When the holidays come, many bakers want to use their cookie cutters to create cookies with festive shapes. This means rolling the dough thin (almost like pie dough) and then stamping out the cookies. The dough has to taste good, but it must be sturdy enough to roll and decorate. It certainly can’t be sticky. And ideally the dough will tolerate being rolled a second time (so you can make cookies from the scraps left behind).
We found that superfine sugar helps achieve a fine, delicate texture, while a little cream cheese assists in making the dough workable without turning the cookies tough. (Cream cheese is softer than butter when chilled and since there’s no liquid or eggs in a classic holiday cookie this added softness is important.) We also like the subtle tang added by the cream cheese.
Finally, using the reverse creaming method in which the butter is beaten into the flour and sugar (rather than the standard creaming method in which the butter and sugar are whipped together) produces flat, crisp cookies, without any airy pockets—just what you want for glazing or decorating.
The wrapped disks of dough can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to one month. If frozen, let the disks thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before using. You can use this basic dough to make Lime-Glazed Coconut Snowballs, Jam Sandwiches, and Chocolate-Cherry Bar Cookies with Hazelnuts. See the core technique video on How to Make Multiple Cookies from One Dough for more details.
Total Cooking Time: 150
Preparation Time: 10
Active Cooking Time: 40
Make Ahead: 1 week between sheets of parchment paper in airtight container
Yield: About 38 cookies