Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking, offers a list of tips for stress-free cookie-making this holiday season.
* Read the recipe all the way through -- there's nothing more annoying than being in the middle of mixing up a batch of cookies and discovering that you're short of eggs.
* Have your ingredients measured out and ready to go. Unless your recipe tells you otherwise, try to have all your ingredients at room temperature.
* Choose sturdy baking sheets that won't twist and turn under heat.
* Avoid insulated baking sheets -- your cookies won't burn on them, but neither will they brown nicely.
* For even baking and really easy cleanup, line your baking sheets with parchment paper, super-nifty silicone baking mats or the new nonstick aluminum foil. Do this and you won't have to butter the baking sheets.
* Give the mounds of dough some spread space, so the oven's heat can circulate and bake them evenly.
* Always, always, always cool the baking sheets between batches.
Tips for Mixing Cookie Dough:
* When the recipe starts with butter and sugar, beat them together until the sugar is mixed into the butter really well.
* Beat the eggs into the dough one at a time and beat for about a minute after each egg goes in, but don't overdo it -- most cookies don't call for a fluffy dough that will puff during baking.
* Use a light hand when you add the dry ingredients -- this is when less is more. Mix just until the flour disappears into the dough, then stop.
For Making Drop-and-Molded Cookies:
* Try to use the same amount of dough for each cookie, that way your cookies will all be about the same size and they'll bake evenly. Also, your resident cookie monsters won't fight over getting the biggest ones.
For Making Brownies and Bar Cookies:
* Line the pan with buttered or nonstick aluminum foil. Leave extra foil at either end of the pan -- these will be your handles for transferring the brownies from the pan to a cutting board.
For Making Rolled-and-Cut Cookies:
* Roll cookie dough between two sheets of plastic film or wax paper. It's the fastest, easiest, cleanest way to roll and it does away with pesky stuck-to-the-counter dough.
* Always use a sharp cookie cutter or knife.
For Cooling Every Kind of Cookie:
* Unless you're told to cool the cookies on the baking sheet, lift the just-baked treats with a large, flat spatula onto cooling racks that are about ½-inch high. You want air to circulate around the cookies so their bottoms don't get soggy.
For Storing Cookies:
* If you've got crisp, crunchy cookies and moist, chewy cookies, pack them separately -- packed together they'll all be soft in short order.