Pretty much everything terrible about making cookies comes down to one thing: deciding you want a cookie and realizing that the expanse between now and when you get to eat said is unfairly wide.
• Butter needs to be softened. Is your kitchen really cold today? Have fun with that.
• The butter needs to be “creamed” with sugar until “light and fluffy.” Some recipes want you to do this for many, many minutes. Some recipes think you are bored.
• Once your dough is made, it needs to be formed into packets and chilled in the fridge for “at least two hours” but “preferably overnight.” Remember when you said you wanted a cookie? You meant tomorrow, right?
• The next day, you get to flour your counter and remove a brick of dough and fight, fight, fight it flat. It’s going to crack at the edges. It’s going to stick to the counter, something I usually don’t realize until I’ve already cut out all my cookie shapes. It’s often mush by the time the dough is even and flat, which leads to less sharp cookie shapes that are harder to transfer.
• Oh, and cookie cutters! Maybe you have a tesselated (hat tip) cookie cutter? Fantastic idea, but I do not. Maybe you have one of these and want a cute grid of cookies? Also good thinking. But for most of us, there’s a specific shape we want or need and it always leaves negative spaces. So, when you’re done with the first layer of dough you get to re-gather the scraps except they’re soft now and need to be chilled again so you can roll them out again. The second batch of cookies has absorbed a lot more flour and is usually not as great. Plus, more scraps to re-chill and roll. At some point — we all do this, right? — I either bake an misshapen last blob of cookie dough or drop the last piece in the garbage because the though of rolling another cookie no longer sparks any joy.
And guys, we do all this before we even get to the fun stuff: icing and sprinkles.