Cut Out Cookies Using the Wax Paper Technique


Cut out cookies are always the most time consuming to make but they are most often, the prettiest.  They can be challenging depending upon the dough used and how the cookies are rolled and cut.  But they needn’t be if you use the technique below.

I have seen a variety of methods to roll out these cookies.  Flouring the work surface is always present but this method, especially if a lot of flour is used, is something I don’t do.  The unincorporated flour stays on the bottom of the cookie when baked.  Additionally, if the cookie dough is soft, it can be problematic to get the cookies onto the baking sheet without distorting the shapes.

Parchment PaperParchment Paper

Rolling dough between parchment paper is recommended a lot on the internet.  While I couldn’t bake without this kitchen staple, I never use it for rolling cut out cookies.  Parchment paper is a chemically treated, cellulose-based paper that is non-stick making it perfect for lining baking sheets and pans for easy removal.  It’s a durable paper that is heat and water-resistant. It also used for the French cooking technique called “en papilliote” where food is enclosed in parchment and baked. The term “en papilliote” means to cook in paper.

But I don’t use it for cut out cookies.  I find the very strength and thickness of the paper and the fact it is not translucent makes it difficult to roll the cookies without excessive  wrinkling of the bottom sheet or being able to see how the rolling is going.

Parchment paper can be found in grocery stores in rolls.  Kitchen shops and the internet also sell it cut in half sheets and various size parchment circles used to line cake pans.

Plastic Bags or Plastic Wrap

The problem with plastic bags is they are usually too small to be effective.  The problem with plastic wrap is it is hard to get it and keep it straight without severe wrinkling.

Wax PaperWax paper

So that brings us to wax paper.  Wax paper is coated with a very thin layer of paraffin.  It is water-resistant, but not heat-proof, so it should never be used as a liner for baking sheets and pans.  But it is the perfect vehicle for rolling the dough for cut out cookies because it is translucent and flexible.   Placing the dough between two sheets of wax paper enables you to see what is going on when you are rolling.  Is one side too thick or one end to thin?

In addition, because the paper is thin and flexible, running your hand over the top piece of paper allows you to feel for thick or thin spots and correct them.  But there is a definite technique for the perfect cut out cookies.

The same pieces of paper can be used as long as there are no tears in it.  If it is wrinkled when itis turned over, just smooth out the wrinkles whe the paper is replaced over the dough.  If there are, the paper needs to be replaced.

One thing that can happen when rolling between paper, is the dough stalls and refuses to move out when rolling.  The chances of that happening are reduced if the steps below are followed.

One of the other things I find wax paper is perfect for rolling dough to a certain size or shape.  Simply draw a pattern on the wax paper, preferably with a heavy marker such as a black sharpie.  Keep this side of the paper up so it doesn’t touch the dough.  You can now see where you need to roll to keep it within that shape.

Wax paper can be found on the shelves of grocery stores.  It comes in a roll.Boxes of wax peper

1. Divide the dough into several portions.  it is easier to roll smaller pieces of dough than to try to get it done all at once.

2.   Tear off two large pieces of wax paper.  I usually use about 18″ to 20″ pieces.  It is better to have too much than too little.  Position the paper so the long side is vertical or going away from you.

3.  Place the dough on the bottom piece of paper.Dough on bottom piece of wax paper

4.  Place the top piece of paper on the dough.  Flatten the dough with either the rolling pin or the palm of your hand.Dough between wax paper

5.  Roll the dough from the center away from you.  Turn the paper around so the unrolled portion is nearest you.Dough rolled out for Cut Out Cookies

6.  Roll away from you again.  Roll side to side also.

7.  Carefully remove the top piece of wax paper by keeping it very close to the dough.  If the paper is pulled straight up, the dough can stick to it especially if it is soft and tear away.  Keeping the paper close helps alleviate this.Paper pulled back

8. Note the wrinkled dough.  It can be much worse than this if the dough is soft.   Replace the paper, making sure it is smooth.

9.  Flip the dough over keeping it between the wax paper.  Remove the paper as above.  Replace the paper smoothing out any wrinkles it may have.  Roll the dough out from the ends and sides.Wrinkles in dough after rolling

10.  Repeat removing the top paper, replacing it flipping the dough, removing the bottom paper, replacing it and smoothing out any wrinkles every 3 or 4 times you roll the dough or if the dough stalls and won’t move out anymore.   Roll to the desired thickness.

Wax Paper Technique for Perfect Cut Out Cookies

The cookie dough should be of rolling consistency.  If it has been refrigerated and is very hard, rest it at room temperature until it is firm, but not hard. Should it be really soft, refrigerate to firm it up.  If at any point, the dough becomes overly soft, refrigerate or freeze it, on the paper, briefly to firm it up.

I have numbered the steps to make it easy to follow.  Don’t be put off by the number.  They go very fast and having done it a couple of times, it will become second nature and go quickly.  Writing this post made me think about what I was doing, but in reality, it’s very simple.

1.  If using multiple cutters, place them as close together as possible, touching is best.  If using a single cutter, place it as close as possible to the previous cutter to get the maximum amount of cut out cookies.Cut Out Cookies

2.  Place the paper, with the cut out cookies, on a baking sheet and freeze hard.  This only takes a few minutes.Cookies on a tray

3.  When frozen, push the cookies up using the bottom piece of paper.  They will pop right out.  If they soften too much at any point, freeze them again.Cookies popped out for Cut Out Cookies

4.  Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet as you remove them and bake as directed.  I usually let mine soften a bit before baking especially if finishing with sanding sugar to make sure it sticks.  They can also be baked directly from the freezer by adding a few minutes to the baking time called for in the recipe.

5.  Combine all the scraps from the first roll-outs.  Follow the above steps for more cookies.

A good example of cut out cookies on my blog is the Tropical Shortbread Cookies.  I have since used the frozen cookie method of transferring them to the baking sheets.

If you have never used this technique, I  hope you do.  If you have used parchement before, I encourage you to try wax paper.  I think you will find it much easier.

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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16 thoughts on “Cut Out Cookies Using the Wax Paper Technique

  1. cfriedman

    this is a great idea! i have tried plastic wrap and it works but not so great and a waste of plastic. and waxed paper can be composted! and the freezer idea will make them come out so perfectly! thank you. thank you.

  2. Sew Hoppy

    After one encounter with rolled-out cookies I never did it again. With your guidance, I will attempt it again, with success,

    1. hfletcher Post author

      I am so happy you commented. You are exactly the person for whom I write. I think this will change your mind about cut out cookies. Good Luck.

  3. Lorelei

    I usually use the wax paper, but never thought about freezing the cookies before pulling them off the sheet. It will also allow the cookies to keep their shape. Thanks.

  4. sallybr

    BRILLIANT! i can hardly wait to try it, I use plastic or parchment and indeed there are annoying upissues with each one…. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Sally – Actually my mother used this method but didn’t use the freezer to pop them out. Sometimes I wonder if a post will be too basic but since I blog for those that know little of baking I guess the basics are fine.

      1. sallybr

        you know, I thought I was being so “smart” by using a large ziplock bag with the two sides cut… I even save that in my kitchen drawer to re-use it. But I think the wax paper will be much better. Keep posting basic stuff because you will always help more bakers than you think! ;-)

        1. hfletcher Post author

          Thank you, Sally. I so appreciate that. Sometimes I am a bit concerned that “everyone knows that” but since I aim to help those who aren’t seasoned bakers, I do try to show ways that will help them succeed. I was amazed that this post has garnered far more readers this year than any other I have so far posted. It helps me know I am going in the right direction.

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