Tips for your improving your holiday cookie tray

 Punition sandwiches

It's the home stretch for bakers intent on making holiday cookies. The recipes are printed or bookmarked, the ingredients are at hand, and now the fun can begin. Sometimes the fun turns to frustration, however, when doughs stick unexpectedly, gorgeous designs go cattywampus, and things that are supposed to be soft get crunchy and vice-versa. 

We've lined up a few resources for you to avoid these pitfalls, starting with great tips from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. She has perfected a technique for making perfect cut-out cookies that not only makes for a better finished product but saves time in the process. Skipping the step of softening the butter makes for a firmer dough that doesn't need to be chilled, and rolling between parchment sheets allows for the scraps to be used without the cookies getting tough. 

Over at The Washington Post, Bonnie Berwick has a bevy of tips concerning cookie ingredients and more. There are several helpful reminders, ranging from the best way to separate eggs, the differences between baking powder and baking soda, and wax paper and parchment. Berwick also shares David Lebovitz's admonition to not overbeat your cookie dough, which can lead to excess spreading.  

Indexed magazine Fine Cooking also provides advice from professionals, featured the hard-earned wisdom of several pastry chefs. I found the advice from Scott Green of Travelle Kitchen + Bar in Chicago to be useful. Green advises to add flavorings like salt, vanilla, extracts and citrus zest to the butter when creaming it at the start of the dough-making process. Says Green, "Fat absorbs flavor better than other ingredients, so you'll get more bang for your buck." 

Taste of Home brings us the keys to making soft, chewy sugar cookies. If you've ever been disappointed that a cookie turned out crisp instead of invitingly soft, these tips will help your baking immensely. Many factors go into determining how crisp any cookie will be, including baking temperature, the type of flour you use, how much egg is in the dough, and what type of sugar is included. Tweaking one or more of these items can turn your cookies from being shattering chunks into pillowy bundles of goodness. 

Photo of Punition sandwiches from Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

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