I’ve put together some information to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about how to make perfect cookies, how to handle large orders, as well as the best way to store and package the finished product.
You can find my cookie recipe in the tutorial shop.
Save Time By Planning Ahead
When making cookies, I like to make my dough ahead of time, roll and cut the cookies, and freeze them raw for up to three months. Then I just pop them into the oven when it’s time to bake. To save room in the freezer, allow the cookies to chill for about 20 minutes stacked on sheet trays with parchment in between each layer. Then, when they’re frozen, remove the raw cookies from the parchment sheets, stack them in sets of 8 (because that’s how many I can fit onto one sheet tray when baking) and wrap each stack tightly in plastic wrap.
There’s no need to thaw the cookies before baking. Just unwrap them from the plastic, place them on a room temperature sheet tray and put them right into the oven. This saves me a lot of time later when I’m ready to decorate because I’m not trying to make dough, roll cookies, bake and decorate all at the same time.
This practice works well if you make the same shapes on a regular basis. When I was taking orders, I would offer mainly round and square cookies, so that I could have them ready to go into the oven at any time.
Work In Small Batches To Handle Large Orders
When making large quantities of cookies (over 100), it’s not practical to try to bake and decorate them all at once. You’ll have a much better time if you break them up into smaller batches. I bake and flood about 4 dozen in one day, allow them to dry, and then finish the details the following day. Once those are dry, I package them up in cello bags and seal them with a heat sealer (more on that below) so that they stay fresh while I move on to the next 4 dozen. This way, I can get started about a week ahead of time and I save a lot of room by being able to store the packaged cookies instead of having all 100 cookies spread out on cookie sheets.
For tools and ingredients that I use for baking and decorating, visit my recommended products page.Cookie Dough Tips
Butter and eggs need to be at room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, throw the butter in the microwave at 50% power in 15 second intervals to warm it up. Place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 15-20 minutes to bring them to room temperature. The reason that you want to use room temp eggs and butter is because they won’t properly combine if they are cold. You’ve probably seen it happen – you add cold eggs to your smooth creamed butter and sugar and suddenly you have a lumpy soup. This can lead to little bits of butter that aren’t thoroughly mixed into the dough, which can cause problems later in the baking process.
Once you add the flour to the dough, keep the mixing to a minimum. Too much mixing will give you a tough, misshapen cookie. Add the flour all at once and then mix it for another 15 seconds or so. If it’s not mixed all the way by then, finish it by hand. If you’re using my Orange Vanilla Spice Cookie recipe, the dough should be pretty stiff. If it seems very sticky and soft, add a little more flour, a handful at a time. You may need to add up to an extra cup of flour if you live in a humid climate.
Split the dough in half and shape each half into a flattened rectangle rather than keeping it in a ball. That will help a lot when rolling it out later! Wrap up the dough and put it in the fridge for at least one hour (or the freezer for later use).
Keep the dough cold while working with it. Take the dough out of the fridge or freezer and let it sit to soften slightly. Roll it into sheets (I make mine about 3/16″) and then put the sheets back into the fridge for 30 minutes. This helps the dough to relax, which will help to prevent the cookies from becoming misshapen in the oven. Cut out the cookies while the dough is cold so that they keep their shape. Once the cookies are cut from the sheets, put them in the freezer to chill for another 15 minutes. At this point you can wrap the cookies up and freeze them for later or bake them if you’re ready to decorate. I wrap my cookies in sets of 8 because that’s how many I can fit onto a half sheet pan at once. It makes it easy to just grab what I need from the freezer.
I only re-roll scraps once. Re-rolled dough can cause misshapen cookies, bubbles, and a tough bite. To reduce waste at the end, cut your re-rolled dough into squares. Sell them as tasting samples or offer your customers some square design options.
If you’re making my Orange Vanilla Spice Cookie recipe (available in the tutorial shop), keep in mind that it will spread in the oven a little bit. However, it should not spread so much that it becomes misshapen.
(click on the photos to enlarge)
When baking my cookies, I allow the edges to get a little golden brown. I enjoy the caramel flavor notes of a cookie that has some color to it. Before I started using my current cookie recipe (get it here in the shop), I couldn’t bake my cookies to this point because they would become too hard after a day of decorating. So, I did some experimenting to create a cookie that browns nicely, keeps its shape, and stays softer for a longer period of time than other recipes I’ve tried in the past.
Cookies Spreading During Baking?
If your recipe calls for baking powder, try reducing the amount. Keep in mind that reducing or removing the baking powder will keep the cookies from spreading, but it could also lead to your cookies becoming tough and unpleasant to eat. Baking soda and baking powder create teeny tiny bubbles in the dough, which is what gives it a soft bite, but also leads to spreading and misshapen cookies. This is why I created the Orange Vanilla Spice cookie recipe, which contains baking powder, but still holds its shape and has a nice texture.
Don’t over-whip your butter. The butter and sugar mixture should be creamy and soft, but not too fluffy. Too many little air bubbles in the dough can cause the cookies to puff up while baking. Also make sure to follow the steps above for making cookie dough to keep your cookies from losing their shape.
Storage and Packaging
Once my cookies are baked, cooled, iced and dry, I package them in cello bags and seal them with a heat sealer. I use the 8″ x 1/16″ size heat sealer from ULINE. They will stay fresh for 3 to 4 weeks after that (depending on what cookie recipe you’re using). If you don’t have a heat sealer or cello bags, an airtight container will keep them fresh for a few days. Store them in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. The colors in your icing can fade if exposed to light for too long. Especially pink! And your purples will turn gray.
I don’t freeze decorated cookies, I only freeze raw cut-outs. If you need to store baked, un-iced cookies, you can wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container for up to two days.
As for packaging, this post by Callye of the Sweet Adventures of SugarBelle is a great resource. I package my cookies in much the same way. I like to use this recycled tissue paper from Nashville Wraps to wrap the cookies. Each cookie is wrapped in a cello bag (I use the 3.5 x 5.5″ bags for 3″ round cookies) and then wrapped in tissue paper so that none of the cookies are touching each other. The box should have enough packaging material inside so that if you shake it, nothing is moving around inside.
As for the gift boxes, that will depend on the size of your cookies. My cookies are usually about 3″ in diameter, and I put between 6 and 8 in one 8x4x4″ box. Nashville wraps has a wide selection of bakery boxes. Another great resource for boxes is BRP box shop. They have tons of different sizes and styles, including window boxes, which make for a beautiful presentation. For shipping the cookies, you can order free flat rate shipping boxes from the post office and have them delivered to your door.
Read this post for information about royal icing consistencies and including troubleshooting tips.
Do you have a cookie conundrum? Leave a comment below if you have an issue that I haven’t addressed here.