The keys to perfect homemade holiday cookie baking

The keys to perfect homemade holiday cookie baking

Holiday baking season is upon us. Homemade cookies are traditional treats at Christmas. With a few tips and tricks, your next batch of cookies can be tastier than ever.

Baking is a lesson in food chemistry. A combination of leavening agents, temperature, size and ingredients determine the desired cookie.

One hour before mixing, place eggs and butter on the counter. Rock-hard butter cannot be whipped and creamed with the sugars. Eggs, especially egg whites, give more volume to the batter when at room temperature.

Do not eat the dough, unless using pasteurized eggs, like Eggbeaters. Raw eggs can carry Salmonella bacteria, which is especially dangerous for the young, the elderly and pregnant women. Avoid any uncooked foods or dishes that contain raw egg. Cooking and baking kills Salmonella.

If a cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet or greasy, chill the cookie dough before baking. Reducing the temperature to around 40 F will avoid the greasy puddle cookies that occur with overspreading. The baked treats will be thicker, sturdier and denser. Chilling will not only prevent spreading, the cookie will taste better when cooked.

Even if the dough is not sticky or greasy, cooling the dough at least overnight and letting it sit at room temperature at least 10 minutes before baking will enhance the taste. The flavors will be richer as the aromas mingle while chilling.

Never place cookie dough on a hot baking sheet. To prevent excessive spreading, use parchment paper on the cookie sheet. The paper will keep the cookies from spreading too much, keep the cookie sheet clean and promote even browning.

Overbeating the ingredients and whipping too much air into the dough will cause the cookies to collapse during baking. Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients.

Most home ovens are inaccurate. Cookies are very sensitive to temperature. An oven thermometer can assure the correct temperature. Over-browning, excess spread and uneven baking can be eliminated by baking at the proper temperature.

The approximate cooking times of cookies are not always accurate. The size of the cookie, the temperature of the oven and the dough itself determine the cooking time. Let the cookies tell you when to be removed from the oven. The cookies are done when the edges are set and lightly browned.

Ovens often have hot spots. Pay attention to which side of the baking pan gets brown first. Rotate the cookie sheets during the baking time. Move them from the top shelf to the bottom shelf if necessary. The key to a perfect cookie is the careful eye and attention to the cooking time and temperature.

Cookies continue cooking for a few minutes after removing from the oven. The center of the cookie will look slightly under-baked if you want a softer cookie. Longer baking times will produce a crispier cookie.

Enjoy baking and especially the taste testing of warm, right out of the oven goodness.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes care and education specialist and a registered, licensed dietitian. Email her at