The Secret to Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies and Other Holiday Baking Tips

Christmas Cookies
My husband and I used to make well over a hundred dozen Christmas cookies every year. The process grew from our early successes until we became a kind of amateur cookie factory operating from a residential zip code. Santa's elves had nothing on us. We worked diligently over two weekends in December and invested in all the pretty wrapping, ribbon and tins to decorate our projects. We tested new recipes throughout the year and lusted after the secret of a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

After about five years, the project became so enormous and daunting that we scaled back and eventually stopped cookie production. We were ahead of the cookie making craze somewhat, so by the end we were receiving almost as many cookie presents as we were giving -- way too many to eat ourselves or leave for Santa and his minions.

I still have some recommendations for holiday baking projects, though. The articles below are getting on in years, but they still offer some sound advice on how to prep a pie crust, make bulk cookies and put together a fun-filled gingerbread house project. There are also a few cookie making secrets I've been hoarding:

Chocolate chip cookie secret - If you like a cookie that's moist and chewy on the inside but slightly crunchy on the outside, here's the secret: Prep the cookies up to and including dropping the dough onto the cookie sheet -- then freeze the cookie sheet with the raw, formed dough right on it. Once frozen, bake cookies as you would normally, but check carefully for doneness. They may need to cook an additional three minutes or so. You'll end up with the perfect, chewy chocolate chip cookie.

Cool cookies on elevated racks -
For years we skipped this part, cooling t cookies right on the cookie sheet. When you let cookies cool on racks, they'll firm up better and are much less likely to crack and crumble.

Drain cookies on brown paper bags - Most cookies contain quite a bit of butter, margarine or shortening. You can lose some of the grease after baking by letting the cookies sit on cut pieces of brown paper bag for a couple of hours. You'll be surprised at the grease slick they leave behind.

Nestle cookies in cupcake papers - You know those fluted cupcake papers you can buy at the market. They make very nice individual holders for a stack of cookies, too. If you're putting together a decorative platter or tin, they help corral your cookies and keep them safer for transport -- just a thought.

Here are the articles I promised. The tips are sound. I've used them for years:

Christmas Cookie Baking
Tips for Making the Perfect Holiday Pie
Making a Gingerbread House

This is a big holiday baking weekend, so put on some Christmas music and make yourself some spiced cider. While you're elbow deep in cookie making it can seem like an incredible hassle, but after the flour's cleared and the cookies are all nestled in their containers, you'll know Christmas morning is just around the corner.

Oh, for some background on a few traditional favorites:

Homemade Sugar Plums
Candy Canes and Peppermints
Perfect Homemade Eggnog

Have fun!

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