Tips for making the best-ever holiday cookies—courtesy of five of our favorite pastry chefs.
You cannot fool around with cookies over the holidays. You have to bring your A game. The terrific charity Cookies for Kids' Cancer knows that. And so, when they recently threw a Funday cookie party, hosted by the miraculous Christina Tosi, CFKC brought in 15 of the best pastry chefs from New York City and California to serve outrageously good sweets—from sea salt chocolate chip cookies to s'more blondies and the brand-new Karlie Kloss cookie Rice & Spice.
Among the cookie providers were these five pastry chefs—all in my personal dessert Hall of Fame. They gave us the following tips for making the very best cookies for the holidays.
Jennifer Yee, Lafayette, New York City
Use your pantry as cookie inspiration. If you're bored of the same-old cookie, look to kitchen cabinets. Pulverize some tea leaves into your shortbread dough to make an aromatic cookie that will pair perfectly with...tea! I dare you to add a couple tablespoons of sriracha (or even Thai peanut sauce) to your peanut butter cookie dough for an unexpected hit of heat. And of course, cereals, crackers and potato chips always add lovely texture and/or salt to any standard cookie recipe.
Emily Luchetti, Big Night Restaurant Group, San Francisco
Make cookies small. With so many sweets around this time of year, people want to indulge in lots of different desserts. Make cookies about half the size you normally would—it keeps everyone from going into sugar shock. Then, put out cute small bags or boxes; the leftover little cookies make adorable take-home treats.
Erin Patinkin, Ovenly, Brooklyn
Always freeze cookie dough before baking. This helps to keep scooped cookies chewy, domed and beautiful, and to help cookie-cutter cookies keep their shape. Plus, any unbaked cookie dough will keep for up to a month in a regular freezer, so you can bake as needed. You can also make all cookies look adorable with sprinkles. Use a little bit of frosting to help them stick, and make mini wreaths and Christmas trees for decoration.
Sarah Sanneh, Pies 'N' Thighs, Brooklyn
Booze = holidays. With the amount of pure sweets we all eat at the holidays, a light-your-breath-on-fire cookie is a huge relief. Anything with dried fruit can be subbed for whiskey-soaked dried fruit. Just heat up some whiskey (not too hot or you lose some of the fire breathing!), pour it over your dried fruit and let cool, then strain off the booze.
Christina Tosi, Milk Bar, and author of the new Milk Bar Life
Keep cookies fresh. Here’s a holiday cookie storage tip that I learned from my grandmother: To store baked cookies at room temperature, put them in an airtight container or cookie tin; separate and layer the cookies with wax paper, parchment paper, plastic wrap or aluminum foil so they don’t stick together. Then stick a slice of sandwich bread in the container to keep the cookies fresh for up to five days. As the cookies begin to dry out, they will suck the moisture from the slice of bread and keep them fresh, while the slice of bread becomes stale. Probably the coolest trick in cookie preservation history!