Cookies by Tredici Bakery. Photo by Monica Shaughnessy.

Local bakers dish on tricks to baking a beautiful batch of cookies

To learn how to achieve cookie baking results synonymous with a Great British Bake Off winner, we sought out some helpful tips and tricks from three local baking pros, gleaning how they perfect the skill of the eye-catching cookie:

Monica Shaughnessy of Tredici Bakery

The owner of Tredici Bakery knows all the ins and outs of creating the perfect cookie.

“I would leave a little less flour out than the recipe calls for because you typically add more in when you’re rolling it out and you don’t want those cookies to get too tough from adding too much flour into it,” says Shaughnessy.

You have your dough, so what next? “For any of your cut-out cookies like a sugar cookie or a gingerbread that will need to hold a specific shape, my tip is to always put it in the freezer,” says Shaughnessy. “Work with the dough while it’s still somewhat cold so it will hold its shape, and then after you cut it out, put them in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. That way they hold their shape better.”

Cookies by Tredici Bakery. Photo by Monica Shaughnessy.

And for the cleanup, Shaughnessy has you covered so you’re not dusted in sugar and flour.

“A trick I have is to take down a piece of parchment paper and roll my cookies out on that instead of rolling it out on a normal table because it tends to stick less,” says Shaughnessy. “I always bake all my cookies on parchment paper. Even at home I think they always turn out better that way instead of putting them directly on the pan, and it’s easier cleanup too.” 

For those confident in their cookie-baking abilities and looking to experiment, Shaughnessy has advice on how to spice up your next batch.

“For any other typical cookies, if you have a specific recipe, it doesn’t hurt to add in a little bit of a different flavoring if you want to try something new,” says Shaughnessy. “If you have a chocolate chip cookie dough or a regular vanilla, if you want to add in a teaspoon of cinnamon or teaspoon of some type of extract, typically it won’t alter the cookie dough too much, so don’t be afraid to try new flavors in recipes you already have.”

Michelle Matherne of Sugar Kettle Cookie Co.

Sugar Kettle Cookie Co. owner Michelle Matherne says having a good time in the kitchen is what it’s all about at the end of the day.

“Don’t be afraid to experiment with different recipes,” says Matherne. “Take a standard recipe that may be online or in a cookbook and add your own spin to it. As long as it tastes good, that’s really what’s most important.”

Cookies by Sugar Kettle Cookie Co. Photo by Michelle Matherne.

Once the cookies have been baked, Matherne recommends creating the perfect balance when making your icing.

“It’s important to get your icing consistency where you need it to be so that there aren’t a lot of air bubbles and it’s not too runny,” says Matherne. “There’s a very fine line between icing that is too thin and too thick, and you just have to find that sweet spot to make sure you’re not running over the sides or it’s too clumpy.”

For the playful part of the process, Matherne takes a generous amount of time after icing her cookies before she adds her designs. 

“It usually takes about 12 good hours to completely dry,” says Matherne. “I do a lot of watercolor and hand-drawn designs, so I always try to get a smooth surface. As far as the technique for that goes, I have to make sure the temperature in my house is just right, and I always have a fan running even if it’s 30 degrees outside.”

For those looking to dive deeper into the art of baking, some specialized equipment might do the trick.

“Something that made a huge difference for me was switching from a regular oven to a convection oven,” says Matherne. “A lot of people have a convection oven, but they don’t realize what it can do or how to use it. It really gives you an even bake and cuts your bake time down drastically.”

Misty Martin of Misty Cookie Culture 

It’s all about having everything at your fingertips for Misty Martin, owner of Misty Cookie Culture.  This is done by having your cookies baked ahead time.

The key is to be organized,” says Martin. “The weekend before, I get organized on what cutters I’m going to use, what design, then I mix my colors ahead of time. You can store this in your icebox before it’s time to decorate.” 

Cookies and photo by Misty Martin.

Martin says consistency is key when frosting cookies.

“For outlining, I do a little thicker consistency like toothpaste,” recommends Martin. “Then for your flooding, do a little thinner icing.” 

Gifting cookies this season is a sure way to gain some “cookie” points, but choosing the best cookie to gift the freshest batch is more of a challenge.

“The sugar cookies are good for two weeks,” says Martin. “What I normally do is have them ready at least three days before so you can bag them and store them somewhere where the icing doesn’t melt or rub onto the bag.”

Whether it’s in a tin box or on a plate, the rule still applies.

“If you’re giving them on a plate, definitely the same thing,” says Martin. “You want to let them dry enough. You don’t want to bake them too early so they’re not fresh, but storing them in those containers will keep them fresh.” 

Martin has her own trick to determine when her cookies are at their softest peak.

“I bake them till they’re a light brown on the bottom, so they’re still soft,” says Martin. “I have customers who tell me all the time that they’re still eating them two weeks later and they’re still soft.”