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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)

I have to find these molds, such a nice recipe and real treat on Holidays !!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenterila
My Christmas traditions have changed over the years. This year, I am trying to recreate my Grandmothers cake. There are no family members to assist; I'm finding joy in the process. Thank you for offering the cookies.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGale Reeves
I love taking my boys over to my dad's house for cookie decorating day. All the cousins sit down and decorate sugar cookies my step-mom spends all day baking. They love it.
Every year we end Christmas around my parent's tree opening gifts and sipping eggnog. It's always a warm, cozy, and relaxing way to end what is usually a marathon of parties and family functions.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna G
We get a new special ornament every year; usually a souvenir from a vacation. As we decorate the tree we reminisce over hot chocolate or eggnog
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary Gee
My favorite tradition is making tons of cookies with mom and my sister. We make enough cookies to give to my mom's church and the family.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Lore'l
My best friends from high school and I do a Secret Santa gift exchange every year...it's been 9 amazing years now and looking forward to many more to come!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
Christmas Eve Dinner with the in laws pesole and tostadas. mmm Can't wait!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterErika
What a lovely giveaway! :) My favorite holiday tradition is turning off all the lights except the one on the tree and watching the lights while eating Christmas cookies.
12.9.2012 | Unregistered Commentersara
I love making, and eating, lefse every Christmas. As much as I want it other times of the year, for some reason it only makes sense for me to carry this tradition on and make Christmas special by having it then. My grandma taught me how to make lefse. Sweet memories flood the kitchen with each piece - truly treasured times!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Miller
My favorite Christmas tradition is the gift opening around the lighted tree. My sister usually cannot wait for her presents, so we usually end up opening them on the 24th
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChau
My favorite Christmas tradition has always been going to my grandfathers house for Christmas brunch. I'm 28 years old and married but I have never missed a single year!! My grandfather always cooks a turkey and even though he has just battled colon cancer at the fine age of 86 he still opts to make his turkey for us all to enjoy :) God bless his strength. Merry Christmas!!!!
12.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Every Christmas Eve, the entire family gathers at my grandma's house for a traditional southern Italy meal all seated around the table together (40+) with perfect table settings for each person. The atmosphere is unbelievable and it is the one night we all truly look forward to.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenternfrattoo
Ahh...listening to Handel's 'Messiah' in it's entirety as I bake...
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenterlorrie
My very favorite Christmas tradition is putting little Christmas trees in my girls' rooms instead of doing stockings. I love the look on their faces when we can plug it in each morning!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelsey
My family tradition is my sister, mother, and I get together and we make homemade tamales..all kinds...pork, beef, and cheese & green chile. * The cheese and green chile are my favorite. We listen to Christmas music, and just enjoy being together for the holidays. I love it. <3
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonique Montes
Baking Christmas cookies!!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulianne
Turning the kitchen into a big oily delicious mess making latkes with my mom :)
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
My family has a ton of Christmas traditions. One of the funniest is we watch "A Christmas Story" every year. We know all the lines so it's pretty much just us talking at the movie.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa R
My favorite holiday tradition is soaking in everything that the holidays bring. We celebrate and look forward to all of our yearly traditions from decorating, playing holiday music, drinking hot chocolate, wasil, watching movies old and new, church, sending cards, putting together puzzles, visitng family and friends, baking, red velvet cake, my husband's birthday, admiring the lights, shopping, and so much more. We also celebrate and welcome new traditions such as: watching our families grow, experiencing new recipes, shows, movies, I could go on and on. It seems difficult to capture it all in a paragraph adn even more amazing to accomplish this all in just a short period of time. This is my favorite holiday and look forward to many more :)
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDana
Our Christmas traditions start with putting the tree up right after Thanksgiving - then lots of baking and decorating. Looking at lights is always a favorite part of the season for us!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanelle
My favorite traditions are decorating the tree and having my younger brothers and sisters over with their significant others and now with my 2 little nephews!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElissa
I did not realize just how many traditions my family have! Every year my Daddy would take me and my 3 sisters Christmas shopping the last few days right before Christmas. My husband has continued that with our 6 children. Every year my children get one new ornament for the tree. When they have their own home, they have a "starter" set of ornaments and treasured memories. We always make either gingerbread houses or sugar cube house. Each child making their own individual house. I could list many more, but that is a few favorites.
Thanks for the chance at receiving a batch of your cookies. I really enjoy your recipes and have pinned (and even made) many!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdith
My favorite holiday tradition is going to church on Christmas Eve. The music is always so beautiful!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah O.
What a great post. I think I grabbed a few pointers. Thanks!!
Oh and my new Christmas tradition is hosting an Ugly Sweater Party. It was sooo much fun!! This week I will be hosting a cookie exchange party for the little kids now. So I am excited for that also. I love the holidays. I get to hang with friends and family.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarm
My favorite holiday traditions are opening presents with my family on Christmas Eve, playing and singing Christmas carols with my very musical family (and my not-at-all-musical self), and my late great grandmother's Spice Nut Cookies, which I simply can't get enough of this time of year.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane
cookie decorating with the kids, newphews, niece, grandparents taking pictures.
opening one gift on christmas eve-usually pj's.
thanks
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commentersaniel
I started a tradition with my kids when they were little...when we get out tree and decorate it, we also bake the first batch of holiday cookies of the season, they are always sugar cookie cut outs and a ginger cream cookie. They know it's the "holiday" season when I get out the cookie cutters and rolling pin, and of course the Christmas music to go along with :)
My daughter and I make truffles and an assortment of cookies for friends and family that visit. She is the best taste tester and bowl cleaner there is.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Park
My favorite Christmas tradition is spending time with my family and singing carols at the Christmas Eve service at our church.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy
The year that my sister was born, my parents weren't able to celebrate their anniversary because of a week-old baby in the house, so 6 months later on Christmas Eve, my mother made a HUGE fancy dinner and brought out the fancy china and cloth napkins and made a multi-course meal. We were excited for the fancy meal, but not at the idea of having to wait until AFTER dinner to open our presents from each other. Of course, right after the appetizers, my sister got really fussy, so my parents decided to go ahead and do presents so that they could put my sister to bed and finish the rest of the dinner. We liked having the fancy dinner on Christmas Eve, and it has become a yearly tradition.

