Expert advice on how to make the best cookies this holiday season
Brooklyn-based bakers The Good Batch offer a variety of treats that make great Christmas gifts.
This holiday season, you’re sure to be gorging yourself on cookies. But if you plan on baking any for the office, your family, or as gifts, you’ll want to make sure they’re perfect. There are so many routes to go when it comes to cookies — simple or complex, classic or unique.
"You can never go wrong with the classic holiday flavors like mint, spice, and gooey pecan," The Good Batch owner Anna Gordon explains. In their Virginia Wedding cookie, they use an unconventional combination of pecan, orange, and thyme. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a little booze in your treats as well. For instance, the bourbon toffee cookie is "loaded with Maker's Mark and toasted almonds," says Gordon.
If you’re baking for a crowd this season, Gordon says, "Always plan ahead! Try to buy all of your ingredients and supplies that you’ll need, from flour to butter to ribbons and tissue paper." To save money, it’s better to buy in bulk. It may seem intimidating to make so many cookies for your friends, but it’ll pay off when you get to keep the extras. We stopped into The Good Batch production kitchen to see how they do it so seamlessly.
5 Cookie Baking Tips to Improve Your Next Batch
It goes without saying that cookies rule all. And cake batter chocolate chip cookies, you take 1st prize in my eyes.
Since launching my website in 2011 and publishing Sally’s Cookie Addiction cookbook years later, I’ve witnessed the undeniable allure of these treats. Cookies are the most popular category on this website, as well as my most requested dessert. I have over 200 cookie recipes published! They’re relatively easy and approachable– most don’t require special equipment or complicated ingredients, either. They’re also an easy treat to eat, share, store, ship, freeze, and make ahead. Not only this, cookies are portable, perfect for gifting, and can be made in large batches for bake sales, parties, etc. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t appreciate a fresh-baked homemade cookie. Have you?
Let me help you perfect your cookies. The following 5 cookie baking tips guarantee a better batch. No more wasted time or ingredients!
Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to freezer meals. Prepare meals you’re familiar with, and ones that are popular with your family. Look for recipes that call for inexpensive cuts of meat (shoulder, thighs, ground meat etc.) as these meats freeze best. Stews, soups and casseroles are classic freezable dishes.
Determine what containers or freezer bags you will need before you start. You want your cooking to be efficient, and you want to be able to store things properly. When possible, freeze in containers that the meal can be thawed and reheated in.
How Do You Make Soft Gingerbread Cookies?
Let&rsquos bake these festive delicious cookies! Start off by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar with a hand mixer. Add molasses and the egg yolk and continue mixing. Now, add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Continue to mix until all ingredients are completely combined.
snowflake), cut out the cookies and continue to do so until all the dough is cut.
silicone baking mats. Bake for 10-12 minutes, little shorter if you want a soft chewy cookie, longer if want a crunchy cookie.
Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack to continue cooling. Once cooled completely, sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost cookies, if you prefer.
Did you make and love this recipe? Give it your review below! 👇 And make sure to share your creations by tagging me or using the hashtag #brooklynfarmgirl on Instagram!
How to bake a better batch of cookies every time
Making holiday cookies can bring joy and happiness — unless it doesn’t. If you bake only a few times a year or think you’re missing “the baking gene,” consult these alphabetically ordered tips. Then check out our Holiday Cookie Generator and nine essential cookies collection, and choose recipes with confidence.
Good grocery store packaged brands (in sticks) typically have a fat content of at least 80 percent. Premium, European-style butter brands have a higher fat content, up to 86 percent. Cookbook author Lisa Yockelson likes to use premium butter for bar cookies and dense cookie doughs, like shortbread, and the national packaged stick brands for rolled cookies.
• When the recipe calls for melting butter, think about infusing it with a bay leaf as the butter cools. This will add a nice flavor.
