A Dozen Tips for Beginner Bakers

In the mood for freshly baked cookies? Follow these tips for the perfect outcome.

Cookie Dough

Holiday cookie-baking rookies, you're in for a sweet deal. Here are 12 tricks to making the most delicious batch.

1. Read through the recipe from start to finish before you begin, and assemble all ingredients so everything is at the ready.

2. Measure liquid ingredients in glass measuring cups. Solids should be spooned into metal or plastic dry measuring cups. Pack brown sugar firmly into dry measuring cups for accurate measurement.

3. Coat glass measuring cups with cooking spray for easy removal when measuring syrups. Coat knives or scissors lightly with flour before chopping candied fruits to avoid sticking.

4. Mix batters just until the flour is incorporated and ingredients combined to avoid overworking the dough which translates to tough cookies.

5. Use heavy aluminum baking sheets. Dark sheets absorb heat, causing cookies to get overly browned; nonstick baking sheets are OK if not too dark. Insulated baking sheets require extended baking time.

6. Lightly grease baking sheets only when the recipe specifies it; otherwise, cookies may spread too much while baking. Use vegetable cooking spray instead of butter or margarine, which can burn.

7. Roll buttery dough on wax paper for a nonstick surface. When dough gets too soft, pop it in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

8. Bake one batch of cookies at a time on the middle oven rack. If you must bake two, rotate pans from top to bottom halfway through baking to ensure even browning and doneness.

9. Always preheat the oven and bake with precision. For soft and chewy cookies, remove from the oven at the lower range of time. For crisper cookies, leave them in a minute or two longer.

10. Remove cookies from baking sheets when the recipe specifies. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Do not stack them or let the sides touch while they are still warm. Cookies firm up as they cool.

11. Store soft, chewy cookies in an airtight container and crisp cookies in a container with a loose-fitting lid. Store bar cookies in their baking pan; seal the top of the pan with aluminum foil. Unfrosted bar cookies can be stacked and stored in airtight containers.

12. Unfrosted cookies freeze well for 8 months in zip-top plastic freezer bags, metal tins, or plastic freezer containers. Dough can be sealed and frozen up to 6 months. Thaw dough in the refrigerator or at room temperature until it’s the right consistency for shaping.

13. Baking up a bake sale batch? Bag them up in style, but be sure to include a list of ingredients for those who may have food sensitivities or allergies.

Now that you've got these tips, here are our Best Loved Cookie and Bar recipes. You'll be taking your neighbors fresh cookies and holding a bake-sale next.