Your cookies will come out flaw-la-la-la-la-less!
'Tis the season for holiday baking! What type of cookies are you making this year? The classics like sugar, butter, snickerdoodle, or chocolate chip cookies? Or the fun and festive ones like snowball cookies, peppermint patties, macaroons, gingerbread men, or shortbread cutouts? Whether you are mixing your cookies together from scratch or out of a box, here are a few tips that can help simplify the baking process so that you can enjoy them more quickly.
Many of these tips I have learned from my German grandmother, who I used to bake and decorate cookies with. My daughter is an excellent baker, but after all these years, I’m not. Since I really only bake over the holidays, these are the tips I follow and they work like a charm since I don’t get much practice!
If you normally refrigerate your butter, remember to take a couple of sticks out to soften ahead of your baking schedule so that you can easily mix in the butter with the dry ingredients. However, if you forget and want to get on with baking, cut the sticks of butter into little cubes and let them sit for about 15 minutes. For an even faster method, pull out your cheese grater and unwrap the butter sticks about halfway. Grating the butter will quickly create even smaller pieces that will soften faster.
When mixing the batter of any cookie dough, stop once all of the ingredients appear to be fully mixed. Overmixing can turn your cookies tough and dense, and you want fluffy and tender!
Especially when you are baking cutout Christmas cookies, you have a big day ahead of you. Mix the dough up ahead of time and store it in your fridge for up to two days or your freezer for a few weeks. For cutout cookie dough, form the entirety of the dough into a large ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. For drop cookies, you can scoop the dough into pre-portioned balls and store them in an airtight container. Your cookie day just got a whole lot easier!
If you can't prepare your dough in advance, at least shoot to chill it in the fridge for an hour or two before you roll it out. Chilled dough will better roll and cut out. Dust your rolling pin and cookie cutting surface with a little bit of flour before rolling and cutting out your dough to keep it from sticking as well.
Roll out your cookie dough as little as possible. The more you roll and re-roll, the tougher the dough will become. After rolling out the dough into an even thickness (about 1/4"), strategize exactly where you want to place your cookie cutters to maximize the amount of dough used. This will also save you time!
After taking the cookies out of the oven, wait a minute or two before removing them from the cookie sheet. Wait until the cookies have completely cooled before decorating so that the frosting won't melt and slide right off. You also will want to let your cookie sheets cool completely before adding the next batch of dough so that it doesn't spread and lose form. Set the warm cookie sheets under cold water for one to two minutes to expedite the process.
Some people can decorate cookies with ease, while others find the frosting process to be messy and difficult. You may envy the magazine covers of decorated cookies since yours never turn out the way you imagined. Frost the full surface of your cookie with a smooth, quick-drying icing and let dry. Now, you have a blank slate to draw on your decorations!
Don't let the cookies you worked so hard on to harden before you have a chance to pass them out! Store them in an airtight container with a slice of bread. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread to stay soft or re-soften!