Whether you’re frosting holiday cutouts or rolling Russian teacakes in powdered sugar, your Christmas cookie baking can be as fun as devouring the results! But Christmas cookies should look and taste as special as the season, too. When it comes to these festive, once-a-year treats, just following a recipe may not be enough.
Here are 9 tips for making sure your Christmas cookies stand out and deliver:
- Test recipes in advance. If you’re planning to make a Christmas cookie that you’ve never tried before, test it out first. Search for good recipes months in advance, and bake trial batches. Ask friends or family members to sample the cookies and offer opinions. When holiday baking time comes around, you’ll know which recipes will be a hit.
- Invest in quality baking utensils. Sturdy, functioning cookie presses, Christmas cookie cutters, cookie scoops, and decorating utensils will alleviate frustration and help ensure a successful cookie baking session. Other equipment worth investing in for holiday baking includes wire cooling racks and durable, easy-to-handle cookie sheets.
- Enlist a baking partner—or two. If you plan on baking several types of holiday cookies at one time, it’s a good idea to work with a partner or partners to save time. Having someone to bake with also makes the process more efficient and fun, especially if your Christmas cookies involve several steps, such as layering, frosting, or decorating.
- Use quality ingredients. Baking Christmas cookies is not the time to skimp or go “light” on ingredients. Use real butter, premium cocoa, pure extracts, and high-quality candies. Watch for sales on these items in the months preceding the holidays. Not only will your cookies taste and bake up better, they’ll make nicer gifts.
- Refrigerate the dough. Since Christmas cookie dough often requires shaping or rolling, a few hours in the refrigerator helps make the dough firmer and easier to work with. Once baked, the cookies will also have better texture. Limit or avoid refrigerating Spritz cookie dough, which needs to be soft enough to pass through a cookie press.
- Think small. Rich, delicate cookies, like Christmas cookies, are better off small. They’ll look more appealing and taste every bit as satisfying. Baking small Christmas cookies will also allow you to fit more of them on your cookie platter. Friends and family will appreciate your small cookies, too—they’ll be encouraged to sample more than one!
- Bake with a convection oven, if possible. Using a convection oven helps cookies bake evenly without the need to rotate cookie sheets. Convection ovens also save time when baking multiple batches of cookies because you can bake several sheets at once. Before baking, be sure to line cookie sheets with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- Cool and pack carefully. Cool Christmas cookies completely on wire racks before freezing or packing them in sturdy, airtight containers. If stacking cookies in containers, make sure any frosting and candies have set first. Pack cookie varieties separately, especially mint cookies and other treats with strong flavors that could transfer.
- Pay attention to presentation. Christmas cookies that are served on a pretty holiday plate, packaged in festive cookie tins, or wrapped in decorative cellophane with bows will not only show off your hard work, they’ll be more tempting to eat. Take the time and effort to give your cookies the proper presentation they deserve.
Baking Christmas cookies is a yearly activity that bakers of all ages enjoy. Follow the above tips, and make this year’s holiday treats a sweet success.