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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)

On Christmas Eve we have a large spread of seafood, cheese, and sausage. After we choose one present to open from under the tree, we head to church for the candlelight service that begins at 11pm. It's a night of tradition, family, and simple happiness.
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate
I love putting the tree and all the decorations put up!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
Thanks for the cool giveaway.
Love cookies
Thanks and Happy Holidays
Pa
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat Richter
My favourite holiday tradition is watching Miracle on 34th Street on TV with a mug of hot coffee!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
My favorite holiday tradition is making lentil soup for good luck for new years with my family!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
Every year when I was a kid, we would drive up into the mountains and pick out our perfect Christmas tree and play in the snow!
12.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Thompson
My favorite family tradition is to gather together on Christmas Eve and eat a good, big meal together. Then, open our presents, one at a time.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynna
Thank you so much to some of tips, it was work for me. Actually, our Chirsmast tradition it is not conventional, because we are so huge family. So cook for all could be exausting and maybe imposible. So, each of us previusly prepare a good tradicional meal to share in a table with all the family meeting. In fact, normally we have a lot of food to share, yet having time to share enjoyble talks, see the dancers of kids, hugs and kissis and tears too, as a big close relationship happy family talking about our lifes with all his happyers and troubles

If i win I want to send my cookies to my aunt that cant come this year to celebrate with the family members. She live in DC

PD: English it is not my first tongue, so please not take note about my bad redaction and grammatical
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCocco
Our family tradition is that we drive a total of three hours, have lunch and cut down our own tree and pay $95 for it when we could have gotten one a half mile away for $35. :-) But we love it and we do it every year.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
our christmas is full of traditions and memories. i love the annual shopping trips that all the women in my family take together. we just load up in the cars and spend the day together searching for all the gifts we need! i also love christmas eve baking ALLLLL day with my mom, and the day after christmas brunch with my dad's family. so many of my childhood christmas memories are some of my favorite memories... we did lots of arts & crafts as kids, and watched all the classic christmas movies. ohh goodness i could talk about it all day :)
12.11.2012 | Unregistered Commentercandace
My favorite holiday tradition is watching Christmas movies with my family. My wife would love to have some of your homemade cookies!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris Kubinski
My family tradition is sleeping in, unwrapping presents one at a time, and then eating a waffle breakfast!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha
My favorite Holiday tradition is baking cookies!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarissa Kubinski
Our family tradition is , lo and behold, baking sugar cookies and decorating them on Christmas Eve. We have tons of cookie cutters and we always do it as a family Everyone has a job and my favorite part is, of course, licking the beater and spatula after everything is done :) We have so many Christmas traditions in my family but this is by far my favorite! Hope I am the lucky winner!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
My family tradition is new PJ's on Christmas Eve and then I wake up early before everyone else and make a special Christmas Breakfast (that everyone promptly scarfs down so they can get to the presents). It's always a wonderful morning.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMariah Jensen
Thank you so much for these tips! I always seem to end up with sticky dough. Definitely going to try again when I visit my little sister (she's 9, I'm 24...quite the difference!) and we can decorate together :)

