How to Keep Sugar Cookies From Spreading

Cut-out sugar cookies

Cut-out sugar cookies

Andrea asks: I am looking for any tips or advice on sugar cookie cut-outs. Whenever I make these, the cookies spread so much in the oven that the shapes become puffy-looking. Is there anything I can do to keep the shapes cleaner?

Baking S.O.S. says: There are a number of things you can do to prevent cut-out sugar cookies from spreading while baking. Perhaps one of these tricks might work:

1. I ALWAYS bake cut-out cookies on sheets trays lined with parchment paper. It reduces the amount of spreading drastically.

2. Working too much flour into the cookie dough while rolling it out can also make the cookies spread more. To avoid using excessive amounts of flour, I roll the cookie dough out between 2 sheets of waxed paper with just a little bit of flour.

3. Technically, you should re-roll the scrap dough only one time. The more you re-roll the scraps, the tougher they will become, and they will spread more, too. (But personally, I always re-roll the scraps until they are all gone. They still taste good, and I hate to waste cookie dough!!)

4. After rolling and cutting the cookie dough,  gather the scraps, wrap them in plastic, and stick them back in the frige (or even the freezer) to chill them before rolling them out again.  This is called “resting.” When the dough is allowed to “rest” in between rolling sessions, it relaxes the gluten in the flour, and the cookies will be more tender/not as elastic or tough.

5. Keep the cookie dough well-chilled. When it gets too warm, it gets sticky and hard to work with, tempting me to want to use more flour to keep it from sticking.  But as I mentioned, the more flour you work into the dough, the more the cookies tend to spread. Once you have cut the cookies and placed them on the parchment-lined cookie sheets, you could also pop the sheet tray into the frige for a few minutes, as well, to allow the cookies to rest before baking.

This is my favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe, along with my favorite icing for sugar cookies. Enjoy!

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