Why You Should Refrigerate Cookie Dough—and Other Essential Holiday Baking Tips

Baking tips you need to know.

Even if you're not excited to trim the tree or hang Christmas lights on your house, everyone enjoys the baking that accompanies this festive time of year. Holiday food, specifically baking Christmas cookies, is a beloved tradition.

Setting out cookies for Santa and participating in cookie swaps are two of the sweetest occasions during the season. There are plenty of times when you'll bake throughout the holidays, from homemade gifts to office party snacks.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Cookies

 Courtesy of Damaris Phillips

Chill Your Cookie Dough

This year, your cookies will be the favorite at every event because you followed these cookie baking tips. Sarah Epperson, one of our Test Kitchen pros, shared her best-kept cooking-making secrets, the most important of which is always to chill the cookie dough.

I know—it's not a real secret. Some recipes and directions say to chill or use the chilled dough. But you probably didn't think that step was essential to the final product. You may have even heard that refrigerated cookie dough is unnecessary. As I recently learned, chilling the dough is extremely important. And like most good things in life, we owe it all to science and butter.

That's right. The composition of your cookies will come out differently after refrigeration because of the butter in the dough.

"When your cookie dough is not refrigerated, the butter is at room temperature. Therefore the heat from the oven reacts with the butter quickly, making it spread thinner," says Epperson.

And while some people prefer a crunchy, thin cookie, there are arguably many more people who like soft, thick cookies.

"When your dough is refrigerated, the butter hardens. So when you bake them, they spread less and hold their shape better," adds Epperson. "Which means a better likelihood of a soft, chewy cookie in the center."

Chilling the dough creates fluffier cookies with better consistency. Plus, if a bowl of dough is ready in the refrigerator, it's much easier to scoop while chilled than at room temperature. Epperson said that, like many foods, cookie dough benefits from resting (in the refrigerator) to let the flavors infuse and basically marinate together. So not only will the cookie's consistency be more even, but the actual taste will be better, too!

Additional Baking Tips

Here are some additional cookie tips to help you during this year's holiday baking season.

Don't Use Hot Cookie Sheets

Use more than one baking sheet. When baking multiple batches, a hot cookie sheet will melt the dough before placing it in the oven. The hot sheet can ruin the cookie's consistency, so starting with a room-temperature tray is always better.

Allow Proper Circulation

Make sure to have the right size cookie tray for your oven. For proper circulation, there must be at least two inches of clearance on all sides. This distance includes at least two inches from the top of the tray to the top of the oven.

Overlap Foil on Pans

This tip isn't technically isn't for cookies, but brownies are another common baked good for the holidays. To help the transition of brownies to a cooling tray after baking, first line the tray with foil, which overlaps and tucks into the sides.

Reuse Parchment Paper

Holiday baking can get costly. Do yourself a favor by reusing the parchment paper. Flip it over to the other side and save time and money.

Flour Cookie Cutter Edges

Ever wonder how to get crisp outlines of your favorite Christmas cookie shapes? Flour the cookie cutter edges before using. Flouring the cookie cutter rather than the dough helps to prevent adding extra dry ingredients to the mixture.

Additional Ingredient Tips

Eggs Should Be Room Temperature

When baking, use eggs at room temperature. Leave eggs to rest after rooming them from the refrigerator until achieving this even temperature. Room temperature eggs combine more readily with butter and other ingredients, which creates a better texture and consistency in the dough.

Use Cooking Spray on Measuring Cups

To measure dry ingredients accurately, use cooking spray on measuring cups. The spray prevents it from sticking.

Don't Overpack Flour

When measuring flour for cookies, don't pack it into the cup like brown sugar. Keep measurements light by scooping or spooning flour into your measuring cup and leveling off the top. It's important to allow the flour to aerate.

After Baking Tips

Let Cookies Rest

Before transferring your cookies from the pan to a wire rack for cooling, first set the tray on top of the wire. Let cookies rest for at least five minutes, so they won't crumble as easily when you move them.

Bang Pan Against the Kitchen Counter

After taking cookies out of the oven, give the cookie sheet a bang against the counter. This professional move helps cookies to remain chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

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