Christmas Cookie Baking Tips Via Smithsonian Magazine

The phrase “here be dragons” appeared on uncharted or dangerous territories on maps during the Medieval era. Many people view baking this way. On the stove top, if a dish is too spicy, additional water, honey or even potato can remedy the situation. With baking, if your dough isn’t reacting correctly, it’s a guaranteed do-over. This article, featured in Smithsonian magazine provides useful tips on perfecting Christmas cookies. Below are a few highlights. What are your baking tips? What do you like to bake this time of year?

Butter & Margarine

Bakers are loyal to usually butter or margarine. Both are valid but be aware of what to look for. If you use margarine choose one that is at least 80% vegetable oil or 100 calories per spoon. If it’s less than that it indicates high water content causing cookies to spread and stick to the pan. With butter, the waiting is the hardest part. It’s best to leave it on the counter for 30-60 minutes until spreadable. Do not microwave as melted butter will make your cookies go flat.


Flour settles when unused so always stir with a spoon to loosen up, otherwise you risk pulling out too much for a recipe despite measuring out. Another option is to sift. If your cookies were dry in the past, this could be the reason.


When choosing a cookie pan, light coloring works best. Darker colors absorb energy from the oven which can cause uneven cooking.


If a recipe says to chill dough – you must do so. If you have a time constraint the freezer works well too. Keep in mind that 20 minutes in the freezer = 1 hour in the refrigerator. If using margarine, the freezer is best.

2 comments on “Christmas Cookie Baking Tips Via Smithsonian Magazine

  1. i’ve been baking for as long as i can remember, because life without dessert isn’t worth living. It is not that hard and there are some wee tricks that can help. Instead of worrying about buying new cookie pans, try rotating the pans, left to right and (if you’re baking on 2 racks at once) top to bottom half way through. if your cookies are too brown on the bottom, don’t be afraid to drop the temp 25degrees. And underbaked is usually better than overbaked, so if they are dry, try a few minutes less next time. As to flour settling, it definitely can especially if you aren’t using it regularly. That’s why using weights can be easier and more accurate than volumes. Bottom line with baking, don’t be afraid to play around a little with a recipe. for some learning shortcuts, Cook’s is great for explaining the chemistry of why certain ingredients react certain ways to produce a particular effect. eg white sugar vs. brown sugar produce different textured cookies.

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