Monday, December 16, 2013

Not-so-dirty Baker's Dozen: Holiday Baking Tips

by Barbara Early
Holiday baking can be a chore. (Cue the infomercial with the exhausted woman with flour in her hair.) But a few quick tips can make the time go more pleasantly and productively. So here are my ultimate cookie baking tips:

1. Crank the Christmas tunes. It excites the holiday molecules in the vanilla, which makes for better cookies. Should you tire of Christmas music during a long stint of baking, it is acceptable to switch to corny Hallmark Christmas movies.

2. Use good ingredients. To ensure this, sample before
you add. This is especially true with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and M&Ms. (You don’t want a bad batch to ruin your entire baking. Better double check to be completely sure!)

3. When baking cookies for a party or other event and are unsure of how many to bake, a good rule of thumb is two dozen per person.

My baking, 2012
4. Always double the vanilla. Anything that smells that good should be added twice.

5. Always double the cinnamon. (See vanilla)

6. Be a realist. Make two batches of chocolate chip dough. Leave the eggs out of one, and put it immediately into the refrigerator for snacking.

7. You know those cookie dough scoopers? I lived for over 40 years thinking they were unnecessary. I was a fool. They’re amazing.

8. Quality control is key. Sample dough before baking, and at least one cookie from every tray.

9. Appearance is important. If a batch of cookies contains one or two that seem misshapen or overly brown in an area, eat them immediately, before anyone can see. Preferably while still warm.

10. Make all your dough on one day and refrigerate. This will cut down on dishes, since measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls and beaters will not have to be washed as often. (Start with light-colored doughs, then peanut butter, then chocolate. Bake the cookies the next day or whenever you need fresh cookies for the children after coming in from play, or to make a small plate for the neighbor. Or for breakfast.

11. Better slightly underdone than overdone. That’s why cookie dough tastes so good. Besides, those FDA warnings about the dangers of raw egg consumption are for sissies and legalists.*

12. A tray of cookies turn out too dark? Consider adding a glaze, frosting, or a drizzle of melted chocolate. When all else fails, eat them, then eat the frosting, drizzle, or glaze.

13. Sure, you can make cookies for a party and take them all, but why not make an extra batch for your family? After all, they’re the ones who make key nursing home decisions.

*Not to be used as health advice. If you get sick or die from eating raw eggs as a result of this post, I don’t want to hear about it. Especially if you die. Zombies are for another holiday entirely.

Question: Do you have a favorite cookie or baking tip?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book and audio format from White Rose Publishing. Barbara also writes as Beverly Allen, and her debut cozy mystery novel, Bloom and Doom, is coming in April 2014 from Berkley. You can learn more about her writing at


  1. I am a 'burnt out' Christmas cookie baker. I do one kind now and they are the easiest ever. I used to do the multiple varieties/ multiple dozens until I had one of those years when my baking led me to hate everyone and every cookie. Time to back away from the holiday cheer, huh?

    I will eat them but even then I really know I don't need them so the guilt factor ruins the flavor.
    That said, I've got a baking post for tomorrow as well.
    Nothing like Christmas, huh?
    ha ha.
    great post Barb. I am a big fan of raw dough.

    I have a favorite quote for this:
    "I made them myself" - in other words I licked the spoon.

    worst baking experience... macaroons that would not come off the pan. Pan went into garbage. Thankfully no one was in the kitchen with me that day either...

    1. I enjoy making cookies, in theory. Since I also don't need them, I limit them to months with a D in them. Which means I can go a little crazy around Christmas. But I agree, when I overplan, it seems more like a chore to be avoided.

      My biggest problem today is a whole big plate of cookies I baked for the Christmas cantata--which was then canceled. (Today could be scary!)

  2. The nursing home comment gave me an out loud chuckle.

    1. Sad thing is, there's a sliver of truth there. I find it easy to fall into a trap of making the best things to give away or take places. Over the years, I've come to face the fact that it's easy to rush from urgent to urgent, wrapping delicious plates in cellophane and taking them out of the house, forgetting the family.

  3. I'm sorry, Barb, but I didn't find much to use here. Seems I already do most of these -- at least, all the one about quality control and taste testing :)

    Some years I do a fair amount baking and other years pretty much not at all. Did quite a bit this year because it's an activity youngest and I can do together.

    1. CJ, I hope your new little one is enjoying his first Christmas with you! That has to be creating some precious memories for the both of you.

  4. Best.



    I'm glad to see common practice codified. :D

  5. Love the post. LOVE it. Two dozen cookies per person. Oy. Come bake for me!


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