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Tips on using cookie cutters, please!

I've made tons and tons of cookies, but I've never before ventured into the realm of cookie cutters, so I thought I'd solicit my fellow ChowHounders for some advice before I make my maiden voyage. I have cookie recipes that I love and plan to use, but am wondering if you have any tips on things such as thickness of dough, specific types of cookie cutters, etc. that I should know about. Ideally, I'd like to make:

Sugar cookies shaped like candy canes
Gingerbread men
Choc Chip cookies shaped like xmas trees (this is the one I'm really concerned about...will the chocolate chips mess up the shape? Should I use mini choc chips or something like that to help maintain shape?)

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  1. Don't roll the dough too thin - it will be a brittle cookie and increase the probability of breakage.

    Use cutters that don't have too many corners or extended appendages in the shape (e.g. a gingerbread person with a "pudgier" shape will be less likely to break later). I bought a great cutter at William Sonoma a year ago (about 6" high) - the equivalent of a large cookie, and big enough to decorate with 'clothing' made of icing, sprinkles and candies.

    Use a silicon mat for baking. The cookies won't stick and will be much easier to transfer to cooling racks.

    The size of your tree form should dictate the logic of using standard chips or miniature. Perhaps on the first batch, make half with large chips and half with miniature. Which ever doesn't work gets to be eaten by chef and fortunate 'volunteer testers' in the vicinity!

    Happy baking!

    1. If you refrigerate the cut-out cookies before you bake them, the edges will be sharper. I've chilled them anywhere from 10 to 30 min. and it has helped.

      1. If you want to make lots of cookies to give out, make sure to get some small size cookie cutters, you can also use them to cut out shaped sandwiches for appetizers throughout the year.

        1. Sometimes the dough will stick to the cutters. An easy solution is to keep a little dish of flour next to you and dip your cutter in the flour occasionally.

          1. Chocolate chips are hard to cut through, so the mini chips would be less of a problem when cutting.