days. Then on Christmas day, we would both put the star at the top of the tree together. :) We haven't done this in years because we're adults and no longer even live in the same country, but I still think of her every time I put one of the ornaments up on the calendar.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlia
My favorite tradition is reflecting on the past year and making plans for the next. A little unconventional but it is the one I look forward to the most.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
your tips are well-timed! we are doing some cookie baking tomorrow! one of my favorite traditions is our daily advent devotions as a family. :)
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimber-Leigh
My family is the only one I know with this tradition: Fried chicken for breakfast on Christmas Day. It dates back to the Depression when all my grandparents had for Christmas was the chicken in their yard. Grandma fried it up. Years later, it.has become a celebration of how good life has been that year. Don't know why it's breakfast and not lunch... But it isn't Christmas at our house without fried Chicken for breakfast.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEric
My favorite tradition is caroling and giving treats to neighbors. I love singing and baking, so that's probably why :)
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaycie Eddie
My favorite holiday tradition is cooking the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners for my family (fortunately, we are a small family!). It is so much work, but I really enjoy the planning of the menu and the shopping and the making of it! Also, going to the midnight service on Christmas Eve. Beautiful!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
My sister and I always got to open our stocking before my father arrived to our house Christmas morning. Being older, santa no longer fills our stockings, but to keep the tradition alive my sister and I now fill them for each other with silly little trinkets and treats!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda
My favorite tradition is brunch with my extended family. I am always responsible for making the desserts - mini fruit cakes and gooey butter cake!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheri
Our traditional Christmas day is to open the presents that are under the tree, then sit down for a delicious breakfast. After breakfast, we open our stockings and eat a few cookies! Then it's time for a nap in front of the fireplace (well, for me at least!).
My favorite holiday traditions are cutting our tree, eating a lot and traveling to Christmas village in Leavenworth, Washington!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterViktoria
Lovely idea! I like putting my tree up and knowing that my cat will
just tear it down anyways. Every year!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaley
I make NUMEROUS batches of peanut brittle every year. I'd quit or cut back but I would never hear the end of it. At least I know people enjoy it.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggie
Love brunch with everyone in their pajamas sharing what they are most thankful for :)
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterShaheen L
I love baking/decorating cookies and making a huge Christmas breakfast with my mom!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Besides just putting up the tree and all, one thing we've done all my life is go out for a walk around the neighbourhood on Christmas Eve, just after dinner (in my parents' country Christmas was celebrated on the 24th). My mother would suddenly turn back home because she'd "forgotten" her "keys", and when we got back, lo and behold, presents from Santa had appeared under the tree! It never occurred to me how long it took her to find those keys on those nights... :)
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelena
My family's holiday tradition manifests in a particular CD. We only listen to it once a year, on one specific occasion - when putting decorations on the Christmas tree. It's one of those CDs that comprises entirely from celebrities singing carols and traditional Christmas songs. The only thing is, this is from a LONG LONG time ago - the CD has Bruce Springsteen, Run DMC, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Sting, Bon Jovi, the Eurythmics, and Stevie Nicks to name a few. We don't even like the songs at this point, and absolutely detest them if we hear them outside of our one day of listening. But when we do listen to them, we get DOWN and manic as we decorate the tree.
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna
On Christmas Eve, after my family goes to church and out to dinner, we come home, change into comfy PJ's, make white russians and watch "The Gathering." It's simple but it's always something I look forward to. This Christmas will be a little different because we're moving out of the house we've lived in for the past 15 years so everything will be all packed up and in boxes (we're moving out on the 27th!) but even though we won't have a tree, I know white russians and that movie will still be on the agenda!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMadeline
Mine isnt quite the regular holiday tradition but I think its one I think about. Ive been in the states for over 10 years now and we never really celebrated the christmas the true American way. Ive always wanted to have a Christmas tree and christmas decorations and candles with warm scents in my house. However for some reason or another even though we talk about doing a traditional christmas it has yet to happen. I am attending grad school and now that I live on my own, I have finally gotten a christmas tree. Not the awesome big ones but still, it was a lovely start. It was actually quite the experience putting the tree and lights and ornaments together. For ex) I never knew the tree (the plastic ones) come in this funny thin box and its all wrapped up and that we have to individually seperate each branch and that when I was done I was upset that they werent all equal length and in perfect rows. But my bf said it was to make it as real as possible. And another thing, I never knew you needed hooks to hang the ornaments...for some reason I just thought the ornament hung through that little hole. :) one last thing and ill stop my rant, when did wreaths get so pricey. Cheapest one is about 25. . Isnt it just a tree branch wrapped around? Lol anyways, we had a kit of laughs doing all this together and him having to explain all these things to me. Now, I feel like I started a tradition of my own with my special someone ;) and we were driving around town looking at all the christmas lights and this actually is one of the things me and my family do aspiring one day that we will one day have all this of our own. Oh and the last thing, this year I am planning on doing a Christmas cookie platter, ive never done it but I loooove Christmas cookies and your recipe will definitely be on my list because it is just not the holidays without some hot chocolate and sugar cookies!! Yummm!!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered Commentershauna
I honestly don't think my family really has any holiday traditions. I'm trying to think, but nothing is popping into my head :/

