Bake someone happy this month. Include cookies. And make it easy on yourself with these eight simple steps:
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I consider December to be Cookie Month. I don’t think that it’s been declared officially, but in our house, it’s the month when the most cookies get baked and consumed. And we love every sugar-filled moment of it.
And really, when you have eight people in the house, a batch of cookies rarely lasts a day! So, you have to make more.
Over the years I’ve had plenty of failed cookie batches. I still do. But, I’ve learned a few things that make the process easier, simpler, and generally better. So, listen well, or look well, little grasshopper.
I’m a gonna learn ya a few things.
Soften the butter.
Oh, it’s such a pain to make cookies with hard butter. And, yes, I do think butter is in order. I have some cookies that I use coconut oil or sunflower oil for, but most everything gets real butter, bought in bulk for about $2.50/pound at Costco.
Leave a package on the counter the night before you want to bake. If it’s salted, it will stay good at room temperature. I know, lots of baking recipes call for unsalted butter, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I use salted all the time.
If your butter is not soft enough to “cream” easily, nuke it in the microwave for 10 to 30 seconds at 10% power. That always works for me. I do 10 seconds at a time to make sure I don’t do it too much.
Preheat the oven.
I don’t preheat for casseroles and savory dishes, but for baked goods, yes, I preheat. It matters when you’ve got chemical reactions going on between leavenings and liquids, so don’t cheat on this one.
Get an oven thermometer to make sure yours is calibrated properly. Some ovens run too hot or too cold, so you’ll need to adjust for this.
Buy ingredients in bulk.
If I know I’m going to do a lot of baking, particularly at the holidays, I stockpile from the baking aisle, making sure we have enough flour, sugar, and leavenings to make many batches.
These items are typically on sale this time of year, so feel free to buy a lot if you’ve got the room and know you’ll use it. Be sure to check expiration dates.
Line your baking sheets.
I line my baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper, depending on my mood. I reuse a sheet of parchment 2-3 times and then chuck it. The silpat mats are washed and reused indefinitely. Both serve as an excellent measure to combat burnt and stuck-on-the-cookie sheet cookies.
They also make it easy for you to quickly transfer each batch to the baking sheet and to the cooling rack. Just lift the paper or mat and transfer the whole unit. While one batch is baking, you can get the next batch ready on a mat or piece of parchment.
I rarely have to wash baking sheets these days when I line them.
Make sure the goodie shows.
Sometimes, the chocolate, M&Ms, or nuts hide under a layer of dough. That’s not a bad thing, but the finished product is much more appealing with a hunk of chocolate showing in all its melting goodness. Add one or two bits to the cookie balls prior to baking.
(If you don’t already have a quick-release cookie scoop, I highly recommend them. They make cookie baking so easy for both adults and kids.)
Use parchment paper and binder clips for bar cookies.
Even if you’re making bar cookies, be sure to line the 9×13 baking dish with parchment. Cookie removal and clean up will be a breeze!
Binder clips will hold the paper in place until you get your dough or batter in the pan. Then remove them. I’ve baked them before by accident. No one died, but I’m not sure they are food and heat safe, so I’d remove them.
Trim the ugly edges.
It doesn’t matter if you’re making brownies, magic bars, or these yummy Caramel Pepita Bars. The edges sometimes get ugly. Trim those off so you can cut prettier, sharp-edged bars.
You get to eat the edges. Ahem.
Serve on a tray with milk.
When FishChick5 saw me taking photos of these cookies and the miniature mugs of milk, she probably asked me five times when she could drink the milk and eat the cookies. The tray and the miniature cut-glass mugs were just screaming, “FANCY! EAT ME! DRINK ME!”
Cookies on a tray with a glass of milk, mug of cocoa, or cup of hot tea are so inviting and comforting. And that’s what cookies should be. They should welcome you home and bring you comfort on a hard day.
So bake a lot of cookies this month. And enjoy them with your peeps!
Here are some of the Fish Fam’s favorite cookies:
- Chocolate Almond Biscotti
- Chocolate Minty Melts
- Double Chocolate Magic Bars
- Double Chocolate Toffee Cookies
- Farm-Style Oatmeal Cookies (egg free)
- Gingerbread Crinkles
- Gramma John’s Blue Ribbon Chocolate Cookies
- Lemon Ginger Bars
- Oatmeal Thumbprint Cookies with Cassis Jam
- Snowball Cookies
- Those Snickerdoodle Bars
- Whole Wheat Snickerdoodles
- plus How to Make 12 Kinds of Christmas Cookies without Going Insane
- and Jesus Nativity Cookies (FishKids’ Must-Do every Christmas)