December 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm
by Heather Eng
We hosted a special Facebook chat yesterday about a very merry topic: holiday cookie baking! Our senior food editor, Julie Miltenberger, answered your questions about making, freezing, packaging and decorating those festive goodies. Read on for great tips.
Family Circle: Welcome to our very special Holiday Cookie Chat! Here to answer all of your baking questions, give tips and share recipes is our senior food editor Julie: As you prepare for Christmas, what do you need to know? Ask your questions and get them answered NOW!
Naomi: Is there any cookie that can stand up to freezing once baked? I’m doing a Christmas cookie exchange on the 26th but want to do my baking ahead of time.
Julie: Naomi – most cookies without chocolate or candy on them do best when freezing. Make sure you put them in a freezer-safe bag or resealable container. Waxed paper between layers works well, too.
Naomi: So shortbread, sugar cookies and gingerbread would all work? What about bars? Are there any bars that stand up to freezing?
Sandy: Oh wow…I could be on this topic for D-A-Y-S! I used to volunteer for 3 years to make just over 5,000 cookies for 4 seniors homes where I lived each Christmas. There are M-A-N-Y cookies that would work well with freezing ahead of time. I used to stand them on their sides either in the freezer bags or in large margarine containers. #1, you get more cookies in there and less space and with them in stacks standing up, rather than just laying down, less chance of them breaking and you can fit more in the pack.
Family Circle: Naomi–here are some of our Make-Ahead Holiday Cookie recipes.
Naomi: Thanks, the website was wonderful! Can’t wait to try them all
Barbara: Hi! I am wondering the best icing to use on cookies so that they will not stick together when they are stacked. Thanks!
Julie: Barbara – I think Royal Icing would be best—make sure it’s completely dry before stacking.
Christine: I would LOVE some favorite family recipes for cookies. No cut-outs, though.
Julie: Christine: The recipes I remember most from my childhood are the Magic Cookie Bars that are made with a cornflake crumb crust, shredded coconut, nuts and chocolate chips and then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.
Julie: My Aunt Jan also always sends us Pecan Meltaway cookies—they’re also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes. They’re the small round cookies made of butter, confectioners’ sugar, nuts and a little salt. Once baked, you roll them again in confectioners’ sugar.
Christine: @Julie, Magic Cookie Bars are one of my FAVORITES and I make them every year too! Love bar cookie recipes!
Family Circle: Christine: try some our favorite brownies, blondies and bar cookies.
Holly: Every time I make icing for sugar cookies, it always turns out gooey and never nice and sheen like pictures. Is there any tip or recipe that I can follow to get the best result?
Julie: Holly – Do you want a simple frosting like buttercream or do you want one that dries firm?
Julie: Holly, the Royal Icing recipe will work best for you. Make sure that it calls for powdered egg whites or meringue powder. That’s what adds the sheen when it dries.
Holly: Julie – I would like a firm one.
Family Circle: Holly: here’s a really simple Royal Icing recipe.
Holly: Thank you for your help!
Amber: If I put dough through a cookie press should it be room temp or cold?
Julie: Amber – I like to have my cookie press dough at room temperature. Otherwise, it gets too hard to press through the small openings in the disks.
Natalie: I have a terrible time with chocolate chip cookies. I like mine soft, flat and moist, but mine always turn out hard and puffy. Any ideas?
Julie: Natalie: puffy cookies mean you’re using too much flour. Are you using butter or shortening for the cookies? They should spread more with butter than shortening. You can also add a little more packed brown sugar—this will also help your cookies spread.
Shannon: Looking for a good (easy) cookie idea to make as Christmas gifts for co-workers.
Julie: Shannon: every year, I like to make a simple sugar cookie dough that I shape into a log and then roll in colored decorator’s sugar or finely chopped nuts. I then wrap and refrigerate the logs and then slice and bake them in rounds.
Family Circle: Shannon: This is the cookie Julie’s talking about—we call it Festive Holiday Coins.
Julie: Also, I make all my cookies as miniature versions of traditional holiday favorites…that way it feels like there are more in each package. This is really fun to do with ginger cookies.
Family Circle: Try making these gingerbread snowmen in miniature.
Christine: My cookbook sugar cookie recipe is too gooey for rolling and cutting out. Never success yet. What am I doing wrong??!
Julie: Christine: try reducing the amount of sugar slightly or adding a little more flour. Are you using unsalted butter? Salted butter and margarine have a bit more water in them than unsalted so that could be causing some problems, too.
Loraylie: Hello. How can I pack my cookies so I can ship them to my family safely and fresh?
Julie: This is always a problem—what I would suggest is tightly packed in a container which then gets packed in a larger container with insulation around the cookie tin (even doing it the old fashioned way with popcorn that you make works great!). You don’t want to give the cookies room to jump around and crumble.
Loraylie: Thank you.
Natalie: My oldest son is allergic to egg whites and all nuts. Anyone have some good holiday cookie or bar recipes that don’t have eggs or nuts? The only cookies he’s ever had are Oreos.