BAKING POWDER vs. BAKING SODA (for cookies)
Baking powder (sodium bicarbonate plus tartaric acid) helps cookies expand or puff up. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps tenderize the dough and also provides a bit of leavening. Sifting or sprinkling these ingredients into the mix will help ensure an even interior crumb, says Joy the Baker. If either has been in your pantry for a while, buy fresh.
This cookie scoop is popular with bakers because it yields consistent, 1 ½ tablespoons-size mounds of dough. You can find the tool in kitchen stores and online for less than $10.
When you need to separate whites from yolks, do so when the eggs are cold. It will reduce the chances of yolk breakage.
• Eggs for beating into cookie doughs will incorporate more readily when they are at room temperature. Yolks = fat and richness whites lighten the texture.
• Crack an egg open on the counter, not the edge of the bowl you’re working in this will help prevent any tiny bits of shell or broken yolk from getting into the mix.
• Most U.S. recipes rely on large eggs for baking, says Joy the Baker, even if they don’t specify the size. A large egg translates to about 3 ¼ tablespoons if you were to use extra-large or jumbo eggs instead of large, you would be adding substantially more liquid to the dough. (Yes, we know the Barefoot Contessa likes using extra-large eggs.)
Two of the biggest concerns with gluten-free baking are cross-contamination and the use of ingredients with hidden gluten. If you are using a stand mixer that has had gluten flours or potentially contaminated ingredients in it, be sure to first properly wash and sanitize the machine’s entire exterior. The same goes for measuring cups, baking pans and cooling racks.
• If your utensils are wooden or plastic and are well worn, consider buying new ones to use specifically for gluten-free baking.
• Gluten-free cookies should be packaged and plated separately from cookies containing gluten.
Failed cookies are almost always edible. Reduce them to crumbles and freeze for topping ice cream, sundaes and for creating parfait layers.
A mixture of butter and sugar that is overbeaten can result in cookie dough that spreads, says cookbook author and Paris food blogger David Lebovitz. Even when a recipe says to beat until fluffy or “cream the butter and sugar together,” mix those two ingredients only until thoroughly blended.
Toasted/roasted nuts have more flavor than raw ones. When you bring home fresh ones from the store, toss them on a baking sheet, roast, cool and stash in a container in the freezer until ready to use. This will save you time when you are baking in multiple batches. Bonus flavor: Drizzle them with melted butter before toasting be sure to freeze or refrigerate once they have cooled.
Make sure your oven temperature is accurate. Oven thermometers are inexpensive and helpful for monitoring. Consider getting the oven professionally calibrated before a big baking session if you are not able to adjust it yourself (check the manual).
• Hot spots and uneven heating are common in many home ovens, especially as the appliances age. That’s why rotating baking sheets full of cookies halfway through the baking time is generally a good idea even when you are baking them one sheet at a time. A telltale sign: Cookies on one part of the sheet are browning faster than the rest.
Cream Cheese Cookies!
Have you ever added cream cheese to your cookies before? If not, your cookie loving brain is going to love it! The cream cheese makes the cookies soft, moist and so good! If you&rsquore looking for new Christmas Cookies recipes to try, you need to give this recipe a shot!
Because I love taking cookies to the next step, I mixed some powdered sugar and milk together to make a light vanilla glaze frosting to dip each cookie in. Finally, add holiday colored sprinkles or chopped up candy canes on top of each cookie and they&rsquore ready to go! If you&rsquore sharing these with others, make sure to keep a few for yourself because they won&rsquot last!
This will be my final post for the week, so I want to wish you and your family a happy holiday. I hope you get some time to relax, drink some hot chocolate, listen to the Original Chipmunks Christmas album and eat these Cream Cheese Christmas Sugar Cookies! See you guys next week!
