I am often looking for simple recipes with natural ingredients and no nuts so that I can feel good about sending in a home baked treat with my young children to school. For Son #1's birthday, I know he doesn't care for cake and besides his obligatory birthday cake and ice cream for his party, which he didn't touch, I wanted to make him something he loves - cookies. I ordered some cute dinosaur cookie cutters from Amazon and it matched a few other dino-themed things I had going on for the party. I quickly made up a basic icing out of powder sugar and milk with some fun colors and sent a big batch of iced dinosaur cut outs for his class in pre-school and served the rest at the party. These cookies were soo good. I liked them way better than cake and ice cream, too. You could spend a lot more time decorating them than I did (I spared you the close up photo of the sloppy dino decor), and they were a bit delicate but dinosaur cookies have a lot of small body parts sticking out which easily break off. The taste and quality were worth it. I would possibly roll them out thicker so they would hold up better next time, like I did with the hearts below.
When Valentine's Day rolled around, I wanted to make this recipe again and create simple cut out hearts for Son #2's potluck lunch at school. Since the kids are only 1 year old, just simple sprinkles on top were a fitting decoration and made this a doable recipe on a busy weeknight.
I found this recipe by googling "bakery style cut out cookies" and eventually finding a recommendation to this shortbread Joy of Baking recipe. I love it, I will definitely only use this recipe for cut out cookies going forward.
See Recipe Below, originally from: Joy of Baking
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsaltedbutter, room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm. (I found the less it chilled, the easier to roll and cut - and then just make sure to chill it again after cutting out shapes, before baking - shapes held up great!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick circle. Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter. Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.