Hmm...well, my family has a few crazy traditions, but my favorite takes place on Christmas eve. As a family, we all go to the store and pick out new pajamas to wear. Then, my mom makes a bunch of snacks while we all hang out and play games and have the local news station's "Santa Tracker" on the TV for my little sister (or us, when we were kids). It's always a fun night, and I'm missing it this year :(
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel T
Growing up we baked challah bread to deliver to all our neighbors. Many days were spend kneading dough and wrapping the finished products in tissue paper. I haven't made the bread in years but recently tried my hand at it without my mom - turned out ok - practice makes perfect!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
My fave holiday tradition is making cookies as a family :)
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlaine
We have a raclette party Christmas Day and it is deliciously rich and good. My kids love it!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori S H
My favorite holiday tradition is eating leftovers for brunch and watching Star Wars with my brothers. :)
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy B
Every year my friend hosts a holiday party with a showing of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the 1959 Mexican film, Santa Clause. Watching as adults, both movies are so zany and fun. Its the best!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCamille
My doorstep is hungry :)
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLetty
I found your blog after reading about you in our local paper. I've really enjoyed your writing, pictures and recipes! Our Christmas traditions are similar to the rest in many ways. But a silly fun one I have is making a special feast for the animal friends we have and take care of, both indoors and outside.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJane
My holiday tradition is buying the Christmas tree with my father. We debate which tree we should buy, the taller tree or the shorter tree, the bigger tree or the smaller tree. When we agree, we watch the people cut the branches and cut the trunk of the tree. I remember watching them cut the branches and the trunk as a child, captured by the smell of the wood. My father and I save the "slice" of the trunk they cut, and write the year on the wood. This will be the 22nd year of the tradition!
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMia
Every year since high school, I make sugar cookies and decorate them. It's always a favorite part of Christmas. My mother in law shared with me that her mom always made them too.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis
My favorite holiday tradition is one a started with my husband. We would take a break from Christmas on Christmas eve, and watch a non Christmas movie together at home. Our perennial favorite is Tank Girl. It is a way to relax and enjoy the evening after the stress leading up to the holiday.
12.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJackie H
My husband loves sugar cookies and asks for them every Christmas. I've struggled to make them at times. Thanks so much for the tips! I'm sure they will help. Our traditional Christmas includes a late breakfast after opening presents and a long walk with the dogs. I'm looking forward to it!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
My favorite holiday tradition has to be the annual holiday ornament. Each and every year everyone in my family chooses a new ornament to represent their place on the family Christmas tree. (:
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Grz
Our Xmas tradition is to all get together the night before and make a gingerbread house while drinking egg nog.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam
Growing up, my favorite Christmas tradition was driving through town on Christmas Eve, looking at all the lights and decorations, then coming home and opening 1 present -- always a new pair of Christmas pajamas to wear to bed. Now that I'm "grown up" and have a young daughter myself, I'm enjoying carrying this tradition through to my family!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
We always do a big Christmas morning breakfast in our jammies after the presents are opened.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnastasia
My favorite holiday tradition started when I was a child and has transformed over the years. My brother and I used to read The Polar Express with my parents every Christmas Eve, and then go outside to listen for Santa's bells (which we always heard!). Now, we make it a point to watch The Polar Express every Christmas day, after presents and food and more presents and more food. It's actually hard for me to watch it any other time of year (unlike other Christmas movies, which I can watch year-round)!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTalia
My favorite Christmas tradition is baking cookies for family, friends and coworkers!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarissa Kubinski
My favorite holiday tradition is going to mass with my family on Christmas day.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaricela Leighton
Our family tradition is we have two trees every year. One is the main tree that goes in our Living Room where we put all the gifts under. The 2nd tree belongs to my daughter...we go to disney twice a year and each time she gets a special ornament autographed by the character and hangs it on her tree...that's also the tree that Santa drops the present to.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Fahl
My sister, brother and our extended families gather together for Christmas lunch. I do most of the cooking and try to always include the dishes and desserts that my niece and nephews enjoy, but only get at Christmas. We eat and fellowship together.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
My favorite holiday tradition is cooking with my mom on Christmas Eve. My family comes over every year and my mom and I make an Italian feast. My mom makes her "famous" spaghetti sauce and meatballs and I make a lasagna. It's always a special time spent with family; I look forward to it every year.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
My husband and I don't really have any traditions yet, maybe no traditions is our tradition! I have been contemplating it more and more as we now have a daughter. I love everyone else's posts, they give me such great inspirations of how I can shape the holidays for my daughter!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim Ausk
My favorite family tradition is baking cookies with my son!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
When I was a kid, mom always made what we called "Christmas bread." It's a yeast bread dough that she would braid into two braids of different sizes. She'd place the smaller on the larger and bake them that way, finishing them off with a sugar glaze once out of the oven. That, to me, was always the sign it was Christmas.

As I prepared to move to ND two Christmases ago, mom showed me how to make the bread, but it's just not the same without mom!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatey911
I love going to Snowflake Lane! A small nightly street parade with live music, dancing toy soldiers, and snow~
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana
Since I haven't done any baking, I'd sure love that tin of sugar cookies!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue
Ahh, holiday traditions! I love 'em all - decorating the tree, listening to corny old tapes, watching "A Christmas Story", and lots of baking! I make my grandmother's molasses cookies every year, and always convert some molasses skeptics! Plus the peanut butter cookies, gingerbread... I'm going to have to do sugar cookies this year now I have the perfect recipe ;)
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana
My favorite tradition is putting on the old Christmas cds, going through all the sentimental ornaments, decorationg the tree and the mantle and having my daughter rearrange it all for me because I can never get it quite right. Having my children here with me decorating, baking, eating and laughing at old stories is when my heart is the fullest and I am the happiest.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMissy
My favorite Christmas tradition is going to get our tree. I grew up and still live in Oregon where we can get a forest service permit for $5 to harvest a tree or we can visit a family owned tree farm to harvest a tree. I can't think of a single year where I wasn't on the ground (on the snow or mud or rain or frozen grass) with a saw cutting my tree, or watching one of my parents cut the tree. It's just not Christmas if there isn't a real tree.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
On Christmas Eve after dinner, The older of mom's kids Drink a little too much, while the the little ones just follow the leader, as we get under the tree and look at all the lights then make a fire in the pit and tell stories!
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda S
Every Christmas, my cousins and I cook Christmas dinner, while our parents get to relax and chat. We always have fun experimenting and catching up together.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina C.
Sledding between presents and Christmas breakfast. Fresh coat of snow. Cold noses. Warm food waiting inside.
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbChrs
My favorite tradition is making spritz cookies with my mom and watching "It's Wonderful Life".
12.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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