Master some new recipes
Throw a Zoom baking party: We’re all experiencing a bit of virtual gathering fatigue at this point in the year, but with a little coordination and imagination, it’s a great way to get your loved ones together for a good baking session. Sometimes I take it another step and send ingredients [in advance] (it ensures most fun levels of participation!). If anyone finds themselves with leftover treats: pack your goodies up in a cellophane bag, write a little note, include a gift tag, and give them to your neighbor, doorman, mail carrier, local volunteer squad, you name it. Baking is altruistic—and treats are meant to be shared. —Christina Tosi, chef and founder of Milk Bar
I’m from Brazil and part of a large family, and I’m used to spending the holidays surrounded by all of my loved ones with no shortage of excitement or entertainment. Obviously, this year will be very different. I plan to make some of my favorite Brazilian dishes that remind me of home, like pao de queijo, which I’ll bake with my son. He’s six, and is at the perfect age to join me in the kitchen it’s also a great activity to help keep him entertained. —Jayma Cardoso, owner of The Surf Lodge and The Snow Lodge
Firstly, I’m planning to take this MasterClass with Massimo Bottura between Christmas and New Year’s, and make a new dish from it every night. Secondly, I’m treating myself to this absolutely over-the-top cheese: Vacherin Mont d’Or. It’s made from the winter milk from the same cows that make gruyere, on the border of Switzerland and France. As such, it’s only available from around October to April, and it’s a Christmas delicacy in both countries. Murray’s Cheeses, which ships wheels of it around the country, calls it “one of the most sought-after cheeses on the market.” —Jessica Puckett, transportation editor
Dropping off snacks and recipes with loved ones helps create memories and a shared experience—two things we really crave during the holidays. I'm making aperitivo snacks to drop off with friends: spicy sumac and pomegranate nuts (a recipe from Ernesto's), jars of cured lemons I've been stealing from my neighbor's tree, buckwheat banana bread from The Smile, and orange zest and turmeric granola. I also bring a batch of fresh pasta everywhere I go these days. I've been making trofie with chestnut flour, the nutty flavor is so comforting and it fits all diets. —Melanie Masarin, founder of Ghia
Try your hand at a recipe from Serving New York, a new cookbook celebrating New York City restaurants.
I’m planning to do a lot of cooking over the holidays (without a crowd to serve, it actually sounds relaxing this year), so I’m treating myself to a few kitchen essentials I’ve been eyeing for months. For my spice rack, a few jars of single origin spices from Diaspora Co., plus a jar of Sichuan Chili Crisp from Fly By Jing and to pour onto everything I eat, bottles of olive oil from female-owned Kosterina and Brightland. —Megan Spurrell, associate editor
I'm a big snacker, so I'm going to make the fun spin on Chex Mix that I had when I dined at Tokyo Record Bar, one of my favorite restaurant experiences in all of New York. Even better: the chefs shared the recipe in Serving New York, a cookbook celebrating New York City restaurants that has just released a new hardbound printing. All proceeds go to ROAR and Robin Hood's Restaurant Relief Fund, which provide cash assistance to area restaurant workers. —Corina Quinn, director, city guides
Australia and New Zealand
21. Donna Hay advises every harassed cooks to go-easy after the Christmas dinner, lighter on the stomach and more likely to leave everyone with a sweet memory. "My version of a bread and butter pudding has a festive spin but it's easier to cook than Christmas cake or pudding, uses less ingredients and takes less time to put together, saving you effort, money and time." says Donna. "Just use good-quality brioche soaked in brandy-spiked custard, sprinkle it with brandy-soaked muscatels and top it with demerara sugar to form a crunchy crust. It's a winner in my house!"
22. The great daddy of artisan baking in Australia is John Downes, the guy who started the sourdough movement down-under during the 70s. His Natural Tucker Bread Book (1983) was the prescient handbook for hardcore bakers and is still relevant today. John tells me "if you've been saying all year, 'gee, I'd love to try making a sourdough but I don't have the time' then Christmas is perfect," says John, "because you're in the house, warm but not too hot, around to nurture it through those delicate first steps.
