Baking Hacks for Better Christmas Cookies

Ready to make some A+ holiday cookies this year? Scroll down to read the best cookie-making tips directly from culinary professionals from all over the world.

Ensure Baking Staples Are Fresh

Remember to check the freshness of your baking soda and baking powder. You can do so by pouring two tablespoons of hot water into a bowl with one teaspoon of baking powder. If the baking powder is active, it should start to bubble up. If it doesn’t, it’s time to buy a new one. With baking soda, you can do the same thing, except use vinegar or lemon juice instead of hot water.

Be Careful With Butter

When bringing your butter to room temperature, always make sure to not over-soften it. You should be able to place your finger on it and push, and it will make an indention but not run through the middle. You can also check butter with a kitchen thermometer, which should read anywhere from 62 to 68 degrees.

Use Unsalted Butter

Make sure you are using unsalted butter unless the recipe calls for salted butter. Using salted butter can alter the taste of your cookie.

Cream Butter Correctly

When creaming the butter for a recipe, always place the butter and sugar in the bowl and cream together just until the sugar is mixed in and the texture is uniform. You can see the color go from medium yellow to light and pale yellow. Creaming puts air into the mixture, and that keeps the butter from melting too fast. On the other hand, over-creaming breaks the butter down so that it melts at an even faster pace in the oven.

Watch Your Eggs

Make sure the butter or eggs aren’t too cold. It’s important to soften those and mix them well together to have a nice, fluffy texture and give as much volume as you can during the baking process.

Use Egg Yolks for Richer Cookies

One super-simple way to make your cookies extra-rich and tender is to use egg yolks in place of whole eggs. So, if a recipe calls for two whole eggs, use four yolks instead. Not only will it make your cookies crazy-flavorful, but it will also help to keep them moist and chewy. (Note that if you have large eggs, you might only need three yolks, not four.)

Consider Egg Substitutes

For an egg-free alternative, you can substitute cream cheese. Not only is it perfect for anyone with an egg allergy, but the substitution gives cookies a fluffier and richer flavor than the traditional recipe using eggs.

Try Muscovado Sugar

A little baking secret is to use muscovado sugar—unrefined cane sugar that contains natural molasses. You can find this sugar in some gourmet shops. The specificity of this sugar is that the molasses have not been extracted yet and the sugar is unrefined. This means it’s strong in both flavor and color.

Grab Some Pudding Mix.

Add pudding mix to your cookie dough for extra-chewy treats. Simply add one box of dry instant pudding mix to your recipe before baking. You’ll want to stick to a vanilla mix, which won’t interfere with other flavors.

Add Baking Soda—the Key to Fluffy Cookies

Another hack is to use a few teaspoons of baking soda in your dough to make it extra-fluffy.

Opt for Real Vanilla Bean

If you really want to splurge, there is nothing like the taste of real vanilla bean, which can be added to the dough and/or the icing. Vanilla bean adds a subtle sweetness with notes of fruit and flowers.

Get Salty

Salt is your new secret ingredient! Every dessert recipe should call for a pinch of salt. It enhances the taste and flavors of your dessert—whether kosher salt in your cake batter or a nice flakey sea salt on top of your holiday cookies—a dash of salt is a must!

And if you’re making chocolate cookies, add a dash of instant coffee to your dough or batter to intensify the chocolate flavors.

Let the Cookie Dough Rest in the Refrigerator

Most cookie doughs perform their best after at least one night of resting in the fridge, if not more. This resting and aging process is important for the hydration of the starches in the dough—flour takes some time to absorb liquid from the eggs, butter, and other liquids in the dough.

If the flour is evenly and fully hydrated, the texture of the cookie is more likely to be soft and chewy, the cookies will bake and brown more evenly, and the spreading of the dough during the bake is more controlled.

Pop Dough in the Freezer

Freeze your dough. Not only will it allow you to prep your cookies ahead of time, making baking days way less stressful, it also improves the outcome of your cookies. When given time to properly chill, cookies come out more flavorful, and because the fats in the cookies are solidified before baking, they do not spread as much, giving you better consistency and shape.

Not sure exactly how to freeze your dough? Either scoop your dough onto a parchment-lined sheet tray, allow to freeze completely, then store in freezer bags, or roll the dough into logs for slice-and-bake cookies, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and freeze until ready to bake. And there’s no need to thaw the dough ahead of time! Just add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

Use the Right Cookie Pan

Home ovens tend not to circulate heat well. Therefore, you need to watch the bottoms of your cookies because they’ll brown faster than the tops. A hallmark sign of a cookie baked at home versus at a bakery is a brown bottom. There’s an easy way to help with this issue: Use an insulated cookie pan. It has a pocket of air on the bottom that prevents the heat from getting so close to the underside of the cookies.

Don’t Crowd Cookies

When placing your cookies on the baking sheet, never overcrowd the pan. Make sure to always place the cookies 1 to 2 inches apart. This allows the heat to circulate evenly around the cookies.

Speaking of the baking process, you should never bake cookies on a shiny new baking sheet. To clarify: “A baking sheet should always be lined with a Silpat or parchment paper to create a surface that the cookies can cling to.

Under-bake Cookies (Slightly)

Cookies will continue to cook on your baking sheet for a few minutes after removing them from the oven, so pulling them out a little early ensures a perfectly baked cookie. It also causes them to retain a bit more moisture, giving you a softer, chewier result.

Let Cookies Rest

Once you take cookies out of the oven, let them rest for a few minutes. Don’t try to remove the cookies from the pan right out of the oven. If you do this, they may fall apart, and it probably won’t be because they’re under-baked. It’s because cookies need several minutes to cool and thus firm up.”

Serve Them Warm

Let your holiday cookies cool a few minutes before eating, but whenever possible, serve warm.