Sugar cookie cutouts are a year-round treat. Cookie cutter designs range from numbers and letters to ducklings, rabbits, and eggs, to flowers, lips and hearts, to pumpkins, ghosts and bats, to trees, angles and gingerbread men… and everything in between. Decorating the cookies is the highlight of many decorating parties. With their simple techniques, and a staggeringly impossible means of hurting oneself, children from 1 to 99 have enjoyed applying colored icing, sprinkles and decorations to their surface.
Some sugar cookie dough, however, is finicky and quickly becomes tough from overworking or adding too much flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. And not everyone enjoys crisp cookies. Many people enjoy their cookies barely set and decadently soft. Traditional sugar cookies are liable to break or crumble under these demands. But cream cheese sugar cookies are the perfect medium for soft and decoratable cookies. The cream cheese adds a stabilizing element to both the dough and the finished cookies. It also adds a subtle tang to the cookies without irritating the sides of your tongue. Their velvelty soft texture is gentle on even the most sensitive of mouths.
Like all sugar cookie dough, this dough will also need to be refrigerated before it can be rolled or cut for cookies. And for these cookies, we’ll press the dough into a tube-shape for chilling. Aside from being the perfect size for cutting into rounds, it’s also significantly easier to handle if you decide to roll the dough for cutouts. And like all cookie dough, we’ll need to sprinkle the top to keep it from sticking to our rolling pin. But we can substitute powdered sugar for flour to dust the top. This adds a slight sweetness to the top without the possibility of the dough becoming tough from working the flour too much. Like flour, though, use as little as is necessary. Too much powdered sugar, and these will run the risk of being overly sweet.
As for decorating? The sky’s the limit here. But we need to follow some simple guidelines. If you decide to decorate with sugar sprinkles or other non pareils, these decorations need to be applied before the cookies are baked. Other decorations such as buttercream icing, color flow icing, candy decorating markers and spray-on food colors are applied only after the cookies have completely cooled. And the decorating markers are applied in two steps. First a while color flow base is applied, and after that hardens, the designs can be drawn on top. The cutout cookies lend themselves better to icing decorations, whereas the sliced cookie rounds work equally well with sprinkle decorations or icing decorations.
As for rolling these cookies, rolling pin guides are rubber bands of varying thicknesses that fit around the ends of a rolling pin to ensure whatever you are rolling is rolled to the same thickness. And cookies would benefit from this so they cook evenly.
Give the gift of hilariously decorated cookies on an obscure holiday. There are certainly cookie cutters out there for whatever holiday you can find.
Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup softened butter
- 8 ozs softened cream cheese
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
Cream the cream cheese and butter together on medium high in a heavy duty stand mixer until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream on medium high for an additional 3 minutes. Add the eggs and cream on medium until the mixture is smooth and lemony yellow. Add the vanilla, salt and baking powder and mix until combined. Add the flour, a cup at a time mixing on low until just combined.
Divide the dough in half and spread each half into a “tube” on a 15-inch long piece of parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper over the dough and press the dough into a tube using a large flat surface such as a cake lifter or a baking sheet. Continue pressing the dough until the tube is evenly distributed across the paper and is about 3 inches in diameter. Roll the paper around the tube, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
For cutouts, divide each tube in half, rolling the dough on a piece of parchment paper to a thickness of ⅜ inch. Lightly sprinkle the dough with powdered sugar to keep it from sticking. Cut shapes leaving ¼ inch between them. Reroll scraps. Slide the parchment paper with the dough cutouts onto a baking sheet.
For sliced cookies, cut the end off each tube and then slice cookies ⅜ of an inch thick. Place rounds on a parchment paper covered baking sheet leaving ½ an inch between rounds. Sprinkle the rounds with decorations or sugar before baking. Bake plain rounds for cookies that will be decorated with icing or other colored sprays.
Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes in a preheated 375°F oven or until the edges just begin to turn light brown. Do not overbake. Immediately remove the cookies from a pan and cool on wire racks. Store completely cooled cookies in an airtight container.