23. For Dean Brettschnieder, the NZ artisan baker and author of The Global Baker, the best advice is more of an idea for life rather than a baking tip. "This year I'm in Shanghai for Christmas. What I'm going to do is make a batch of butter shortbread flavoured with dried cranberries and orange zest, and plan to wrap these as beautifully as I can and give them to the people in my life here who might otherwise have been incidental but, if I'm really honest, have helped me enormously through the last year."
How to Roll Out Sugar Cookie Dough
It can be challenging to keep cut-out sugar cookie shapes from losing their definition somewhere between rolling out the dough, cutting out the shapes, and transferring them to a baking sheet. Use these tips to roll the dough evenly, keep the dough from sticking, and to transfer cookies without getting stretched out.
1. Roll and Chill
- Set a 1½- to 2-cup portion of dough between two sheets of parchment paper. To keep the parchment from sliding, tape the bottom sheet to the counter, or lean in and use your body to pin both layers against the counter edge. Parchment keeps dough from sticking to your rolling pin and countertop without added flour. It also makes it easier to transport dough to the fridge for chilling.
- Using a rolling pin and rolling away from your body, roll dough out to an oblong shape no bigger than your cookie sheet, lifting and replacing the top sheet of parchment as needed to remove creases.
- As the dough approaches ideal thickness (a scant ¼ inch works well for most cookies, but some recipes call for thicker cookies), flank it with two wooden slats of equal thickness (paint stirrers work well) on top of the top parchment sheet, and roll pin over dough until pin edges rest on both slats. The goal is evenly thick dough — without thin spots that cause uneven baking and fractures.
- Slide parchment onto an unrimmed cookie sheet and chill the dough until very firm, at least 30 minutes, before cutting. Roll remaining dough in same manner and keep in the fridge until you are ready to cut it. Chilled dough cuts more precisely, clings less to cutters, and retains its shape better during baking.
2. Cut and Peel
- Transfer chilled dough to a work surface and peel off top parchment sheet. Now you&aposre ready to cut out shapes.
- Cookie cutters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. If you&aposre new at cut-outs, stick with simple shapes until you get comfortable with them. Remember, the more elaborate the shape, the trickier it is to work with. Dip a cookie cutter in flour, set it on the dough, and press the cutter straight down with your palm, rocking your palm slightly to ensure you cut all the way through the dough. Lift the cutter straight up. Repeat, dipping the cutter in flour before each cut, working quickly so dough stays cold, and spacing cuts as you&aposd like cookies arranged on sheet, 1 to 2 inches apart.
- Here&aposs the cool part: Instead of moving individual cut-outs with a spatula, peel excess dough away, leaving cut-outs on bottom parchment sheet.
- Slide parchment with cutouts onto the cookie sheet. Since you&aposre not lifting individual shapes with a spatula, that means the cut-outs won&apost squish, stretch out, or tear on their way to the cookie sheet.
- Pat the excess dough scraps back into an oblong shape, then roll, chill, and cut again.
I love making Melissa Clark’s dreamy, crunchy-skinned porchetta, marinated and trussed the day before, then roasted in the oven, making my whole house smell like rosemary and garlic and pork drippings. Sandwiches with leftovers the next day are a huge bonus. TEJAL RAO
I am going to plus-one the porchetta. Also incorporating Melissa’s latkes into our Christmas Eve soup dinner this year, which is very exciting for everyone involved. I spice up our cookie roster every year by trying at least two of the newly minted NYT cookie recipes. I need all the cookies I can get this year, so I’m springing for Sohla El-Waylly’s chocolate-peppermint shortbread, Yewande Komolafe’s malt chocolate and marshmallow sandwiches and Claire Saffitz’s pistachio pinwheels. VAUGHN VREELAND
How To Make The Best Christmas Cookie Tray
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you enjoy the biggest food day of the year? And if you’re not from the U.S., did you enjoy your weekend?
Now Thanksgiving is out of the way, time to focus on Christmas! Or if you celebrate another holiday, let’s focus on cookies.
