Measure Flour Correctly and Avoid Overmixing the Batter
Don’t overmix cookie dough or brownie batter once the dry ingredients have been added; doing so would overdevelop the gluten, which could hinder tenderness and result in an unpleasant texture.
Sift Nuts and Chocolate
Sift any chopped nuts or chocolate that are used in a light-colored cookie dough. Eliminating the “dust” from these ingredients will help maintain the color of the dough and keep flavors distinct.
Chilling the dough helps softer doughs keep their shape and makes the dough easier to work with. I find that chilling the dough improves the flavor and allows the dough to relax a bit.
Use a Silicone Rolling Pin
With this new rolling pin, you won’t have to use as much flour when rolling out doughs and your cookies will be more tender. You can also purchase a Marble Rolling Pin and chill it to keep the dough cold while you’re working with it. Or use a Rolling Pin Cover and Cloth. You won’t have to use as much flour with these cloth accessories. Rub flour into the rolling pin cover (also called a stockinette) and the cloth that is placed on the work surface, and the dough won’t stick. Using a combination of powdered sugar and flour to dust the work surface will also help keep the cookies more tender.
Use an Oven Thermometer
Be sure that your oven is accurate with a thermometer, then bake cookies at a slightly lower temp. The instructions for your stove or oven will tell you how to adjust the heat if necessary. I have a digital oven, so when a recipe calls for a 350 degrees F oven, I set the temperature to 345 degrees F. This small reduction in temperature ensures the cookies won’t over bake and over brown, especially on the bottom. With each batch of cookies, the baking time will be reduced because of the increased humidity in the oven from the cookies.
Soften Butter Properly
It’s difficult to soften butter properly in a microwave oven; too often part of the butter melts, which will change the structure of the cookies. Butter and sugar form the basic structure of the cookies; the sugar cuts small air pockets into the butter, which are stabilized by the flour and filled with C02 from the baking powder. Soften butter by letting it stand at room temperature for a couple of hours. You can also grate the butter into a bowl, then it will soften in a few minutes.
Making and freezing doughs ahead of time not only is a great time saver, but it improves the texture of the cookies. Icebox cookies are shaped into a log, wrapped, and chilled or frozen until it’s time to bake. You can form drop cookie dough into balls and freeze; bake from the frozen state, adding a few minutes to the baking time. This technique also lets you make all the doughs one day, then take another day for the fun part: baking and decorating!
Use Fresh Ingredients
Make sure that all of your ingredients are fresh. Buy new baking powder and baking soda, vanilla and spices, flour and sugar. Most of us don’t bake often during the year, and it’s a good bet that your ingredients are more than a year old. You’re putting a lot of effort and heart into these cookies: start with the best ingredients!
I set the timer for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time called for in the recipe. I take the cookies out of the oven just as they’re beginning to look done because the residual heat from the cookie sheet will continue to bake the cookies. Also, slightly under baked cookies are more tender and moist.
Rotate Baking Sheets
Always rotate baking sheets, usually once about halfway through the baking time. Turn the sheets front to back, and, if you have sheets on both the upper and lower racks of the oven, swap their positions. Most ovens have hot and cold spots, so this will ensure that the cookies bake evenly.
Using cookie scoops means your cookies will all be exactly the same size.
Line Cookie Sheets for Easy Cleanup
Bake perfect Christmas cookies with expert baking techniques, including ingredient substitutions, freezing and storing tips, and more. Lining cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats eliminates the need for greasing. Liners also make it possible to lift a whole batch of cookies at once — and they make cleanup easy. Butter the baking dish, then place a sheet of parchment, also buttered, inside, allowing about 2 inches to extend beyond two opposite sides. Bake according to the recipe’s instructions, and let cool. Pull up on the parchment to lift the dessert from the pan before cutting.
How to Store Cookies
When storing cookies, do not combine crisp and soft cookies in the same container, as this will cause the crisp ones to soften a bit. You can restore the crisp texture of cookies that have softened by heating them in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes.
How to Freeze Unbaked Cookies
Many kinds of cookie dough can be frozen raw and baked later. After the cookies are formed, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill in the freezer until firm, about one hour. Transfer to resealable bags, and freeze for up to a month, until ready to bake. There is no need to thaw the dough; however, you may need to add a few minutes to the baking time.
Now that you are a cookie expert, enjoy the time you spend in the kitchen with family and friends, baking wonderful cookies.