How to Hand Cut Sugar Cookies

Don't have the cutter you need? You can always hand cut your sugar cookie shapes! Use these tips and tricks to make hand cutting as easy as possible.

Tutorial for hand cutting custom sugar cookies

I own a lot of cookie cutters. Like... A LOT. Like.... someone cover my husband's eyes... probably around 800 cookie cutters. And I love to re-purpose a cookie cutter and use it for something entirely different from it's intended shape. (You turning a candle cutter into a gnome.) But for all my planning (ha) and preparation (ha ha ha ha ha)... sometimes I just need a certain shape that I don't have. And when that happens, I'm faced with two possible solutions -- I can make my own cookie cutter or I can hand cut the shape.

If I need to cut more than a dozen of the same shape, I usually just make my own cutter. But if I only need a handful of the shape, I will hand cut. Hand cutting custom cookie dough shapes used to seem like the end of the world for me - until I figured out the easiest way to do it. Keep on reading for my favorite way to hand cut cookies that won't leave you rocking in a corner or online shopping for hours just to avoid getting started.

Tutorial for how to hand cut custom decorated sugar cookies

Tips For Hand Cutting Custom Cookie Dough Shapes

1. Make a template.

Templates can be made a few different ways:
A) Trace, print, or draw your image onto a regular ol' piece of paper. Cut it out and then spray it with a non-stick cooking spray. The oil makes the paper sturdier. It also helps the template stick to the dough while you are cutting the image out - and easily removes when you've transferred the shape to the baking sheet. (As a lazy decorator - this is my number one choice for templates.) When you are finished, press the template between two paper towels to absorb excess oil and you can save your template to use again later! (Bus template above.)
B) Trace, print, or draw your image onto a piece of card stock. Use clear packing tape to tape over the top and bottom of the image to essentially laminate the template. (Globe template above.)
C) Trace the image onto the lid of a plastic whipped topping container like the candy shape above. You then cut it out with scissors or a sharp knife. You can use the image you cut out, or even the rest of the lid as the template for your image. (Candy image above.)
D) Use a projector like a KopyKake or Pico to project an image down onto the dough and cut along the outside edges of the image. (I used the fence image above in my KK.)

Four best PenBlade knives for hand cutting cookies

2. Find a good knife.

The perfect knife for hand cutting custom cookie shapes is THIN and SHARP. I used a small paring knife with great results for a long time until I discovered the PenBlade knife. And then my hand cutting life changed forever. PenBlades are a surgical grade razor blade. You push the blade out with your thumb and retract it with your finger. They are designed to be disposable, but if you carefully wipe the blade with a damp towel after each use...they last for months. favorite thing of all... they come in different sizes and shapes!! (I *know* I sound like a commercial. But I'm being completely honest when I say that I will never hand cut with any other knife ever again.)

#10 (Blue) - I LOVE the curved blade options that PenBlade offers. They make cutting curves so much easier and smoother. And let's be honest - MOST cookie shapes have some kind of curveto them. This is easily my favorite blade.
#15 (Green) - This is the baby version of the #10 blade. It's tiny cutting blade allows it to cut all the tiny details perfectly without leaving jagged edges.
#11A (Yellow) - This one is closest to a regular razor blade. It's got a long, straight edge that is perfect for cutting ...long straight edges!
#11P (Orange) - JUST RELEASED - it's thinner and longer than the #11A bladee. Use it to get into all the tiny corners for precise details that the #11A can't quite handle.

You can learn more about my apparent obsession with the PenBlade knives HERE.

3. Chill your dough.

We're talking cold hard dough here. None of my recipes require chilling because I have serious time management issues. Also, I'm impatient. So trust me when I say - do NOT skip this step. I like to freeze my dough almost solid. I'll roll out the dough like I normally do, and then layer it between sheets of parchment on a baking sheet. I place the entire baking sheet in the freezer for two hours before hand cutting. (I have a tiny freezer so I have to use a much smaller baking sheet I got from the dollar store for freezing dough.) When you are ready to cut the shapes, remove only ONE sheet of rolled out dough at a time.

4. Cut the right way.

Use short, sharp movements to cut out each shape. The knife blade should be going UP and DOWN as you move around the template. Typically, we cut through food by pulling through the dough at an angle sideways -  like when you cut a sandwich. This will lead to jagged edges. Think about how a saw blade goes up and down as a piece of wood moves into it. That's how you want to cut your dough.

A microplane grater can smooth the edges of a baked cookie.

5. Smooth edges before baking.

After I've completely cut out my shape, I will leave the template pressed against the dough and lift the cut out with an offset spatula. I gently smooth around the edges with my finger before transferring the cut out to a baking sheet. Then I remove the template and cut out the next shape.

When all else fails... you can file the edges of your cookie with a microplane grater after baking.

See it all in action here.

What are YOUR best tips for hand cutting??



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