Test Kitchen Tips
12 Baking Mistakes You Might Be Making with Your Christmas Cookies
Don't let a simple slip-up derail your holiday baking plans. With our help, you can easily avoid a dozen common baking mistakes.
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Mistake #1: Not thoroughly creaming the butter and sugar
Creaming together the butter and sugar is a crucial first step when making cookies. Though it sometimes takes a while to achieve that smooth and fluffy batter, it must be done so the resulting cookies are light and lofty rather than flat and dense. Practice your technique with our best cookie recipes of all time.
Mistake #2: Not using room temperature ingredients
When a recipe calls for room temperature butter or eggs, it’s important to follow that direction. You’ll find it much easier to cream softened butter, and eggs that aren’t so cold will incorporate into the batter more readily.
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Mistake #3: Measuring ingredients incorrectly
Many a batch of cookies has failed because the flour was measured incorrectly. Too little flour will give you flat discs and too much flour will produce tough pucks. Take your time and weigh out the flour like baking pros do.
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Mistake #4: Not scraping the bowl
Doing a thorough job of mixing the cookie dough is essential. Leaving bits of unincorporated butter or flour on the sides of the mixing bowl will affect the consistency of the final product, so be sure to scrape the bowl at least once before putting away your mixer.
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Mistake #5: Not chilling the dough
Some recipes specifically call for chilling cookie dough before baking, anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day. You don’t want to put too-soft dough into the oven, as it will spread quickly and aggressively. If your dough seems extra sticky, chill it for a little while before proceeding.
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Mistake #6: Not lining the cookie sheet
Most cookies have the potential to stick to the pan like glue, even if it’s nonstick. Be sure to line your cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat if you want to be able to remove your cookies in one piece.
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Mistake #7: Overbaking
It’s so easy to overbake cookies, especially since they continue to cook even after they’re removed from the oven. Follow your recipe’s instructions, always erring on the side of taking them out too early rather than too late. This is especially important for treats that are supposed to be chewy, like sugar cookies.
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Mistake #8: Overcrowding the pan
Though there are some exceptions, most cookies spread as they bake—and some spread a lot! Place the balls of dough a reasonable distance apart on the cookie sheet; it’s better to have to bake an extra tray than to end up with a giant blob of cookie.
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Mistake #9: Using the wrong oven temperature
Even though your oven readout says a particular temperature, there’s a very good chance that the actual reading is different. Go ahead and invest in a small oven thermometer (like this one) so you know your oven is at the right temperature to bake unburnt cookies. Also, remember to put your pans on this oven rack position.
Shutterstock / Teri Virbickis
Mistake #10: Not rotating the pans
Ovens also tend to heat unevenly, so your best bet at achieving cookies that are uniformly baked is to rotate those cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. Yes, you’ll let some heat out of the oven, but it will be worth it. Be sure to check out these tips to make sure your oven is in tip-top shape.
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Mistake #11: Skipping the cooling rack
Don’t have enough space on your cooling rack? Try this trick.
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Mistake #12: Using a warm cookie sheet
For the impatient among us, it can be very tempting to place balls of cookie dough on a cookie sheet that’s still warm from the last batch. Don’t do it! This will affect the baking process, melting the butter and resulting in flat and not-so-lovely cookies.