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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)

Thank you for these great tips. I have never made sugar cookies and want to try them this year.

Perfect timing for me. :)

THANKS.

Elizabeth
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
My favorite holiday tradition is baking cookies with the kids. It is a mess but they are having fun and learning, just like I did with my own mother.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
What a lovely idea!! My favorite holiday tradition is definitely what we do for New Years. Koreans celebrate New Years Day (not eve) in a big way. First off, we make a traditional dumpling and rice cake soup (everything from scratch), called Duk Mandu Guk. So, the women are usually in the kitchen preparing this. . and then all the kids will bow to the elders (or grandparents and their parents) to get good wishes (and sometimes money) for the New Year. Some families will also wear traditional Korean clothes when bowing.
My favorite tradition is Christmas morning: my parents, sister, and I open gifts, have breakfast, and have a great time in our pjs. It's how we've always done it, and I'm excited to bring my boyfriend of 2+ years into it for the first time this year!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara
spending time with family!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary
My favourite Christmas tradition is setting up the tree! Every year my whole family gets together to put it up. We put on the christmas music for the first time, my mom and brothers set up the tree while my dad and I can be found baking cookies in the kitchen for when everyone is done.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEryn Warner
Our families all live out of state and luckily, my parents come to town just before the holidays. We have them over each Christmas Eve for a semi-formal dinner. This year will be extra special b/c my brother-in-law and his family will be here too! Can't wait to have a house full of family to celebrate. Maybe a new tradition has begun.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb M
When we were little we used to beg to open a present on Christmas Eve, so my mom cleverly began making that present a new set of pajamas! We still get our Christmas pajamas every year : )
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessi
My favorite Christmas traditions are opening one present on Christmas eve and the rest on Christmas day. I also love decorating the tree with family while music is playing, and eating all the yummies that my mum makes.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna N.
Every year my family ventures out to cut down the perfect Christmas tree. With Christmas music playing we then decorate it with lots of homemade ornaments. My favorite time of year!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterbarbara n
My favorite Christmas tradition is going out into the snowy woods of Montana with a group of great friends to gather our own Christmas trees! Which is followed by drinking hot buttered rum & eating Christmas cookies!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterToyia
My favorite Holiday tradition is making homemade egg nog and relaxing to my parents old Christmas records. Can't wait to try this recipe with all the tips. Merry Christmas from Cocoa Beach FL
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason Vanderbeck
I have a pretty large family on my mothers side, including aunts and uncles there are over 20 (16 of those being cousins and our spouses) of us for family birthday parties and holiday celebrations. About 5 or 6 years ago we started a new tradition. Instead of everyone buying all the kids over the age of 18 Christmas presents, we use the money to sponsor a family less fortunate than our own. We use the money we would have spent on ourselves and buy clothes, toys and food for another family who wouldn't have been able to provide that for their own family. We haven't been doing this for a long time but it's becoming my new favorite holiday tradition.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaraE
Two day's before Christmas, twenty six years ago God blessed my husband and I with our son! Because of complications, I didn't really see, hold or remember too much until.... Christmas Day when they brought my little bundle to me.... I cried and cried. Inside his little glass cradle hung a handmade bell shaped ornament with his first picture in it, with the words "My first Christmas on Earth". Our tradition is to hang this special ornament on our tree each year. This is Christmas to me! And, in school our son made sugar cookie ornaments, which we proudly still hang on our tree each year as well!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Curtis
