A buttery cookie shaped like a little boy, or a cookie kitten with its tail tucked under, is more than just a confection. It is an edible example of cookie artistry. Some cutout cookies are formed with a cutter, some are created with a ruler and knife. All are made from a rich, pliable dough that must be chilled for easier handling, a plus because it can be made up to 1 week ahead. When ready, roll it out into a thin, even sheet. Then the fun begins: There are countless cookie cutter shapes for every occasion. Be sure to select cutters with sharp edges and patterns that are free of tiny details such as little ears or skinny tails that might break off as the dough drops from the cutter. To make the most out of a piece of dough, view it like an uncut puzzle and space the cutouts as close together as you can. Knead the scraps and reroll to use up the remaining dough. After baking, let the cookies cool briefly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire cooling rack with a large spatula that will fully support each cookie. Let hot cookie sheets cool before using them again, or the cutouts will spread out of shape.
Prepare the dough and divide it into two equal pieces; flatten slightly. Tear off two large squares of plastic wrap. Tightly wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and chill until the dough is easy to handle, about 1 to 3 hours, depending on the recipe.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one portion of dough 1/8 inch thick (keep the remaining half chilled until needed). Measure the dough with a ruler to check that it is of uniform thickness.
Cutting Out Cookies
Dip the cutting edge of the cookie cutter into flour. Set the cutter on the dough. Press straight down with equal pressure all the way around so that all parts of the pattern are cut out.
Moving Cookie to Sheet
Slide a large, wide spatula under the cookie and transfer it to a cookie sheet. Leave some room between the cutouts because they will expand as they bake.