(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Holiday baking season is descending upon us, which means it's time for sugar cookies in all sorts of shapes. But how to make pretty cookies that hold their shape, without slaving for a day mixing, chilling, and rolling? Here's the easiest and best way to save time and make the most perfect-looking cookies. It's all in the chilling, and here's how I do it.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Don't Chill the Dough Immediately!

The easiest way to roll out the dough? Don't chill the dough, but roll it out immediately instead! I learned this trick from baker Dorie Greenspan, who rolls out pie crust first and then chills it.

Rolling out just-made cookie dough is easy since it's still really soft and pliable, and you don't have to worry about cookie dough that's so cold from the chilling process that it cracks and has to warm up on the counter again before you can work with it. Here's how I do it:

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

1. Place dough between wax or parchment.

Just-made cookie dough is sticky, so you want to place it between wax or parchment paper before you roll it. I usually divide my dough in half and place each piece between two pieces of wax or parchment — there's no need to dust the dough with flour.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

2. Roll out the dough.

Roll out the dough as your normally would with your rolling pin, making sure to flip the whole thing, paper and all, over a few times so the dough rolls out evenly.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

3. Now chill the dough.

The dough is still too soft to stamp out, so place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or the freezer for 15. This will help the dough firm up, but in a fraction of the time it usually takes for a block of dough to chill. Pat yourself on the back — you can start cutting out cookies in the time it takes to preheat the oven!

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

4. Stamp cookies out of the chilled dough.

Finally, it's time for the fun part: cutting out cookies! You can either leave the cookie dough on the wax or parchment, or do it the other way I prefer, by dusting a work surface with flour, then taking the cookie-dough sheet out of the paper, and placing it on the flour before cutting.

And there's a bonus, too: Your chilled cookie dough will hold its shape better in the oven.

After this first round, take the cookie scraps and form a ball, then repeat with the whole rolling and chilling process between the papers (which you can reuse) again.

This way of working with sugar cookie dough has made the whole process so much easier. The dough is easy to work with, the cleanup is minimal, and the chilling time is shortened considerably, so you get to the best parts — cutting, baking, decorating, and finally, gifting and eating — in less time!