Bakers who make a lot of cookies know that there are certain pieces of equipment that, while not absolutely necessary, make the ritual of baking cookies more pleasurable than going bare-bones with a wooden spoon and bowl.
Since you, the baker, will essentially become a cookie-making factory for a couple of hours (or days, depending on how many cookies you bake), it’s best to make that job easier on yourself. These are the tools I keep on hand:
Whether you feel a stand mixer is a frivolous luxury or a necessity, you at least need a hand mixer to take the strain off your hands when making cookie dough, which is often stiffer than cake batter. I prefer Cuisinart’s 5-speed hand mixer because it’s affordable and reliable and has a handy “slow-start” function that won’t send flour flying all over your kitchen when you turn it on.
Rimmed baking sheets
Are baking sheets with rims any different from old-fashioned flat “cookie sheets”? Not really, except I’ve seen a lot of people take cookie sheets out of the oven a little too fast and all their cookies slide off with the parchment and fall to pieces on the oven door. A rimmed baking sheet keeps everything in, which is important when you’re making several batches of cookies and constantly rotating and turning the baking sheets in the oven. Chicago Metallic’s 16¾-by-2-inch sheets are the standards, but any heavy, solid sheets that don’t warp in the oven work.
Precut parchment paper sheets
Ever torn off a sheet of parchment paper from the roll and put it on your cookie sheet only to see it roll back up and then you go mad trying to get it to lie flat? Stop that. Free yourself by buying a pack of precut parchment paper sheets. You’ll save precious sanity by not fiddling endlessly with the rolls, and they’ll make your post-cookie cleanup a breeze.
Wire cooling rack
You know what you already have that doubles as a cooling rack? The grates of your stove. But that space is limited, and when you’re on your fourth or eighth baking sheet (depending on how deep in the holiday weeds you are), you’ll be so glad you have the extra cooling space that wire racks allow. And you know, you can do that fun avocado dicing hack with it the rest of the year to make a ton of guacamole.
Spring-loaded cookie scoops
When I see people using a spoon to dole out cookie dough for cookies, it gives me anxiety. While that method has its old-school charms, it takes forever and is inconsistent. Treat yourself to spring-loaded cookie scoops, once used primarily for ice cream but now handily repurposed to portion out exact scoops of dough so all your cookies are the same size and cook evenly. You want a half-ounce and a 1-ounce scoop; Oxo makes my favorites.
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I know you think you’ll never use a pastry brush, but you know when you’re rolling pie dough and there’s a little too much flour at the edges? Brush it off with a pastry brush. You know when you need to brush egg wash on the top of that pie before it goes in the oven? Use a pastry brush. It’s perfect for painting on just the right amount of egg white to the Crispy Peppermint-Lime Slices dough so the sparkling sugar adheres.
Natural bristle brushes are my favorite, and they’re cheap, so buy a bunch and keep one for dry baking jobs, one for wet baking jobs, and one for savory tasks like basting ribs with barbecue sauce. Silicone brushes are great for brushing on sauces and liquids but not the best at brushing away things like flour, but pick whichever style you like best. Bristle brushes are right there in the hardware store, next to the paint brushes, which, come to think of it, you can use too.
When it comes time to roll gingerbread cookie dough, Linzer cookie dough, or sugar cookie cutout dough, you need a good rolling pin. I’m a fan of the completely cylindrical straight or dowel” rolling pins.
I know you think you don’t need this for pizza, and you might have a point there, but your dull chef’s knife is going to drag your cookie dough and pie dough when you need to cut strips or wedges (like the Rosy Olive Oil and Date Rugelach) and make you scream profanities because your perfectly planned pastry is all jacked up. A pizza cutter glides through the dough to produce clean, even cuts and literally cuts the dough twice as fast as a knife.
These are cheap, readily available next to the birthday candles in your grocery store, and make quick work of piping the creme filling into the Golden Oat Milk Creme Pies. Plus, now you can perfect your cake frosting flourishes for your kid’s next birthday (so they can tell you finally care).