The Gear You Need to Bake the Best Holiday Cookies
All of your holiday cookie baking needs, compiled.
Whether you're hosting an epic cookie swap or just want to whip up a few treats for friends and family members this holiday season, making sure your baking arsenal is stocked with the right tools will ensure your cookies really sparkle. What essentials should make the cut? We took an inventory of our test kitchen MVPs and asked some of the best bakers we know to tell us about the gear they can't live without.
Here's a handy list of everything we'll be reaching for this season:
You might be thinking: Sure, I have a big bowl. But do you? Because when we say big, we mean really, really, really big. Epic, gigantic. XXXXXL. Go on and get yourself at least one bowl that is plunge-in-up-to-your-elbows enormous, and trust us, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. The extra space lets you attack a big batch of dough with your hand mixer without worrying about debris littering your counters; it'll allow you to knead yeast doughs with room to move; and it means you will easily be able to double or triple that batch of sugar cookies everyone in your family goes crazy about. We love our big old Mason Cash bowl (and not just because it makes us feel like we're below stairs at Downton Abbey)—but for ease of handling, afforability, and durability, you can't go wrong with a 20-quart restaurant-style stainless steel bowl, like the one available here.
Mason Cash Bowl, $46.99
Thunder Group Mi Bowl, $17.85
If you inherited your grandmother's well-worn rollling pin, by all means keep using it—the best rolling pin is the one you're most comfortable with. (And of course, an empy wine bottle can always get the job done in a pinch.) But for smoothing out cookie doughs and prepping pastry crusts (not to mention a whole host of other tasks) our go-to roller is JK Adams 19-inch Rolling Dowel. Sturdy, simple and accesibly priced, it rolls evenly and cleanly every time, and is built to last you through a lifetime of kitchen projects.
JK Adams 19-inch Rolling Dowel, $15
Measuring cups are not all created equal. Irregularities in size between manufacturers can make consistent measuring a hassle, and using cups that are lightweight and prone to tipping leads to unnecessary messes in the kitchen. For dry measuring, we like KitchenMade's 6-piece Stainless Steel set for its well-balanced weight, precise measures, and ease of storage. (Nesting cups are a must!) For liquid measuring, we always reach for Oxo's angled measuring cups, which make reading measures from above a cinch and are easy to clean, to boot.
KitchenMade's 6-piece Stainless Steel Nesting Set, $27.97
OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Set, $19.95
Baking sheets are the bricks that form the foundation of countless cooking projects, whether you're roasting veggies or churning out batch after batch of holiday cookies. So it's worth spending a extra few pennies to invest in ones that are generously sized, well made, and super durable. Among the experts we surveyed (and in our own test kitchens), commercial-grade rimmed half sheet pans—like Nordicware's Commerical Grade Aluminum Half Sheet or this super affordable model from Web Restaurant Supply—are the gold standard. They fit our ovens perfectly and never, ever buckle. Buy them by the half dozen: you can never have too many. And while you're at it, pick up a few quarter sheet pans, too; they're handy for corralling mis en place and all manner of smaller projects.
Nordic Ware Aluminum Baker's Half Sheet Set, $24.99
Baker's Mark 18" x 13" Half Size Gauge Wire Sheet Pan, $3.50/each
Nordic Ware Aluminum Baker's Quarter Sheet, $8.42
Moisture- and heat-resistant parchment paper is a serious baker's not-so-secret weapon. Cover your work surface with it to make cleanup effortless; use it to line your baking sheets to extend their lives and prevent scratching and sticking; fold it into muffin tins when you need on-the-fly paper liners; or slip it under the edges of a layer cake while decorating it to collect fly-away bits of frosting. Parchment paper does it all. A little upgrade that will change your life? Invest in the pre-cut sheets of parchment that pros swear by—they fit a standard half sheet pan perfectly, and you'll never again have to struggle with using scissors while your hands are covered in dough.
Reynolds Premium Parchment Paper, $11.39
ChefLand Parchment Paper Sheets, $24.28
Thanks to the magic of the internet, these days you can find cookie cutters for every holiday, occasion, and obsession (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?!). But for most cooks, the best place to begin is with a few sets of graduated-size cutters in versatile shapes like stars, squares, and circles (fluted or plain), which can do double duty any time you need to make biscuits, handpies, or dumplings. If you'd like to give yourself a treat or get fancy with your gingerbread around the holidays, you can always pick up a few new shapes at a time, or splurge on a carved cookie mold you'll have for decades.
Pride & Prejudice Cookie Cutter Set, $12.87
6-piece Graduated Star Cookie Cutter Set, $10.35
11-piece Round Stainless Steel Cookie Cutter Set, $9.29
Ugly Christmas Sweater #1 Cookie Cutter, $14.79
Victorian Christmas Tree with Toys Cookie Mold, $45.99
Ice cream scoops/Cookie scoops
Sure, you could use a regular old tablespoon. But for precise portioning of cookie dough and perfectly round drop-style cookies every time, there is no tool more reliable and indispensible than a spring-mounted scoop. Scoops come in all sorts of measures, from petite to softball-sized, but in our day-to-day baking a medium 1 ½ tablespoon model is the one we reach for most.
Norpro Stainless Steel Cookie Scoop, $12.99
OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop, $13.95