10 Secret Steps for Baking the Best Holiday Cookies

Nothing tastes better with cup of your favorite warm holiday beverage than a homemade holiday cookies. It is worth taking the time and the care to make homemade cookie dough from your favorite homemade cookie recipes. Cookies made from packaged, dry cookie mix or from pre-made cookie dough rolls all taste the same. You can make homemade cookie recipes with these 10 secret steps to baking the best holiday cookies.

10 Secrets of the Best Holiday Cookies

1. Get Fresh

Last season’s flour just won’t cut it. Be sure to stock up on fresh holiday cookie baking ingredients. A holiday cookie that tastes likes stale flour is not the best holiday cookie you can make.

Sugar can keep for quite a while, but flour, baking soda and flavored extracts can lose flavor and become stale and dull-tasting.

According to McCormick, a popular spice company, ground spices keep for two to three years (McCormick.com)

2. Heat it Up

To an inexperienced baker, this may not seem obvious. The first thing you should do before baking holiday cookies is to preheat the oven to the right temperature. Also, wait until the oven reaches the right temperature before putting the first batch of your best holiday cookies in to cook.

3. Use the Right Tools

A pizza pan or other plain flat baking sheet may not be the best for your best holiday cookie recipes. Insulated cookie sheets do wonders to help you bake the best holiday cookies. If your oven is not brand new it’s possible that it cooks unevenly. With regular baking pans. the top of a cookie can be gooey and undercooked, as the bottom gets more and more brown. Cookies with brown bottoms can very easily taste burned, even if they are not actually burned.

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Invest in your own set of insulated cookie sheets.

4. Do Your Math

Or at least, use the right measurements.

Baking is not like cooking. In cooking you can guess, “guess-timate,” alternate, improvise, and experiment with ingredients and amounts. Baking holiday cookies takes more precision. You need to follow the recipe ingredients and measurements amounts exactly.

5. Substitute with Knowledge

Many ingredients in holiday cookie recipes are there for a reason. Unless you have done it before, this is not a time to experiment with substituting ingredients. Some ingredients are just not equal to others.

For example, You cannot interchange baking soda and baking powder.

Some exceptions that are okay include changing the flavor of a cookie recipe dough by using a different extract. For example, you could exchange a Vanilla Extract for an Almond Extract. Or you could replace a Lemon Extract for an Orange Extract.

6. Treat the Ingredients with Respect

Holiday cookie recipes from Christmas cut out cookies to Russian teacakes are made from very delicate cookie dough. The dough is delicate, and so are some of the ingredients. For recipes that call for real butter, not shortening, the butter needs to be softened in room temperature. Nothing is worse than hearing butter pop and splatter in the microwave. If your butter melted to the point that it turns to liquid, it will separate, and it will be too hot to add to the holiday cookie recipe dough mixture.

If you use a hand mixer, use it on low. Hand mixing with a spoon works fine for small batches of holiday cookie recipe dough.

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7. Liquids First

One of the most important ways to achieve the right texture in holiday cookies, and produce evenly-distributed flavors is to mix the cookie dough ingredients in the correct order. You cannot just throw all of the ingredients in the bowl and mix, and hope for the best holiday cookies.

Most cookie recipes are pretty clear about the order of ingredients. Over the years, I have learned through trial and error that this method works best.

Start with the sugar or sugars and the shortening. The first step is to cream these together. Cream the sugar and the shortening or butter until it is even in its consistency. Next comes any other liquid ingredients including flavoring extracts, water or milk, and eggs.

8. Dry Ingredients Second

In a separate bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients including flour, baking soda or baking powder, salt, or oats. Mix the dry ingredients well.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixed wet ingredients.

After the ingredients are mixed together, add any extras including nuts, raisins, M & Ms, chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, or colored sprinkles.

Tip: If making a banana bread or similar bread, alternate adding the dry mixture with adding the bananas. For example, add one third of the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix. Then add one third of the mashed bananas and mix. Add another one third of the flour, and so on. This gives breads a nice texture.

9. Time With Your Eyes

Use the cooking time on the holiday cookie recipe as a guideline. Shave one or two minutes off of the cooking time to keep the cookies from being dry. Also, ovens cook differently from each other, and baking times from the first batch to the last batch may differ. Use the cooking time as a guideline, and let your eyes tell you when to take the cookies out of the oven.

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10. Make an Easy Glaze

One last secret for baking the best holiday cookies is to make your own homemade glaze. A sugar glaze can be made with three simple ingredients.

Combine one cups confectioners’ sugar with two tablespoons of warm water. Mix the two ingredients. Continue to add water in half teaspoons until the mixture is runny enough for pouring. Divide the mixture into thirds. Leave on third plain and white. Add food coloring to the other two portions. The glaze can be poured over cookies on a drying rack. Or dip half the cookie into the glaze and then sprinkle on colored sugar. Let the glaze dry.