Anyways the pictures of these cookies are stunning.
our favorite Christmas tradition is gifting our twins with a special ornament that has a great memory or moment attached. They love remembering the significance that goes with the ornament and enjoy placing them on the tree together!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina Martinez
My favorite holiday tradition is watching A Muppet Christmas Carol every year as we decorate the Christmas tree. It's my absolute favorite Christmas movie, and it's lovely to spend time with my sisters as we sing along with the songs and share memories of each ornament we hang on the tree.
Mine would be listening to Christmas Carols while I prepare Christmas dinner for everyone! Would love to have a tin of your cookies!
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
I love decorating the tree while listening to Christmas songs, and baking full of yummy goodies :)
12.8.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica
I dont know if this counts as a tradition..We(me and my husband) came to US around two years back and since then we just love to travel during holidays.we plan a trip around either thanksgiving or christmas which we will be excitedly looking forward to. This year too we went during thanksgiving(to florida)!! :) It was great! and oh i just love love love ur blog.you are awesome...dont stop!!keep it going :)
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPriya
I love when we drive around and look at all the Christmas lights!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Austin
My favorite holiday tradition is getting my three girls in the kitchen to make Christmas cookies for Santa Claus an Mrs Claus. My girls get excited because they each have their favorite cookies. Jeanine even thou she is the oldest 23 she loves to make I Love You Cookies. Sara 16, she loves to make roll out cookie dough of Santa, Xmas tree, Snow Flakes, Frosty the snow man and Charlotte 13 she makes persimmon cookies. My girls make enough for us to eat for afew days and some we give out as gifts to share with family and friends.... We get all excited for this time of year! Most of all I am happy that the three of my girls can make cookies because one day they two can make these special cokies for their family and I will be one proud mama!!! HAPPY HOLIDAYS...
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatrina Mitchell
Every Christmas Eve, my grandparents have a huge family party. My father and uncles take turns every year dressing up as Santa Claus. I didn't catch on for quite some time when I was a child. Now that I'm finishing my first semester abroad at university, I think I'm more excited for this tradition than I've ever been.

PS: I adore this blog. I've followed it for a couple of years now. It always reminds me of home and good food. Thank you.
Every year (for the last couple years), we've pulled out of a hat and each member of the family is given another family member to buy gifts for. The budget gets increased a bit and it helps ease down the stress of having to think of gift ideas for a huge multitude of people! It's been fun and made shopping definitely a bit easier.

And also, pannettone, coffee, and fresh fruit every Christmas morning!
My favorite holiday tradition is hanging stockings and decorating the tree for Christmas. There's 22 stockings over the fireplace - family and close family-friends are always included, plus 1 dog. Everyone gets a stocking and an ornament for the tree as well. It's a magical time of year full of love, celebration, and joy.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Stark
My Christmas tradition involves stollen. Baking it, giving it, eating it. Then eating more of it. And when no one is looking, eating a little more of it.

