1. Find a good, simple recipe
The best baked goods start with a simple base. Good sugar cookies should have butter, sugar, egg, flour, salt, baking powder, and vanilla extract.
Check out this recipe from One Little Project.
2. Good cookies need good frosting
If you're going to make the perfect sugar cookie, you don't want to ruin it with too-sweet store-bought frosting.
You have two options:
Make sure to let your cookies cool before frosting!
3. Don't forget to let your butter soften
Make sure to take your butter out of the fridge and allow it to rest at room temperature for about an hour before beginning to bake. It should be soft and give to a gentle poke.
Resist the temptation to nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds. This will likely lead to butter that's too soft and your cookies will turn out greasy and will not hold their shape.
If you forgot to take your butter out when game-time arrives, grate it with your cheese grater!
4. Don't overwork the dough
You do not have to stir your dough until you can't see a speck of dry ingredient. Lumps are okay! If you overwork your dough, you'll end up with tough cookies (and I mean this in the negative connotation). Mix your dough until the ingredients are just incorporated and then PUT THE SPOON DOWN AND WALK AWAY.
5. Chill your dough before rolling
This is essential when making cut-out sugar cookies. Otherwise, the dough will be sticky and will be impossible to cut into cute shapes and transfer to a baking sheet. Chilled cookie dough will roll out easier, have sharp edges with using cookie cutters, and hold shape better when baking for a prettier end-product.
Form your dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or freezer for 15.
6. Roll to the perfect thickness
Too thin dough=torn and broken cookies that can easily over-bake. Too thick dough=unevenly cooked or under-cooked cookies.
For the sugar cookie perfection, you want to target dough that's ~1/4 inch thick.
7. Keep an eye on your cookies!
Everyone's oven is different, so even if your recipe insists that 9 minutes is perfection, your oven might think 9 minutes makes over-browned and hard cookies.
And don't be fooled by the recommendation to cook until "golden brown." If your cookies already have browned edges when coming out of the oven, they're already too far gone.
Remove your cookies from the oven once they've set (stopped expanding) and have a very slight color. Don't freak out about small cracks in the center--this is another good sign of a perfectly baked sugar cookie.
8. Don't use super intricate cookie cutters
Intricate and fancy cookie cutters equate to more edges which equates to more risk for tearing/breaking on transfer to the baking sheet. You also run a greater risk of your cookie turning into an indistinguishable blob in the oven. Stick with the classics--something with a simple, identifiable shape without too many details.
9. Add the extras before the icing sets
Edible glitter or sprinkles or nonpareils can really take a sugar cookie to the next level. Make sure to add them right after icing your cookies so they'll stick.
SHARE with your loved ones that love to bake!