Julie: Natalie: there should be a version of those Mexican Wedding Cakes I was mentioning earlier that don’t need eggs. You can just make them with confectioners’ sugar, butter and a pinch of salt. Then roll them in sugar after baking.
Natalie: Julie – I’ve made a version of Mexican Wedding cakes before, but they had nuts. Wouldn’t they be kind of bland without? A nice, ooey-gooey bar would be fun to make, but while I’ve managed to adapt many other types of recipes to be egg-less, I’ve had no luck with cookies yet.
Julie: Natalie: What about subbing in a sunflower seed or pumpkin seed for the nuts?
Christine: Is the above royal icing recipe good to use on sugar cookies that can be stacked? I mean they won’t stick to each other?
Julie: Christine: Yes, as long as you let the icing dry completely before stacking. And store them at room temperature when dry so they don’t get any moisture in them.
Fawn: I love these chats! Sugar cookies are definitely a work of art for sure…not to stomp on FC awesome advice but I found this website to be so helpful when making sugar cookies…www.karenscookies.net. They have tutorials on how to make dough and frosting! Also…a really good sugar cookie recipe is one that doesn’t use leavening ingredients…they really hold up well! Good luck everyone!
Family Circle: We all love cookies around the holidays, but what are your FAVORITE Christmas cookies? Which ones do you remember from your childhood? Let’s chat!
Lori: Yummy shortbread!!!
Felicia: Sugar cookies
Selina: Thumbprints. My brother and I argue over them every year.
Rebekah: Sugar cookies.
Amber: Mmm sugar cookies, I used to make some every Christmas since I was allowed to bake. The make great Christmas presents for close friends. And shortbread is a close second.
Familytree Friendlylimbs: Old fashioned chocolate chip!!!
Karen: Almond crescents
Lynne: It was a cookie called “Chinese chews,” have no idea where it got the name, it was made with chopped dates, you baked it in a square pan, then you rolled them into 1″ round balls and coated them with icing sugar. A recipe from the early 50′s.
Elise: My sister makes me a cookie called Almond Logs. So good.
Julie: I like making meringue cookies with mint chocolate chips (or chopped Andes mints) in them!
Donna: I miss my Mom’s sugar cookies and her peanut butter cookies.
Jenny: Russian teacakes
Brandy: My mom made sugar cookies with almond fondant frosting, so good!!! I now make cheesecake mint pudding cookies. Not the same but still yummy.
Robyn: My grandmother’s mincemeat cookies, my absolute favorite!
Melissa: Thumbprints with strawberry jam or peanut butter blossoms!
Julie: I’ve been making those peanut butter blossoms for a while—they really can’t be beat!
Family Circle: Here’s our recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms.
Lynn: My favorite was always the fresh sugar cookies with homemade icing we made with mom.
Kim: Carry on my gramma’s tradition: brown sugar cookies using @Domino’s Brownulated Sugar from her recipe which was cut from a magazine sometime in the 60′s, I believe. May have been from Family Circle!
Family Circle: Okay, let’s talk about cookie decorating…what are your favorite ways to decorate cookies? Julie, any great tips on how to make them extra festive?
Loraylie: If I don’t have lots of time to make icing from scratch I use the store bought one for sugar cookies with sprinkles or mashed up peppermint candy for the tops.
Julie: Loraylie: I LOVE the way crushed candy canes or peppermint candies look on cookies. So festive.
Family Circle: Loraylie: Try making these chocolate peppermint cookies with crushed candy canes.
Loraylie: Oh thanks, will try.
Julie: I like cookies that get drizzled with 2 contrasting colors. This can be done with candy melts or chocolate. It even will spruce up brownies.
Pam: I often bake sugar cookies in a tree shape and then squirt melted chocolate like garland and then “decorate” the garland with multicolored sprinkles.
Sue: Royal icing in Christmas colours.
Julie: Mixing turquoise and red sparkling sugar on cookies seems like a trendy way to add finesse to a sugar cookie, too.
Brittney: I make homemade buttercream icing in a bright color and melt it so I can thinly coat a cookie in that color and then drizzle white icing or decorate with polka dots and place round sprinkles on the dots.
Julie: That sound really pretty, Brittney. I love polka dots.
Family Circle: If you’re making cookies ahead of time (like many of us are), how do you package them? Is it OK to freeze all kinds of cookies? Ask Julie your questions!
Julie: I will say that meringue cookies don’t always do great when frozen so I would hold off on making those until the night before. Other than that, be sure to keep them in airtight containers and use parchment or waxed paper to separate the layers.
Julie: You can also freeze many doughs before you bake them. I would focus on ones that either use baking powder (versus baking soda) or just eggs. You can even portion them into individual portions and freeze them on a pan and then transfer the frozen pieces to a resealable bag or container. Then pull out only as many as you want to bake at at time.
Barbara: Can I make sugar cookies ahead of time and freeze, thaw then decorate?
Julie: Barbara: yes, I would thaw them and then decorate once room temperature.
Family Circle: Big thanks to our senior food editor Julie and to everyone for joining our very special Holiday Cookies Chat! Make sure you check out the full recap on our blog tomorrow.
Ready to fire up your oven? Here are our best holiday cookie recipes: