Adapted from out of print Joy of Cooking recipe
This is the cut-out cookie recipe that my mom always made when I was growing up from her 1960s era Joy of Cooking cookbook. In it, it’s called “Rich Roll Cookies”. It makes a dough with no leavening (i.e. baking soda or baking powder), so they do not puff up much or spread and keep their shape very well. This kind of dough is ideal for cut-out cookies, particularly intricate or stamped cookies. These cookies are legend in my family and all of the kids (including the grown ones) squeal when we know my mom is going to be making them. They make Christmas extra special. I’m not sure what she does to them, but somehow hers taste better than mine. Maybe it is just the extra love she puts in them! Or maybe it is that I didn’t have to put all of the effort into making them! My nieces are especially good at making these, as they are starting to develop some pretty serious baking and cooking skills.
Notes and Suggestions:
As these are pretty simple in flavor, the best ingredients you can use, do make a difference. This is a time to buy the fancier butter and King Arthur Flour as you will notice a difference. Make sure to fully cream the butter and sugar. I used to only stir them until combined, but mixing them for 2-3 extra minutes, you will see that the butter begins to change to a lighter color and it becomes fluffier. This makes for a more delicious cookie. The dough needs to stay pretty cool (keep in refrigerator until ready to roll out) or it will stick. When rolling out, try to roll the dough as evenly as possible, so that they will cook evenly. Make sure to keep your rolling pin, board, and cookie cutters well floured throughout the rolling process. You may either freeze the dough or freeze the baked, but not yet frosted cookies. If you plan ahead, this is a great way to get a jump on Christmas baking by having these ready to frost in your freezer. If you have it, using CLEAR vanilla for the frosting will keep it whiter and stay truer to color if you use gel food colorings.
Add eggs and vanilla and continue to beat until fluffy. Then, add flour and salt and beat until combined.
A double batch is quite a bit of dough, but I have found that these cookies go fast! They are always the first to be gone at Christmas, no matter how many get made. Split the dough in half, turn the dough out onto two sheets of plastic wrap, form into discs, and wrap up. The disc shape will make it easier to roll out later.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but you may make the dough a few days ahead if necessary. You may also freeze the dough. Simply defrost in the refrigerator the night before you plan to roll it out.
On a well floured board, roll out the dough to 1/4-3/8 inch thickness. Cut out with desired cookie cutter. For the 4th of July, I decided to make red and blue stars. Place shapes onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. These will not spread, but you do want to give them an inch or two for the heat to fully circulate.
Bake until lightly browned on edges. They should still be light in color.
Remove from cookie sheet and allow to fully cool. You may also freeze them, defrost them on the counter, and then frost them. This may make your Christmas baking easier.
Mix all of the frosting ingredients together with either a stand mixer or hand mixer. I suggest using clear vanilla if you plan to color your frosting.
I suggest using gel food coloring as it is a more intense color and does not change the texture of the frosting.
I chose to do two of the hardest colors to get right: red and royal blue. Gel food coloring is really the only way to achieve this without changing the taste of the frosting. If you are wanting a pastel color, liquid food coloring works well.
Allow the frosting to set, about an hour. You may then stack them in sealed containers with wax paper between layers.
Best Cut-out Sugar Cookies Ever
A light and crisp butter cookie with a buttercream frosting
1 cup Butter, softened (4 sticks) I prefer salted, but you can also used unsalted
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
- For buttercream frosting:
5 TBSP Butter, softened
3 cups Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla, clear if possible
2 TBSP milk
- In a large bowl of a mixer (though you can mix these by hand), cream butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until mixture changes to lighter color and is fluffy.
- Beat in eggs and vanilla.
- Add flour and salt until thick dough is formed.
- Chill dough 3 -4 hours before rolling. Dough can be made up to a week in advance or can be frozen. Simply defrost overnight in refrigerator when ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll out dough to 1/4-3/8 inch thickness on a well-floured board. You may use parchment paper if desired. Cut out using well floured cookie cutters and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes depending on cookie size. They will get slightly golden on the edges. Allow them to cool completely. You may freeze cookies at this point to frost later.
- Mix buttercream frosting ingredients with a hand mixer or stand mixer to fully incorporate ingredients and make them fluffy. Add gel food colorings as desired and spread on cookies.
- Allow frosting to harden slightly and stack between wax paper or parchment paper in tightly sealed containers for storage. The cookies will store well for 3-4 days.
- This is a more time intensive cookie because of the need to chill the dough and roll it out. However, the flexibility of freezing the dough means that if you plan ahead a bit, you can have these ready to frost when needed.