I enjoy making cutout cookies for the holidays and am a firm believer in making them beforehand so you are not stressing out. They are really not that difficult, you just need to know some techniques to make life easier. I have a copper cookie cutter collection that is so massive it is almost embarassing. I have been collecting them for years and you will be able to see them as time goes on as I have them for every occasion as well as year-round fun ones. I am having the cutters you see in the picture above reproduced by a boutique copper company, they are 7" tall - keep watch for when they go on sale.
4 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter - room temperature/softened
1/2 cup (1/2 stick) butter-flavored shortening
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
In a large bowl mix together flour, salt and baking powder - set aside. Use an electric mixer to cream together butter, shortening, sugar and vanilla bean paste. Add eggs to combine, then baking powder and salt. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture at a time until combined, scrape bottom of bowl to make sure all ingredients are included. Do not over mix or your dough will be come tough.
At this point I split the dough in half and roll between to silpat mats to 1/4" thick (I roll them thicker because they do not bubble so easily), place on rimmed baking sheet and place it in the freezer for ten minutes to set. The point in using Silpat mats is to not add any additional flour to my dough as well as that the dough will not stick to teh silpat making rolling out easier. Remove rolled dough from freezer and remove the top silpat mat. Place cookie cutters in positions on dough, starting from the edge and moving inward to get the most cookies out of your roll. Remove the extra dough - not cookies and I place these back in the freezer.
This is when I start my oven to 350 degrees. If using the gray non-stick pans, lower your oven temperature 15-25 degrees depending on your oven. The mantra in cookie/pie/dough making is 'make it cold, bake it hot', this process makes the cookies crisp.
I repeat this step with the second half of dough, and place the extra dough in a ball and roll that out again for more cookies. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes (maybe more) depending again on your oven, and try to be conscious to flip your baking sheet half way through the baking process. You will know your cookies are done when the start to lightly brown on the edge. I pull them out of the oven and let them sit without touching them for 10 minutes as I slightly underbake mine so they are more chewy.