Baking cookies for my children's teachers and our friends and family is one of the things I look forward to most about the holiday season (and sampling them afterwards). But avoiding common cookie baking mistakes is kind of a crucial part of the process, and I'll be the first to admit, while I'm filled with enthusiasm for baking, I'm no Martha Stewart in the kitchen. Maybe it's all that precise measuring, but I would like to improve my baking skills so there are no more burnt-to-a-crisp cookies in my future. (My children think I would be an excellent candidate for Nailed It on Netflix.)
For advice on all things baking, I asked my friend and cookie baking goddess Loren Brill of Sweet Loren's. Loren brought her vision of a clean baking company offering refrigerated cookie dough (and edible cookie batter) to life after beating cancer at a young age, an experience that made her reconsider the importance of eating "clean" foods with simple ingredients. Her hard work (and sweet tooth) has paid off: you can now find Sweet Loren's cookie dough and edible cookie batter in grocery stores around the country.
And she's got some tried and true advice, along with a few other kitchen mavens, to help you bake your way through this holiday.
While Loren takes into consideration the fact that people have different cookie taste preferences, she stresses the importance of watching the clock after the oven door shuts. "Remember not to over-bake your cookies, unless you like them crispy. The second they have risen and there is a little crust on the outside, they’re done." Seems simple enough, right? Professional tip: "Cookies always bake a little more as they cool on the hot baking sheet."
2. Keep It Simple
If baking cookies for a holiday party where you'll be transporting them out of the house, don't make the mistake of going all out with icing or baking a thin, easily breakable cookie. Loren suggests "making sure you bring a cookie that’s easy to transport and doesn’t need to be heated up, that way it’s easy to serve and there’s no fuss or mess involved so you can just enjoy the party." Because that's kind of the whole point, right?
3. Dough Should Be Chilly
Courtney Cowan, founder of Milk Jar Cookies, told Insider, "Cookie dough likes to rest a bit so all the ingredients have time to mingle, so letting it chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking allows for this to happen." One extra note: "Be sure to plastic wrap it tightly to keep the dough from drying out."
4. Don't Over-Soften Cookie Dough
The team at Sweet Loren's recommends that dough not be overly soft prior to rolling out. "Dough should still have a little bit of coldness, but be pliable to work with." After taking your dough out of the fridge, they suggest leaving it out for about 25 minutes before beginning.
5. Butter At Room Temperature Is Crucial
I know this is a mistake I've made countless times, mostly due to being impatient. Tessa Arias of Handle the Heat wrote, "Perfect room temperature butter should give slightly when pressed with your finger, but still hold its shape and be flexible without breaking or cracking. It’s better for the butter to be too cool than too warm."
6. Parchment Paper Is Your Baking Buddy
When rolling out your dough, the Sweet Loren's team advises using parchment paper as opposed to just rolling out on your counter top. The parchment paper secret? "It will easily lift up the flour and help with an easier clean up."
Cowen also told Insider about another cardinal mistake that bakers can make: the art of the over-mixing (raises hand). "Over-mixing your dough will result in flatter, crispier cookies. If you over-mix the dough, you will end up aerating the dough (adding air) which causes the cookies to rise and then fall, leaving you with flat cookies."