While the holidays make some people giddy with excitement over family traditions and putting up decorations, others dream about sprinkles, chocolate chips and Christmas cookie cutters. During the holiday season, over-the-top sweet treats flow freely, diets are temporarily put on pause and kids eat more sugar than usually allowed.
This time of year is also known to be stressful, especially for those tasked with the job of churning out a never-ending supply of holiday cookies. With the right tools and techniques, it doesn't have to be — look no further for the best holiday-cookie-baking tips from our baking expert, Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef Andrea Boudewijn.
The first tip for kicking your Christmas cookie baking up a notch is easier said than done.
"Put yourself in a great mood before baking," Boudewijn advises. "Equipment will sense your stress and will malfunction."
Once you're relaxed, it's time to start preparing.
Home cooks don't often consider all of the elements they can prepare ahead of time to make life easier.
First off, with holiday baking, it's best to "make your dough a day ahead," Boudewijn says. "Batters do well a day ahead, too. Roll your balls a day ahead and store them in an airtight container, like a deli cup."
She also noted a few other preparations that can be done ahead of Christmas baking, including mixing cinnamon sugar, toasting nuts, making glazes and simmering dried fruits in wine.
High up on the list of tips to take your holiday cookie game up another level is to use the right tools and ingredients. A few suggestions are no-brainers, like lining your baking sheets with parchment paper to reduce burning. It also makes cleanup a breeze.
Boudewijn also recommends using rimless baking sheets. "It's important to take cookies off the rack quickly, and it's easier to slide them off on a rimless cookie sheet."
One expert tool tip Boudewijn offers is to use an oven thermometer to ensure accurate temperatures since ovens start to cool as soon as they reach the desired temperature. "So, you open up the oven to put the cookies in, and it's cooling at that point because it thinks it's 350. It will drop down to 340, sometimes 330. If it does drop down a little bit, maybe you bump it up to 355 to keep it a little bit warmer."
Lastly, don't underestimate the power of quality ingredients.
"Splurge on high-end ingredients," Boudewijn says, naming a few products including Madagascar vanilla or pistachios instead of peanuts. She also suggests not skimping on the full-fat milk. "You need that fat to make the cookie good."
Our baking expert recommends dusting sanding sugar on Christmas sugar cookies instead of granulated sugar because it creates a snow effect on cookies that makes them pretty.
This oven thermometer sits inside the oven to help you keep the most accurate track of the oven temperature.
If you want a little ice cream to go along with your cookies or you want to use some cookie crumbles as a topping, this product is for you. Making your own ice cream at home lets you create flavors you can't find in the grocery store. To evaluate this ice cream maker in the BestReviews Testing Lab, we made vanilla ice cream, vegan coconut ice cream and blueberry sorbet. Our tester noted that the machine produces 2 quarts of these frozen treats in 25 minutes and got the best results when the bowl was chilled for 24 hours. On the downside, we found that the Cuisinart ice cream maker was noisy and ingredients can overflow out of the bowl if you're not careful.
You don't have to worry about bending spoons anymore with this ice cream scoop. It has an easy-grip handle with a chiseled tip to slice through any ice cream.
Your holiday dessert table won't be complete without a pie or two, in addition to your fresh-baked cookies. This pie plate has a scratch- and stain-resistant finish with a polished rim that won't scuff surfaces or cooktops. Our expert recommends putting your pie in the oven during dinner so it will be warm when you're ready to eat dessert.
These food storage containers are useful for storing any dough, batter or cookie balls that you make ahead of time. They come in three sizes and are dishwasher-, freezer- and microwave-safe.
This cake knife and server are silver-plated with a fancy cut pattern. Any pie or cake you make will be served in style.
With a nonstick coating, cookies will slide off this rimless baking sheet with ease. The aluminum will never rust and offers superior heat conductivity.
Weighing your ingredients gives the most accurate, consistent results every time. This kitchen scale can switch between metric grams and imperial ounces or pounds.
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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.