Rock your holiday cookie swap with these tips from Levain Bakery in New York City.

Photo by Kate Previte
| Credit: Photo by Kate Previte

We don't mess around with cookies here at Rachael Ray Every Day. And neither do the folks at the New York-based Levain Bakery. If you haven't tasted their heavenly chocolate chip cookies, get on that the next time you're in NYC (or order some here—you won't be disappointed). To be fair, they're really almost cookie-muffin hybrids, pillowy and perfectly browned. Which is to say, founders and friends Connie McDonald and Pam Weekes really nailed it back when they first developed their cookies and opened up shop on the Upper West Side almost twenty-five years ago. No, we didn't get the full scoop on their top-secret cookie recipe (believe me, I tried!). But they did give us a few tips on how to succeed at the holiday baking game. Bookmark this story because you're going to want to reference it when you're getting into cookie making this month.

Tip 1: Chill your dough. 

Yes, it depends on your recipe, but both McDonald and Weekes agreed that if you're not baking all of your dough off immediately and aren't pressed for time, it helps to chill your dough for about 30 minutes so it's easier to work with. This is especially true if you're going to roll it out and use cookie cutters.

Tip 2: Parchment paper is your best friend. 

Forget silicone baking mats! Levain's legendary cookies are baked on metal cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, so why would you do anything else? This tried-and-true set up keeps cookies from sticking on their bottoms, which will also prevent them from breaking as you remove them. 

Credit: Photo by Kate Previte

Tip 3: Use a clean pan.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but a dirty pan can cause your cookie bottoms to burn faster—even if you're using parchment paper to line your pan, as suggested above. For best results,"Wash your pan in between batches, even if it doesn't look dirty," says Weekes.

Tip 4: Don't let your butter get too warm.

Don't nuke butter it in the microwave or leave it out for hours on end, people! Cold or room temperature butter might take a little longer to cream, but it equals super fluffy cookies. 

Tip 5: Don't rush the process. 

It's the holidays, so yeah, you have a million and one things to do. But don't rush through a recipe. This could be why your cookies are lackluster. "Some people add ingredients way too soon after creaming the butter and sugar, when they haven't fully combined yet," says McDonald. Make sure you've landed on that fully combined, creamy consistency before adding your eggs then dry ingredients.