Do other holidays even have cookie trays? Regardless, everyone loves cookies, right?
As a Pittsburgher, we love our cookie trays. So much we even have cookie tables at weddings.
It was only fitting to talk about How To Make The Best Christmas Cookie Tray where I’m sharing my top three tips for building the best cookie tray.
It’s probably ironic to talk about making the best Christmas cookie tray on a blog that focuses on small batch recipes, but hear me out.
Most cookie recipes focus on 1 dozen cookies, give or take a few.
If there’s one thing I noticed in my years of baking, it’s cookie recipes make a few dozen.
I wanted to scale them down, not only for you to make a small batch on a random Tuesday night, but also to make building a cookie tray more manageable.
Also the holidays are about seeing family and friends, so you won’t be alone eating these cookies.
And if you’re stuck with leftovers, they do freeze well.
Are you ready to get this cookie party started? The cookies you see in the photo starting from the top and going clockwise are:
Here are my three tips for making the best Christmas cookie tray:
1. Plan ahead.
The hardest part about making a holiday cookie tray is making all of the cookies at once.
In the cookie tray I shot above, I made 5 recipes, which is roughly 5 dozen cookies total, give or take a few. I certainly couldn’t do it all in one day.
Luckily all of the dough can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer until ready to bake.
Take a few days to make all of the dough. Once you’re ready to assemble, all you have to do is stick a few trays in the oven.
Don’t forget to give the cookies time to cool completely before serving.
2. Choose a variety of flavors.
As much as it pains me to say this, not everyone loves chocolate (gasp!). Nor does everyone love (or can even eat) peanut butter.
Try not to repeat too many flavors on the tray to help accommodate everyone. Some flavor ideas are:
- Chocolate and/or chocolate chip, such as Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies, Chocolate Cheesecake Cookies, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Bites
- Peanut butter, such as Peanut Butter Cookie Cups, Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cookies, and Peanut Butter Molasses Cookies
- Citrus, such as Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Dipped Orange Shortbread Cookies, and Lemon Crinkle Cookies
- Red velvet, such as Red Velvet Cut Out Cookies and Red Velvet Sugar Cookie Bars
- Peppermint, such as Peppermint Mocha Brownie Cookies
- Ginger, such as Gingersnap Cookies, Maple Gingersnap Cookies, and Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Spice, such as Snickerdoodles Without Cream of Tartar
- Coconut, such as Brown Sugar Cinnamon Coconut Cookies and Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies
3. Include a variety of shapes, colors, and textures.
In addition to flavor, you want to think about presentation.
How boring would a cookie tray be if every cookie looked the same?
That’s why I included cookie cups, cut out cookies, drop cookies, and balls served in festive paper liners.
Here are some ideas for shapes:
- Drop cookies, such as Lemon White Chocolate Chip, Gingersnap Cookies, Cheesecake Cookies, and Carrot Cake Drop Cookies
- Balls, such as Chocolate Chip Snowball Cookies, Cherry Coconut Snowball Cookies and Lemon Snowball Cookies
- Cookie cups, such as Peanut Butter Cookie Cups and Fudge Filled Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups
- Cut out cookies, such as Red Velvet Cut Out Cookies and Chocolate Chip Cut Out Cookies
- Cookie bars, such as Gingerbread Smores Cookie Bars and S’mores Cookie Crumb Bars
- Frosted, such as Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookies and Soft Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
- Thumbprints, such as Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies and Chocolate M&M Thumbprint Cookies
In addition to shape, think about color.
By default, there will be a lot of brown. Add sprinkles where they will stick, such as melted chocolate, frosting, or icing.
You can also add color to the dough, such as red velvet.
Even though this is technically called a cookie tray, you can add candy to change things up, including:
Can’t see everyone in person? Think about shipping cookies instead!
Check out my 8 tips for shipping cookies plus a recipe for Double Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies.
Got tips of your own? Want to share your family favorites? Comment below!