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How To Bake Perfect Cookies While Maintaining Your Sanity

Because all those cookies aren't going to bake themselves.

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That means you'll be doing a lot of measuring, mixing, baking, and decorating. Here are the things you need to know to make perfect cookies and stay sane.

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PREPARE THYSELF

Setting yourself up for success is like, half the battle here.

1. Before you begin, make sure you've cleaned out your refrigerator (and freezer!) to make space for all that cookie dough you're about to make.

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Seriously nothing worse than cramming disks and logs and sheets of dough into whatever space you've got between jars of open pickles and leftovers.

While you're at it, clear off your counter space and clean out your sink, too.

2. Pull butter out of the fridge at least one hour before baking for "softened" or "room temperature" butter.

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Any softer than that and it can become greasy, and straight from the fridge makes it difficult to beat. How to tell if it's soft enough? You can easily make an indentation in the stick (or block) with your fingertip.

3. Measure everything out *BEFORE* you mix anything.

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This concept, known as "mise-en-place" ("everything in its place) will literally make ALL THE DIFFERENCE in how stressed/scrambled you feel when it comes time to actually mix everything together. This way, you can see everything and check it off your list.

4. Measure those dry ingredients (especially flour) by scooping and leveling.

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This means you dip the measuring cup into the bag of flour and level it off with a knife, chopstick, or finger. When baking, especially cookies, a few tablespoons of flour makes a huge difference.

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THE MIXING

Now comes the time to put all those ingredients together. DON'T BLOW IT.

5. "Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy" is not a suggestion, but a requirement.

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Yes, this takes a while (especially when using a hand-mixer), but creaming your butter and sugar till TRULY light and fluffy is essential. This helps dissolve the sugar and beats air into the butter, which will give your cookies that amazing light, puffed, crackly vibe, rather than flat, dense disks of dough.

7. Oh, and don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

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You know how sometimes you get cookies that are super flat and some that are super biscuity? That's because there are hidden pockets of butter lurking at the bottom of your bowl. The cookies that are flat have all the butter, and the ones that are biscuity don't have enough of it.

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10. To keep your slice-and-bake cookies ROUND, twist them in parchment paper, like you're wrapping a caramel candy.

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Then roll them on a table or work surface until you've got a super-smooth, round log. The sealed edges will prevent any dough from squishing out the sides while you do this.

12. If you're going to have to roll out your dough (like for sugar cookies or gingerbread), flatten it into two separate disks before wrapping in plastic wrap.

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14. Make your dough ahead of time, portion it, and FREEZE IT.

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Assuming you have only one oven, baking ALL YOUR COOKIES at the same time might get extremely exhausting/hot/you don't wanna do this. Most cookie dough freezes really well, and you can stick them in the oven straight from the freezer — just add a few minutes onto the baking time.

Do this by freezing portioned dough onto sheet trays. Once they are frozen, remove them from the tray and put them in a ziplock bag or Tupperware. BOOM.

15. Line your baking sheets! With parchment paper! Or a Silpat!

A Silpat is a fancy reusable silicon sheet that creates the ultimate nonstick surface. Both will protect your cookies against browning on the bottom too fast and make them easy to remove. When baking lots of batches, reuse the parchment paper once or twice.

**DO NOT USE WAX PAPER**

Wax, uhm..melts. And could, like, catch fire and stuff. Just don't use it.

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18. Freeze already-baked cookies like gingerbread and sugar cookies *before* they are decorated.

Place them in large ziplock bags or Tupperware containers and freeze, then thaw them on wire racks before decorating. You can freeze them about two weeks ahead, which will make you feel SO CALM when it comes time to decorate/swap/eat.

19. No pastry bag? Use a ziplock bag instead.

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Fill it up about halfway with frosting or icing then snip a tiny hole in the corner. Remember, you can always cut the hole larger, so err on the side of teeny-tiny.

21. If using frosting to create elaborate designs is just not your thing (it's not my thing), use a mix of edible glitter ("luster dust"), edible gold beads ("dragées"), and sprinkles of different colors and textures.

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