How to make the best holiday cookies, according to chefs: rest your dough, keep it chill, get the right tools

  • Bakers share key tips and tricks to make the best holiday cookies every time
  • Using high-quality tools, such as cookie scoops and a bench knife, can make your baking process easier and save you time
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These tips from professional bakers will improve any cookie recipe you’re attempting to make. Photo: Shutterstock

Whether baking for yourself or as a gift for family and friends, you may find that sometimes your oven can be your worst enemy when you’re baking cookies.

To make your winter baking a breeze, chefs share their best tips and tricks for making holiday cookies.

5-minute listening: The only cookie recipe you need this Christmas

Rest the dough and let cookies cool

Michael Wallace, the head chef and lead of the research and development team at the gluten-free flour company Cup4Cup, said that home bakers needed to allocate time to let the dough and finished treats sit.

“First thing I like to tell people is the importance of resting the dough,” Wallace said. “I like to let it rest for at least two hours before baking.”

“Next would be to allow the cookies to cool after baking for five minutes before transferring from the baking sheet,” he said. “This allows the cookie to ‘set up’.”

Wallace also said that unless you’re using gluten-free flour, be cautious of overmixing your dough.

Resting your dough will create cookies that bake and brown more evenly. Photo: Shutterstock

You should freeze your dough before baking

Tricia Brennan Nally, chef at Sur La Table, said that you should prioritise letting your dough firm up in the freezer or fridge.

“Scoop and freeze your dough before baking,” Nally said. “Chilled dough is always best, but it’s difficult to scoop when it’s cold.”

Adequate chilling time can vary depending on the dough you’re using and the cookies you’re trying to make, so do your research and allocate that waiting period ahead of baking.

If you don’t want to bake all of your cookies at once, leave the dough in the freezer for future use.

Even 30 minutes in a fridge can help cookies develop a richer, chewier texture. Photo: Shutterstock

Remember that less can be more

Nally added that it may be worth your time to focus on nailing one type of cookie rather than tackling a bunch of varieties at once.

“I’m also a fan of quality over quantity,” Nally said. “I’d rather give people one or two or the same kind of cookie – or any pastry – and have them be really good than give them 10 subpar cookies.”

Nally also recommends baking different cookie varieties with the same dough.

“Try making multiple kinds of cookies with the same dough base, like a sugar or shortbread dough that can be turned into thumbprint cookies, sandwich cookies, rolled for cutouts, etc.,” Nally said.

In addition to mixing up cookie shapes, you can also vary the way you decorate and plate your holiday treats.

Sugar and shortbread doughs are very versatile. Photo: Shutterstock

Having good tools can make a difference

Always be sure to chill your dough before rolling it out – particularly if it is sugar-cookie dough. It needs time to firm up so that cookie cutters are able to create the sharpest lines.

You should also purchase a bench knife, which will help you slice dough, cut butter into flour, and more – having the right tools in the kitchen can make all the difference.

Other items to stock up on include different size cookie scoops, a small offset spatula, and a Silpat baking mat.

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