My sister is now 23, and every year for the past 22 years, just as we reach the end of the appetizer course, one of us (usually me!) will ask her if she could start crying and making a fuss, in hopes that we can all open our presents early. :-D
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy J
Up until a few years ago, I made and decorated lots of gingerbread houses complete with stunning yards and ponds and even log piles. I even helped many kids in various groups and organizations around town decorate a house for themselves. Now I'm down to doing only decorating one or two a year. Also we love to drive around town and look at all the Christmas lights. Even though we live in the country and we are the only ones to see our lights, we still put them up every year.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Thurn
We leisurely open gifts on Christmas morning while eating breakfast, enjoying warm egg nog and just being together. I love my husband and children and look forward to it every year.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan P
One of the best traditions my family has is how we label our presents under the tree. When we were younger, we never opened and then re-wrapped our gifts but we kind of knew what we were getting because of the shape of the box. Gee, it's a large box but it doesn't weigh much, it must be the sleeping bag I asked for. So my mom started labeling them with code names, like Rudolph or Frosty. We never knew which gifts were ours until she revealed the code names. This makes for much more surprise on Christmas Day!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacey
In my family, we have a tradition of watching the musical "Scrooge" as we decorate the Christmas tree. :)
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLydia
I attend Candlelight Christmas Eve services with my family. The service always concludes with the congregation lighting their candles from the Advent Wreath and forming a large circle in the sanctuary. Then we sing Silent Night together. It is very emotional and spiritual and one tradition that I always look forward to.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Also, thank you for your blog, your recipes and your inspiration!!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly Harris
I buy my daughters and I a new pair of pj's and on Christmas Eve we make caramel apples, put on our new pj's and watch Christmas Vacation with my husband. It just never gets old!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving my family, my parents, and my sister's family go to a tree farm out in the country and cut down a live Christmas tree. On the way there we stop at a restaurant called Pops that has a selection of 600 sodas, pick a unique soda and have lunch. On the way back we stop at our favorite gift shop to buy a new ornament for our new tree.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer S
I invite my daughter and daughter-in-law and their children to come for cookie baking at my house. The kids love to roll, cut, and frost. No matter the age they all have fun.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVerna LaBounty
Thank you so much for posting tips on baking sugar cookies! Mine never seem to come out right and I tried your methods today and I have to say, they are best looking cookies yet!

Thank you again!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterShanna
My favorite tradition is the advent calendar for the kids. They get a kick out of counting down to Christmas.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
One of my favourite Christmas traditions is making tourtierre on Christmas Eve. It's a French-Canadian meat pie, and it's lovely :)
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSterling
the kids have to sing a song before opening their christmas gifts!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkaela
we all sing christmas carols around the neighborhood with friends and family
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenterellie
every year we sing silent night as my sister plays the guitar
12.10.2012 | Unregistered Commentertracy
My partner and I wake up EARLY on the day after Thanksgiving and start stripping the house of all non-holiday decor. Then we head to the attic to start pulling down the Christmas decorations - LOTS of Christmas decorations. Once the living room is prepped, we head to the tree lot to pick the perfect tree and bring it back to the house for a 3-day decorating stint. The Christmas music and holiday specials alternate in the background. We've been together for 14 Christmases now and have just as much fun today as we did back then.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! (I was just turned on to your beautiful blog this morning by a co-worker and look forward to testing some of the recipes!)
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ Gosche
My favorite holiday tradition is just before we open present's on Christmas eve with my family, all my favorite women gather in the kitchen and we cook, talk and catch up on all the happenings. We laugh and cry and gossip like nobody's business! It's the closest we all are until the following Christmas.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
I have a pot luck with friends every year from home :)
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
My favorite holiday tradition has to be going to my parents house and pulling out all the old '80's/early 90's christmas music (that my mom always put on for us as little kids). My mom and I always goof around and sing along. There are so many great memories and traditions... the music, pulling out all the christmas tree ornaments we've had for forever, the making of christmas cookies & pies... oh, and I can't leave out the christmas day pomegranate mimosas...
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Mossman
My favorite holiday tradition is thrifting for antique ornaments. We visit multiple garage sales, thrift stores, and vintage shops and always manage to find beautiful ornaments. I dont know how many more our tree can hold! x]
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

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