Great tips for cutting cookies! Thanks. I have yet to do my cookie baking, and will keep your ideas in mind.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
Our family tradition at Christmas time is baking and decorating cookies starting early in the morning and then that evening we all pile in the car and go look at Christmas lights. Thank you!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngie Huckleby
Thanks for the tips!
Our fave holiday tradition is 5pm cocktail time when three generations get together - it's filled with so much laughter and the characters in our family are priceless. It's very old school with crystal glasses, cocktail snacks (shrimp, various nuts, spreads and dips), and everyone dresses up. It's lovely.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMisie
My favorite holiday tradition spreads from Christmas Eve dinner until the ceremonious gathering around the tree that takes place on Christmas Day. In my family, it is tradition that we stay in on Christmas Eve for dinner, having made the once a year seafood stew that whole day. To make this stew, we go to a gigantic Asian market in order to obtain fresh scallops, clams and shrimp for the dish. But even after coming to this store every single year of my conscious memory, this warehouse like establishment never ceases to amaze me with products I have never before seen.

This is where the tradition began that my dad, who would always find some time to sneak away down the various aisles during these trips, would find a variety of odd-ball items to fill mine and my brother's stockings with. The specifics change from year to year, but there are always a few staples that I find myself pulling from the long knitted stocking that hangs above my fireplace. Most notably, these include: a large bar of flavored chocolate, candied mango strips, lavender or rose colored mints for me, some hard-to-find canned meat for my brother and always, ALWAYS, wasabi encrusted dried peas.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Cammack
We don't have specific traditions I guess. The kids can look in their stockings right away. We have a good breakfast; then we read about Jesus' birth in the Bible; then it is present time. We open one at a time taking turns. It is a sweet time.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichaela
We try to stretch Christmas as much as we can! After Thanksgiving, we gather all of our Christmas movies and try to watch one the evenings we are home. For the month of December we use Christmas dishes for our coffee and meals. Of course, baking is always a highlight! But really, the best part is spending time with our grown children.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGloria
My family tradition is spending our time with one another exclusively. Usually during other holidays, we'd be with other people or have relatives over. It's an unspoken agreement that we don't make plans to spend Christmas with others.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMerleawe
One of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up was on Christmas Eve. Santa, played by my grandfather, although we didn't know it at the time, would come for a special visit on Christmas Eve. We get one early present. Always pajamas. Then we'd change into our new Christmas pjs and get cookies and milk ready for Santa'a return.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElin
About the only "tradition" we have any longer is getting together for the day. With travels, relocations and age, none of our traditions have really survived.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterWinston
Making cinnamon rolls. The recipe was handed down from my grat grandmother. It isn't Christmas without them. On Christmas morning I make a huge batch, we watch A Christmas Story while they bake.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSauertea
My Christmas tradition always involves food. With the kids I will make chocolate bark, all different flavors. Lots of good healthy foods, baked squashes and the like. Chocolate truffles and stuffed breads. Everything warm and cozy.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
My favorite tradition was shopping with my Dad for the perfect gift(s) for my Mother. My Dad and I would make a day of it---just the two of us. Both my parents are gone now and I so very fondly remember those times.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
One of my fav holiday traditions is on christmas eve we go to candlelight church service, after we go see chrismas lights in a neighborhood thats really goes ALL out. :)
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
My favorite tradition is gathering with family who live in different states to share time together.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Plank
My favorite holiday tradition is decorating our home. From our kitchen to our roof, decorating our home is very special to us.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarissa Kubinski
My mother, sister and I make a Christmas baking list every year and spend at least 2 days in the kitchen making all of them together. We have kept all the baking lists from over the years so it's fun to see what has made the cut each year as we grew up!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah
Every Christmas Eve, we drive through the town looking at all the Christmas lights. Then everyone gets to open one present. After that we all go to bed and Santa comes.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn
A Chritmas eve seafood dinner with family
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat K

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