What tools are most helpful?
Start with a baking sheet and for rolled cookies, a rolling pin. A reliable timer's nice to have, too. Here are our top, tested picks:
We also like using these:
Nonstick silicone baking mats
No need to grease a baking sheet or roll out parchment paper if you've got these multi-taskers around. They're easy to clean, and double as work surfaces for rolling out dough.
Use these tools to dole out the right size and shape.
Small offset spatulas
The angled handle eases wrist strain when icing cookies. Plus, they're great for loosening cookie-dough cutouts from the counter.
All set. Now, just follow the recipe?
Baking requires an almost-OCD level of accuracy, so:
Be precise when measuring ingredients.
Sounds obvious, but measure dry ingredients in dry-measuring-cup sets.
Don't use your glass liquid-measuring cups for dry ingredients. The set allows you to scoop up dry goods and then level them using a straightedge, such as the back of a butter knife.
Use cookie sheets.
Follow a recipe to the letter.
If it calls for chilled butter, using room temperature butter instead will make cookies heavy and dense instead of light and airy.
Cool hot cookie sheets in between batches.
Run them under cold water. Otherwise, baking times and cookie shapes will be affected.
Once my cookies are in the oven, anything else to know?
Don't trust the number on your digital display
Odds are, it won't match the internal temperature of the oven. Invest in an oven thermometers. If you're not baking at the exact temperature, the cookie will crumble in all the wrong ways: dry, burnt or underbaked.
If you live in a high-altitude climate... The air up there actually alters the baking rules. Use only a scant amount of leaveners like baking soda or baking powder. Jack up your oven temperature by 15 degrees and decrease baking time by about 2 minutes for every 10 called for in the recipe. Sprinkle your dough with water if it seems drier than the recipe calls for (e.g., "dough should form coarse crumbs").
How can I make leftovers last?
1. Cool cookies completely before storing, or else they'll turn soggy.
2. Freeze baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
3. Only used half of the cookie dough? Wrap the rest in wax paper and foil and freeze it for up to 1 month. Defrost before using.
How can I ship my cookies so they don't break? I love sharing them with friends, especially for the holidays.
1. Pack cookies in cellophane bags. They keep crisp cookies crisp and soft cookies soft.
2. Stack small, flat cookies in cupcake baking liners before packing in a tin.
3. Place packaged cookies in a large mailing box and use plain popcorn insteadd of styrofoam packing peanuts for earth-friendly padding.
We also like these pretty ideas to make homemade presents special: