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For me, one of the biggest holiday traditions has always been making cookies. Not just any cookies, but any number of holiday favorites: spritz, cherry blossoms, chocolate pixies and, of course, cut out cookies -- just to name a few. Over the years, the selection grew to include new favorites and new traditions. Since the cookie collection has managed to grow larger and not smaller, one of the most important "traditions" is finding as many ways as possible to make cookies fast, easy and perfect!
Since it is the season of giving, I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite cookie-making hints. I hope they encourage you to dive in and start your own holiday cookie-making tradition in your home.
Unless you are very familiar with the recipe you're using, don't substitute ingredients. Some cookies, for example, won't have the desired texture if you use margarine instead of butter in the batter.
If you are planning on making more than one kind of cookie at a time, choose to make any dough that requires chilling first. Then make the other(s) and bake them while the other dough is chilling.
In general, chilling cookie dough will result in a thicker final product.
Also, when baking two or more kinds of cookies, choose recipes that require the same baking temperature or, if that's not possible, start with the recipe that requires the lowest temperature and work your way up.
If you plan to make a lot of drop cookies, invest in a #50 disher (it looks like a little ice cream scoop). It will help you make batch after batch of perfectly sized cookies.
When cutting out cookies, dip the cookie cutter in flour or powdered sugar to help with the release of the cutter from the dough. Having well-chilled dough will also help in this regard.
Unless absolutely necessary, use only one rack in your oven while baking cookies. If you have to use two, swap the cookie sheets' positions halfway through the baking time.
When making a cookie recipe that you are unfamiliar with, begin checking for doneness at the earliest time specified in the recipe.
Save yourself a lot of time by baking your cookies on sheets of parchment paper cut to fit your cookie sheets. By doing this, you can drop your cookie dough onto the paper in advance, slide the paper onto cookie sheets one at a time and never miss a beat! You can also slide the cookies on the paper off of the cookie sheets and onto a cooling rack when they're done. Best of all, it means no cleaning of the cookie sheets when you're done!
Store soft cookies and crisp cookies separately. Store cookies in an airtight box or tin to keep them crisp. Separate them with sheets of wax paper or aluminum foil.
Do yourself a huge favor if you plan to make a lot of cookies for the holidays. Start early and freeze them in small batches.
And, of course, the biggest tip of all is to avoid, at all costs, eating an entire batch of cookies in one sitting. Unless, that is, you have the company around to pull it off! Seasoned Greetings!