By Kemp Minifie
On your mark, get set, BAKE! The annual holiday cookie marathon starts now. Ovens are already preheating in time to churn out sheet after sheet of every imaginable size, shape, and flavor in cookiedom to share, to swap, to mail, and yes, even to hoard a few for yourself while you’re at it.
Whether it’s your first or your umpteenth time dealing with dough, the following five tips will make the process a whole lot easier, and that means a lot more fun. For the Type A’s among us the tips could prove to be the ticket to perfection satisfaction. Whatever your level, chances are good your cookies will look and taste better than ever this year.
See more: 7 Foods To Keep Your Holiday Sanity
1. Get Thee an Oven Thermometer: If it changed my life in the kitchen it has the potential to change yours. Who knew my new oven was more than 25 degrees off? It took a good oven thermometer to confirm what I suspected, and since then my baked goods have vastly improved.
2. Add the Leaveners, Spices, and Salt Sooner Rather Than Later: This threesome normally gets mixed with the flour and added to the dough towards the end. But flour is the only part of that group that requires a more gentle touch; the leaveners (baking soda and baking powder), spices, and salt are what really need to be mixed in well. They’ll be more evenly dispersed throughout the dough if you beat them in with the butter and sugar. Most recipes don’t say this, but I watched the incomparable chef, pastry chef, and baker, Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza do this years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
3. Friend Your Freezer: The secret to crisp clean edges on cut-out cookies, as well as slice-and-bakes (what your grandmother wisely called icebox cookies), is a short stint of chill-out time in the freezer to firm up. Cookie cutters on warm dough produce ragged edges; on chilled or frozen dough, those edges are clean and true. Quick chill your rolled-out dough by freezing it briefly before you cut out the cookies, and at any time during the cutting process if the dough softens. Freeze the cut-outs again before you bake them, and you will be rewarded with enviably tailored shapes that match the cutter.
See more: Easy Edible Christmas Gifts For Your Fave Pooch
4. Woohoo for Wax Paper: Good ol’ wax paper has been pushed to the side by parchment paper, but both play an essential role with cookies. When rolling out cookie dough between two sheets of paper, reach for the wax paper. Ignore recipe directions that say to roll out the dough between parchment: Wax paper is thinner and slicker so it peels off the dough in a clean sweep. And when you cut out a cookie, its bottom releases from the wax paper in a flash, too. For the actual baking, though, use parchment; wax paper’s advantages melt in the heat of the oven.
5. Ring Around The Rolling Pin: Ever wonder how professional bakers get their rolled-out dough so even? It’s as simple as two matching rubber rings (rolling pin guide rings or spacer bands) you slide onto either end of your rolling pin. Then roll, roll, roll your dough—between sheets of wax paper, of course—until the dough sheet is the same thickness as the rings, and perfectly even. You’ll know you’re there when the pin moves easily back and forth with no resistance.
Try out these tips on some of our favorite holiday cookies. And please do share with us your own tried-and-true tips for success with cookies.
photo: Romulo Yanes