1) Remember "sugar cookies" and "Cut out sugar cookies" are two totally different animals.
If you try to make your standard soft and chewy sugar cookie recipe and roll it out and use cookie cutters, you will get a big blob of nothing. You have to go with a more sturdy "cut out recipe".
2) Once my dough is mixed I divide it into 2 portions I roll it out in between 2 pieces of parchment paper(it is a sticky dough). I roll them to 3/8". Having some of those spacers that you slip on to the ends of your rolling pin ensure your cookies are all even in thickness. Also, want to know the best rolling pin available on the market? A piece of PVC pipe!
Its cheap and you can cut it to whatever size you want it. I had my hubby cut mine to 2 feet so I could roll large pieces of fondant.
3) You dough MUST, I repeat MUST be cold. Especially before baking. After you roll your dough to 3/8". Put it in the fridge for 2 hours in the parchmentpaper to rest and chill.
4) Cut your dough...Use your cookie cutters and cut out your desired shape. Remove the excess dough and re roll to 3/8" between parchment paper and put back in the fridge until well chilled again. You also must put your cut out shapes back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before baking.
5) Never EVER EVER use a hot or warm cookie sheet. It will start to melt the cookie dough before it ever reaches the oven.
6) Un greased cookie sheet! Do not use cooking spray, butter, parchment paper or a silicone mat.
These items may cause your cookie to spread a bit and we want the least amount of spread.
7) Keep an eye on your cookies. For the thickness of 3/8", mine baked for 12 minutes.
You do not want the edges to brown. You want that nice uniform pale color all the way around.
8) Keep on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
9) The cookies must be completely cool before you begin icing.
The below recipe allows you to make one icing thickness and use it from start to finish in the decorating process.
1) Sugar cookie icing is not a lick the bowl type of icing. It is very sweet and really only tastes good when paired with the cookie.
2) Make sure the bowl you use for mixing your icing is free on oil and grease.
3) The best tip size in my opinion for the bottom smooth icing is a #4 round.
4)I tint the icing with paste food coloring. If you use the liquid food coloring it thins out the icing too much. And the paste makes the colors more vibrant without having to use a whole bottle of the liquid stuff.
5) Color the icing a tad bit darker than you would like the finished color. It dries a bit lighter.
6) Fill your icing bag by placing your bag in a cup with a wet paper towel in the bottom. Also use this cup to hold your icing bag when you are not using it. The wet paper towel keeps the icing from leaking all over the place and the tip from clogging.
7) Using your #4 tip, outline the cookie 1/4" in from the edge of the cookie. Then immediately fill in your cookie using the same tip. Please note the filling in of the cookie does not have to piped on perfectly. If there are any missed spots, take a tooth pick and smear the icing into the missed spots. Carefully lift your cookie and shake it from side to side to help the icing level itself out. It might not look completely smooth. But it will smooth out as it drys.
8) If there are any air bubbles in your icing, pop them with a pin and gently shake your cookie from side to side to even it out again.
9) Let your iced cookies dry for about 4 hours before you do any of your design work. If you do it while the bottom icing is wet, the colors will bleed.
10) For making my decorations on the cookie, I use a #1 or a #2 tip.
11) Shaky hand? Try resting your elbows on the table while piping or even try holding your breath.
12) After all of your decorating is complete, it is very important that your icing COMPLETELY dries. I usually dry my cookies for about 12-16 hours. Just dry them on the cooling racks out in the open.
13) Once dry, you can wrap them individually or stack them on top of one another with parchment/wax paper between the cookies.
14) If kept airtight they last quite some time. The longest they have been kept around in my house is 7 days. But some people say they can last a month.