My favorite holiday tradition is giving gifts! I love wrapping the gifts and seeing the look on the receiver's face when it's opened :)
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSidra
Our Christmas tradition is going to midnight mass, then to our local doughnut shop to get some hot doughnuts, coffee and cocoa. Then we we setup for Santa's arrival.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVenetrise
In my family we have held many traditions that we continue to keep up each year. Despite my sister having been in college and often times traveling over the winter season she always comes home to celebrate Christmas. She may not be here when we put up our Christmas tree and decorate it with family ornaments, but she is always homes to help us cook our family recipes of cookies which we send out to all of the people we know.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily
My favorite holiday tradition is decorating either gingerbread or sugar cookies with my older sister. As kids, our "decorating" basically was dumping as many sprinkles as possible on to the cookies while trying to eat numerous cookies without being caught by our mom. Now that we're older, we still try to eat as many cookies as possible, but our decorating has become much more sophisticated, or demented, depending on who is describing it. We will now have an "emo" cookie with black sprinkles who has his "heart" (a red hot) on his sleeve. We will also break part of a leg off a reindeer and try to make a cast out of frosting, and other interesting decorating ideas. Even though we have grown up, our cookie decorating skills are still wonderfully childish, which I think is makes it that much more memorable.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa Stumpf
Our family likes to go skiing over winter vacation, and we all spend time watching movies with our entire family! And eating whatever I bake, of course ;)
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane
Everyone buys a ten dollar gift card and puts it in a white numbered envelope. We sit in a circle and read a Christmas story. Every time the word right or left is said, you pass your card. At the end when its your turn you can open or not open your card and trade with someone who's already opened it. Everyone ends up with random gift cards, and usually a family brawl ensues. It is the funnest tradition we have.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMolly M.
We like to pick a needy family and secretly provide Christmas...
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjan
Waiting at the top of the steps at my parent's house until we hear "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" before we can go downstairs and open presents...I'm 27 now and this is still my favorite family tradition!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany
My favorite Christmas time tradition is getting in touch with all of my friends across the globe.
So nice! I would love to have a tin of your yummy cookies.
Our traditions are pretty much the same as most people's -putting up the tree, making cookies, watching movies, driving around to see holiday lights. Before we had kids, my husband and I would go hiking every Christmas Eve. Now that our girls are 6 and 9, I'm hoping to get back to that tradition this year.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeg D
I love our annual cookie decorating afternoon, I'm really looking forward to this year's too. I always make a sugar cookie batch and gingerbread cookie batch and have all the icings ready to go when my family shows up. It's always a wonderful time.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenteralyssa
I think my favorite holiday tradition is Christmas mornings with my family, when we have breakfast in the living room and exchange gifts and get wrapping paper everywhere while my dad tries to record us all look hideous in all our morning glory. I love the idea of a homemade cookie giveaway; it's so much more personal and heartfelt and simplistic. Thank you for the sugar cookie tips (which I can definitely use!). These photos are absolutely beautiful and should be in a magazine. :)
We love adding new ornaments to remember the year by.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterfran
Among all our traditions during the CHRISTmas season, my mom's Pecan Tassie's and my dad's Divinity always light up my face, taste "oh so good", and bring me joy!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda
Oooh what a fun idea :)

