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As we continue to spend more time at home than we would otherwise during summer months, baking cookies at home is probably more normal than otherwise, too. Cookie cutters are an easy way to bring your personality into the kitchen, if you’re looking for something than goes beyond the round shape of most cookies. “There are shapes for literally everything,” says cookbook author Sally McKenney.
“I use cookie cutters all year round,” says McKenney, author of the highly-rated “Sally’s Cookie Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cookie Bars, Shortbread, and More.” We consulted McKenney on cookie dough tricks to set you up for success, and how to find the right cookie cutter for you, whether you’re celebrating the Fourth of July or just another Tuesday.
I like metal cookie cutters over plastic cookie cutters. The metal cuts through the dough a lot easier without having to twist and turn the cutter, which ruins the shape of the cookie.
Sally McKenney, author of "Sally’s Cookie Addiction"
How to shop for cookie cutters
Cookie cutters are made from a wide variety of different materials, each with benefits and potential drawbacks. Plastic cookie cutters are inexpensive and easier for kids to use safely but they are also less durable and can have trouble cutting through soft dough cleanly.
“I like metal cookie cutters over plastic cookie cutters,” McKenney says. “The metal cuts through the dough a lot easier without having to twist and turn the cutter, which ruins the shape of the cookie.”
- Aluminum cookie cutters are the least expensive — and least durable
- Stainless steel cookie cutters are a little more costly and sturdier — they can rust if you don’t completely dry them after cleaning.
- Copper cookie cutters carry the highest price tag — they’re rust-resistant and durable enough you might pass them onto your kids.
When cookie cutters are too intricate, the probability that your sugar cookie dough will hold its shape is unlikely, unless you have some magical cookie dough.
The world of cookie cutters has evolved with geek culture. You can sculpt intricate dinosaur skeletons with a cutter and stamper set, make dessert in a galaxy far, far away with a Star Wars 8-piece cookie cutter set and bake an adorable tribute to Pusheen.
While cookie cutters with lots of details may look good, getting dough into and out of tiny spaces can prove frustrating. Simple geometric shapes are often more forgiving. “When cookie cutters are too intricate, the probability that your sugar cookie dough will hold its shape is unlikely, unless you have some magical cookie dough,” says McKenney. “Simple cutters are best. They are easy to decorate and that’s where you can make them come to life a bit.”
If you need to add a lot of detail, opt for piping tips and a pastry bag. But if you’re looking for a simple icing hack, McKenney recommends plastic squeeze bottles, the kind that typically hold ketchup or mustard in a diner.
Cookie cutters can also be used for more than cookies. McKenney uses star-shaped cutters to slice watermelon for fruit salad and circle shapes to make sure her biscuits are all the same size. I’ve used circular and square cutters to form egg patties for breakfast sandwiches.
Best cookie cutters to shop
“My favorite brand is Ann Clark. They’re very high quality — but inexpensive,” recommends McKenney. “They make thousands of different shapes, but I like to make hearts.”
If you bake often with kids and don’t care about shapes being absolutely perfect, the value for a tub of 101 plastic cookie cutters is hard to beat. The set includes letters, numbers and shapes, each with a plastic outline on top that makes it easier to grip and press down.
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This stainless steel set of 11 circular cutters works for more than just cookies. You can use the cutters to mold eggs and punch out dumpling dough circles. Just be sure to dry them thoroughly to avoid rust.
Copper cookie cutters come with a higher price tag, but they also come with some unique benefits. Copper cutters are durable, hold their shape well and won’t rust. In fact, they might be the only cookie cutters you want to keep on display.
Cookie cutter prep: Best dough to use
The most common dough used with cookie cutters is sugar cookie dough.
Personalize. McKenney likes to add spices (pumpkin pie spice in the fall, for example), lemon zest or cocoa to a typical sugar cookie recipe that calls for creaming (mixing) butter and sugar together.
Cool down. She recommends you chill your cookie dough to help keep the dough from spreading in the oven. McKenney rolls the dough out before chilling it — it’s easier to work with while it’s still soft — and then waits for at least an hour, if not overnight, before cutting out shapes.
Slice. Place the cutter on top of the dough and press down evenly and slowly. Use a spatula to transfer the cut-out cookie shapes to the baking pan to keep the dough from stretching or cracking.
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