A kitchen is never complete without a cookie jar filled with cookies! They are a total crowd-pleaser and never last long in my house. One of the great things about cookies is the variety of textures, flavors, and designs that you can have. They are truly versatile and delicious baked goods.
Shaped and decorated cookies have become a staple in many homes during the holidays. Many families even have a Christmas tradition of baking cookies together on Christmas Eve. However, with all the different types of cookies available today, it can be a bit of a minefield when you’re trying to find the best one to make.
Thankfully, I used my magic baking powers to read your mind and provide you with a thorough answer to this conundrum!
This article covers all you need to know about the best cookies that work with cookie cutters, the top 5 types of dough for making shaped cookies, and the best way to cut your cookies to ensure they turn out perfect.
I have virtually traveled to Scotland, Germany, France, Japan, and Pennsylvania to bring you the top 5 cookie doughs.
Best Cookies That Work With Cookie Cutters
If you’re planning on making a batch of shaped cookies, there are a few considerations when it comes to the type of cookie you make. Ideally, you want a cookie that will hold its shape when cooked and is made from a dough that is easy to handle.
Some cookies have quite a wet dough, that is spooned or dropped onto a baking sheet, like an NYC cookie. These are then baked in the oven where they spread out. They will hopefully form a pretty circle but they also could spread across your whole sheet pan! In this case, you might end up with square cookies.
Sugar cookie dough, gingerbread, shortbread, and sablé dough are some of the most common doughs used to make cookies that hold their shape. They tend to have more flour and less fat, which leads to a dryer dough that can be kneaded, rolled, and cut. They don’t spread when cooking, which means they hold their shape in the oven.
Best Cookie Dough for Cookie Cutters
Sugar Cookie Dough
This dough needs a little introduction! Synonymous with the holiday season, sugar cookies are very often seen cut into a multitude of shapes and intricately decorated. They were created in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the 1700’s.
Sugar cookie dough is made from sugar (surprisingly!), butter, eggs, flour, vanilla, and a raising agent such as baking powder. This combination gives the cookies a sturdy consistency, which is perfect for rolling out and cutting into shapes.
This delicious dough has roots back as far as the 15th century. This original recipe actually contained no ginger at all but the recipe has evolved over time to include ginger and spices as some of the core ingredients. Add muscovado sugar, golden syrup, butter, flour and sugar to your ground ginger and mixed spices, and hey presto, you have gingerbread dough!
Despite the word “bread” in the name, gingerbread is in fact cookie dough. It is probably most recognizable in the shape of a house or a little gingerbread man and exquisitely decorated with icing, especially around Christmas time. The gingerbread house originated in Germany between the 16th and 18th centuries and has since spread worldwide. Given that it can be made into a freestanding house, gingerbread dough is one of the best for making shaped cookies.
Shortbread biscuits are a favourite in the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland where it was first made, and it’s easy to see why. Made with just three ingredients (flour, butter and sugar), these biscuits (as the British call them) are incredibly moreish. The delicate, crumbly, melt in the mouth buttery texture is irresistible.
The secret to good shortbread is in the name – short. They should have a short, crumbly texture, which is achieved by delicate handling and chilling the dough before you roll it. The more you handle this dough, the tougher it will become so handle it with care.
Sablé means sandy in French, which describes the crumbly texture of these biscuits. The ingredients are very similar to that of shortbread but they also contain an egg or an egg yolk. This little addition gives the biscuits a softer center when cooked and helps to bind the ingredients together.
This makes it a good cookie dough option as it’s a bit more dependable and less temperamental than shortbread. Still handle it with care though as it can become tough and rubbery very easily.
Monaka Cookies / Mochi Dough
These Japanese cookies are sure to test your baking skills. They are perhaps the most unusual and unique on this list, but they definitely deserve a place as one of the top 5 cookie doughs.
A monaka cookie is a sandwich cookie with azuki bean jam filling spread or piped between two wafer biscuits. The wafer biscuits are made from mochi, a type of Japanese rice. First, the mochi dough is boiled and then shaped using molds. The shapes are then baked in the oven and assembled when cooled.
Cutting Cookie Dough
Once you’ve decided on the type of dough to use, the next part is making it and cutting it into the desired shapes. I have put together a full article on using cookie cutters, so check that out for all the details.
The best way to cut the dough is after you roll it out and before you bake it. You want to bake your cookies in the desired shape. Cutting them after baking leads to a higher risk of breaking and crumbling cookies.
There are a variety of kitchen tools that you can use to cut cookie dough. Cookie cutters come in any shape and size imaginable and are very easy to use, clean, and store. If you don’t have a cutter, a cup, glass, small bowl, or egg cup can work just as well. For the creative among us, freestyling it with a knife or pizza slicer is also a great way to chop up your dough.
To prevent your cutting method from sticking to your dough, dip it in a small bit of flour first. If you use a knife to cut the dough, try not to drag it through or use a sawing motion. Instead, try to cut straight down, lift your knife straight up, and move on to the next part. This reduces the chance of your dough cracking or splitting, which can happen when you drag the knife through it.
Which Dough Will You Make Your Delicious Cookies With?
These top 5 cookie doughs to use with cookie cutters will keep you busy as you try them all to find your favorite. Each dough has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the best way to learn these is to make them at home yourself.
My personal favorite is gingerbread dough, as it has a deep spicy flavor and can be easily made into all different types of shapes and sizes. What’s more, you can even make a chocolate version – which is really delicious.