Well, it probably doesn't sound so special, but my dad is a mailman and for Christmas he's gifted a huge pizza from one of the restaurants on his route. We get to pick whichever toppings we want and I look forward to it every year...more so because it brings us together than for the actual pizza itself!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteph
My favorite holiday tradition has to be the food, especially making food for others to enjoy. I feel like food brings people together like no other whether it's exploring new foods or eating home-made traditions. Thanks for your blog by the way! I love reading all your entries and your photos are always great! Happy Holidays!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce
Baking special cookies just for this time of year!!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatty
My favorite Holiday tradition is baking cookies and giving them as gifts to friends and neighbors! My mom loved to bake....and she passed that love on to me. I did not have daughters to pass it on to....I had two sons who had to learn how to make sugar cookies! My favorite picture ever taken of the two brothers was of them (ages 6 and 3) icing sugar cookies for our Christmas gift giving!! When they return home for the holidays, we all gather together and bake cookies!! I can't wait to have them home again!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon
My favorite Christmas tradition is making pull apart cinnamon rolls together, then going to look at Christmas lights and ending the night with Chinese/Thai food and our new Christmas jammies!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Nielsen
My favorite tradition is having my husband's brother and his family to our home for Christmas Eve. We always bake or cook something homemade (last year was homemade ravioli) and then we have a wonderful meal and then open presents. My sister-in-law and I both buy each others kids underpants (the sillier the better) and they have to model them over their clothes. We have been doing this for over 10 years. They range in age from 15-24 and the insueing pictures of the "kids" in their "chonies" are priceless.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonika Stout
Our favorite tradition involves Chrstmas themed books. On St. Nick night, Dec. 5th, I give each of my daughters a new Christmas book. My hope is that when they have kids of their own we will split the books between my house and theirs and continue the tradition. Currently we get the box of books out and read one or two each day. My girls are in college now so the books are ready and waiting for their finals to be over and them to be home for break.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna C
My favorite Christmas tradition... Huge Italian seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. The tradition for me started with my grandparents, who carried it over from their parents and so on. Now that my grandparents are no longer with us, those are memories that I cherish, hold dear to my heart and try to create new memories through carrying on the tradition.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
When my brothers and sisters and I were growing up we went to Late Christmas Eve mass. We usually got home about 11:30 midnight. We opened one present and then we had a chocolate chip cookie gathering because we made fresh warm cookies for Santa but also cookies that we would then bring to others that Christmas Day. We would get to sleep about 1:30 am.
Now that we are married we have brought this same tradition to our own families.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen
My favorite holiday tradition is picking out and decorating the Christmas tree! My whole family goes out to the tree farm with hot chocolate/coffee/cider and picks the best tree. When we go home and warm up, we open up ornaments (we get a new one every year) and decorate the tree while listening to Christmas music and baking some delicious dessert!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty K
My holiday tradition is to bake as many cookies and goodies as I can and then I give it away as gifts. It's a great feeling to see so many happy people.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoan
What a fun giveaway! I love Christmas. It's such a fun holiday - especially if you can be around kids. :) When I was little, we'd all crowd around the tree in the living room on Christmas morning. Someone (we'd pretend to "elect" a family member for this role, but it was always my sister) would play Santa, and hand out one present at a time. We'd all watch that person open their gift, and it made each gift special. I loved that tradition! We do things a bit differently now, as it's very rare for us to all be in one place for the holiday, but it's still my favorite. :) Thanks for the giveaway!
My favorite tradition is going to the Sunday School program on Christmas Eve!
Every year I have a christmas cookie party where my friends come over and decorate sugar cookies. This year I'll be trying two new things...your tips and recipe, and a cookie exchange where my friends each bring a dozen of their favorite christmas cookies and then we all trade them with each other.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOttilia Schafer
Our favorite family tradition started 22 years ago, 23 this Christmas. That was the year our son was born. 12:02 on Christmas day. So every Christmas, we start the morning with a "Jesus" cake in which we STILL crowd around and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, candels and all, with the baby Jesus, sitting in the middle in his creche. From that point, we celebrate Christmas....until 12 noon. Then we move into birthday mode. We use to celebrate a 1/2 year birthday on June 25 but one day my son said, enough! I am able and honored to share my birthday with the most important being in history. We will share the day together! Couldn't ask for anything more.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaryann Dubbs
My favorite tradition is baking homemade cinnamon rolls for xmas morning with mym mom each christmas eve!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTtrockwood
Unfortunately since moving away from the home where I grew up many of our Christmas traditions have had to go by the wayside. However, I'm starting to make my own traditions in my independent life. My favorite one currently is that in lieu of purchasing a Christmas tree, my boyfriend and I draw one with crayon on poster board. Each of us take a half and decorate the "tree" however we want. It's incongruous and perfect. :)
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHollee
My favorite holiday tradition growing up was the one present we got to open on Christmas Eve was of course always pajamas - but I loved getting those new pajamas and feeling special just coming down the stairs on Christmas morning. My mother continues this tradition now for my 3 girls! You are so generous to send out 3 tins of cookies. Wishing you the most joyous holidays!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam
My favourite Christmas tradition. . .hmmm. . .I love decorating the gingerbread house with my two young boys and hubby with the Christmas music playing, it always gives me the warm fuzzies.

Really appreciate the cookie giveaway! And including us Canadians, eh! :)
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Moss
Making the latkes of course!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane M
Every holiday season, my siblings and I watch a Christmas movie that most would not deem traditional: "Jingle All The Way," with Arnold Schwarzenneger. It's so "old" and esoteric, it's on VHS! We usually bake some kind of cookie while this is going on. Then, after Christmas, our extended family gets together at one of the family's houses, and just has a good time in each other's company. Quality time always includes a board game, often Balderdash or Cranium. :) And as a new tradition, since a lot of my cousins are in college, we also catch up on TV shows that we missed over the semester, like Modern Family and Community.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSK
Silly as it might seem, my family loves to have sushi on Christmas eve while watching a Charlie Brown Christmas. It's pretty funny.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

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