There are many different types of cookies. Each category has its place. Here, we’ll review five types of cookies perfect for Santa and provide tips for each.

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Drop Cookies

These are the most common cookies and probably what we think of first when cookies come to mind.

Make each cookie of equal size and height for uniform baking. (An ice cream scoop with a release mechanism helps make uniform cookies.)

Bake until the cookies are delicately browned and an imprint remains if lightly touched with a finger. Do not over bake the cookies. Over baked cookies are dry and hard.

When I take the first cookie from the baking sheet to the rack, I lift the rack so that I can see the bottom of the cookie. The bottom should be a light, golden color. If it’s brown, it’s baked too long.

On the second pan, adjust the baking time if needed. Use the same pan or type of pan each time. A lighter-colored pan takes longer to bake.

Oven temperatures fluctuate. Consider using an oven thermometer so that you know exactly how hot your oven is each time you put cookies in.

Remove the cookies immediately to racks to cool. Let them cool completely before stacking.

Hand-Formed Cookies

Hand-formed cookies are formed into balls between the palms of your hands. Some are flattened with a fork or the bottom of a glass before baking. Some are left round—the oven melts the butter and the cookie softens into a flattened shape.

It’s easy to make uniform, round cookies. To make them the same size, use a kitchen scale and weigh each ball. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use a ruler so that each cookie has the same diameter.

Like drop cookies, bake these cookies until they are delicately browned and an imprint remains if lightly touched with a finger. Remove them immediately to racks to cool and let cool them completely before stacking.

To more easily make formed cookies from uniformly-sized balls of dough, consider rolling the dough into a log the diameter that you wish the balls to be then slicing the log into equal chunks. Form the chunks into balls.

Refrigerator Cookies

 In some ways, refrigerator cookies are the most convenient. You can mix the dough ahead of time and bake them when needed and only as many as are needed. The dough can be stored for a week in the refrigerator and much longer than that in the freezer.

After mixing, form the dough into a round or rectangular log and chill thoroughly. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut cleanly especially if there are nuts in the dough. Use a ruler to get the cookies all the same thickness.

When slicing round logs, roll the dough after each cut to keep the log uniform. Bake the cookies until they are delicately browned and cool them on racks.

Rolled or Cut-Out Cookies

Handle and chill the dough as for refrigerator cookies. Roll the dough out on a very lightly floured surface.

Most recipes call for the dough to be about 1/4-inch thick. Use a toothpick to make sure that the dough is uniformly the right thickness. A thinner cookie will make for a crisper cookie.

Cut the dough with cookie cutters.

Get as many cookies from each rolling as possible. Excessive rolling, with the flour from the counter mixing into the dough and with more handling of the dough, will make for tougher cookies.

Bake the cookies until they are delicately browned and cool them on racks.

Bar Cookies

When you’re in a hurry, nothing is faster than a bar cookie: Mix, pour the batter in a pan, and bake. You don’t have to form individual cookies—the most time-consuming task in many recipes.

If you would like a tender, cake-like cookie, use all-purpose or pastry flour. Don’t over mix–over mixing will develop the gluten and make for a tougher cookie. For a chewier cookie, like a brownie, use bread flour.

Instead of greasing the baking pan, consider lining the pan with foil or parchment paper. Lightly spray the foil with vegetable spray. I spread shortening in the pan and then press the parchment paper into the shortening. The shortening holds the paper in place. Be sure and spread the dough evenly in the pan for uniformly baked cookies.

Cake-like bar cookies should be baked until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. When lightly pressed with a fingertip, the top should spring back.

For brownie-type cookies, the tops should be dull—not glossy—and an imprint will remain when touched. After baking, holding the edges of the paper or foil, lift the sheet of cookies from the pan.

Use a sharp, serrated knife and trim the edges. Then use a ruler to mark the cuts for uniform bars.

Bar cookies can be cooled in the pan or on a rack. They can be stored in the pan, but we prefer to cut the cookies into bars as described, and wrap them individually in plastic.

About the Author

Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He is the founder of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho. He loves to help people bake and shares his vast collection of cooking and baking knowledge on his blog as well as in his e-books and magazines. Dennis lives in Rigby, Idaho, with his wife, Merri Ann. They have five wonderful children and six beautiful granddaughters.