Holiday Cookie Basics: 10 Essential Tips to Know Before You Begin Baking
We’re in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year: holiday baking season! Whether you’re a budding baker taking your baking sheets on their inaugural run or you’re a seasoned pro ready to fill your cookie tins again, it’s always helpful to have a quick refresher on the tips and tricks that will make your cookie baking adventures a sweet success.
1. Roll the dough sugar cookie dough out first and then chill it.
Instead of rolling out chilled discs of cookie dough that are prone to cracking, get out your rolling pin before the dough hits the fridge. Just-made dough is super soft and pliable, and rolls out easily between a couple pieces of wax or parchment paper.
2. Use powdered sugar instead of flour to roll out cookies.
But before you roll out the dough, whether for sugar cookies, gingerbread, for any other cut-outs, you’ll need to dust your work surface. Most recipes call for flour here, but I’m very much in favor of making a sweet swap for powdered sugar instead. It will prevent the dough from sticking to the counter, and you’ll avoid adding extra flour to the cookies
Try this sweet swap: Roll Out Cookie Dough with Powdered Sugar
3. Age chocolate chip cookie dough before baking.
If chocolate chip cookies are on your holiday baking list, plan to make it a two-day affair. Make the dough one day, then let it age for a day or two in the fridge before baking. Your patience will be rewarded with cookies that have a deeper, more complex flavor.
Get more chocolate chip cookies tips: 3 Surprising Pro Tips for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
4. Use an empty paper towel tube to make perfectly round cookies.
Don’t be so quick to toss that cardboard paper towel tube in the recycling bin. When making icebox or slice-and-bake cookies, this tube is super helpful for making a perfectly round log.
Learn more: 4 Easy Ways to Make Perfectly Round Cookies
5. Cool baking sheets with cold water in between batches.
When cookie dough is added to a hot baking sheet, the butter often begins to melt before going into the oven, and results in the cookies spreading too much during baking. For a better second (and third) batch of cookies, bring baking sheets to room temperature before adding more cookie dough. The quickest way to do it is by running the sheets under cold water for a minute or two.
Read more: A Quick Way to Cool Hot Baking Sheets
6. Take cookies out of the oven a minute early.
To ensure every batch of cookies I make are wonderfully moist and tender, and nowhere near over-baked or dried out, I always pull the baking sheets out of the oven a minute earlier than what’s called for in the recipe. Even once you pull the baking sheets from the oven, the cookies will still continue to cook a little.
7. Freeze your cookie dough properly.
The best way to freeze cookie dough all depends on the type of cookies you make. To narrow it down, we divide cookies into three main categories: drop cookies, icebox cookies, and cut-out cookies.
- Drop cookies: Portion out chunky cookie dough, like chocolate chip and oatmeal, and freeze on a baking sheet, then store in a freezer bag.
- Icebox cookies: Press dough for cookies like shortbread and pinwheels into logs, then wrap in wax paper, and freeze in a zip-top bag.
- Cut-out cookies: Shape sugar cookie dough into a disc, as you would with pie crust, wrap in plastic, and freeze in a zip-top bag.
Learn more: How To Freeze Cookie Dough
8. Bake drop cookies straight from the freezer.
If you’re working with drop cookies that have already been portioned out, the dough can go straight from the freezer to the oven. Just add an extra minute or two to the total bake time.
9. Use candy melts to easily decorate cookies.
For the easiest way to decorate holiday cookies, opt for candy melts instead of royal icing. These colored candy chips melt into a one-ingredient icing that makes cookie-decorating easier than ever.
10. When decorating with icing, use a cheap squeeze bottle.
If you prefer to stick with royal icing when it comes to decorating sugar cookies and gingerbread, pick up some cheap squeeze bottles before getting started. These bottles are easy to fill, much easier to control than a piping bag, and they’re easy for kids to work with.