A: Unlike cooking, baking is an exact science. Certain ingredients are meant to be put together for a reason, so you can’t go crazy making substitutions, then wonder why your cookies didn’t turn out like the photo. If you don’t want to make the cookie according to the recipe or don’t have all the ingredients, you’re better off baking a different cookie or making a trip to the store to pick up the ingredients you’re missing.
A: When using dough for cut-outs like sugar or gingerbread, chilling the dough is essential. If the dough ever becomes too difficult to work with, pop it in the fridge for 20–30 minutes and try again. Once all the cookies have been cut, leave them on the cookie sheet and chill again until very firm. Preheat the oven during this time and once ready, pop them right in to bake.
A: Every time you roll out or mix any dough, you’re working the gluten. The longer you work it, the tougher it becomes. It’s best to reroll scraps just once, then toss whatever is left. Keep in mind not to overmix the batter, but rather mix until just combined.
A: It’s easy to love the taste of freshly baked cookies, but not as easy to love to make them. When making large batches of cookies, use the tools around you to speed up time-consuming tasks. Your thumb works well for thumbprint cookies, but the back of a floured wooden spoon is quicker. Instead of using your fingers to press the dough into the baking pan for bar cookies, add the dough to the pan, spread it out, and use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to press it in.
A: Using two baking sheets at once may save time, but it’s not ideal for picture-perfect cookies. The important thing to remember here is to adjust the position of the sheets halfway through baking. Switching the position of the sheets allows the heat to circulate the cookies evenly, producing a more uniform result.
A: Cookie recipes can yield anywhere from 2–4 dozen cookies so instead of dividing the recipe, freeze your cookies after you've baked them. Buttery shortbreads, drop cookies, sugar cookies, and gingerbread men freeze particularly well. Place cooled cookies in resealable freezer bags and pop them into the freezer. Simply unwrap and let them thaw at room temperature.