How to make the best holiday cookies, according to chefs

Christina Snyder
holiday cookies
There are certain things to keep in mind when making holiday cookies. Mohammad Ali Khan/Shuttershock
  • Chefs said it's important to leave enough time to let your dough rest or chill before baking. 

  • You can make multiple types of cookies from one batch of dough. 

  • Using high-quality tools can your baking process easier. 

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Filled with gingerbread houses and holiday treats, 'tis the season that your kitchen skills are put to the test.

Whether baking for yourself or as a gift for family and friends, you may find that sometimes your oven can be your worst enemy.

To make your winter baking a breeze, Insider spoke with chefs to get their best tips and tricks for making holiday cookies.

The key is to rest the dough and let cookies set

cooling cookies
Make sure to let your cookies cool after baking them. Marie C Fields/Shuttershock

Michael Wallace, the head chef and lead of the research and development team at the gluten-free flour company Cup4Cup, told Insider that home bakers need to allocate time to let the dough and finished treats sit.

"First thing I like to tell people is the importance of resting the dough," Wallace said. "I like to let it rest for at least two hours before baking."

"Next would be to allow the cookies to cool after baking for five minutes before transferring from the baking sheet. This allows the cookie to 'set up,'" he added.

Wallace also said that unless you're using gluten-free flour, be cautious of overmixing your dough.

You should freeze your dough before baking 

cookie dough
Chilled dough is easier to work with. ThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

Tricia Brennan Nally, chef at Sur La Table, told Insider that you should prioritize letting your dough firm up in the freezer or fridge. 

"Scoop and freeze your dough before baking," Nally said. "Chilled dough is always best, but it's difficult to scoop when it's cold."

Adequate chilling time can vary depending on the dough you're using and the cookies you're trying to make, so do your research and allocate that waiting period ahead of baking.

Less can be more

holiday cookies
Spend the time perfecting each cookie. June1967/Shuttershock

Nally added that it may be worth your time to focus on nailing one type of cookie rather than tackling a bunch of varieties at once. 

"I'm also a fan of quality over quantity," Nally said. "I'd rather give people one or two or the same kind of cookie - or any pastry - and have them be really good than give them 10 subpar cookies."

If you've already made different batches of dough, you can always place them in the freezer to bake at a later date.

You can make different kinds of cookies using the same dough

thumbprint cookies
Shortbread dough is very versatile. Teri Virbickis/Shuttershock

Nally also said she recommends baking different cookie varieties with the same dough to keep things fresh.

"Try making multiple kinds of cookies with the same dough base, like a sugar or shortbread dough that can be turned into thumbprint cookies, sandwich cookies, rolled for cutouts, etc.," Nally said. 

In addition to mixing up cookie shapes, you can also vary the way you decorate and plate your holiday treats.

Having good tools can sometimes make a difference

cookie decorating
Consider stocking up your kitchen with baking gadgets. Suzana Marinkovic/Shuttershock

As a chef myself, I'll share a few parting words.

Always be sure to chill your dough before rolling it out - particularly if it is sugar-cookie dough. It needs time to firm up so that cookie cutters are able to create the sharpest lines.

I'd also recommend purchasing a bench knife, which will help you slice dough, cut butter into flour, and more - having the right tools in the kitchen can make all the difference.

Other items I'd recommend you stock up on are different size cookie scoops, a small offset spatula, and a Silpat baking mat.

Read the original article on Insider