Holiday Helper: Managing A Cookie Assembly Line

It’s that time of year again when kitchen activity is at its peak, filling dainty trays and gift boxes with fresh homemade goods to give as gifts. Here are a few tips I have for making the most of your time when baking several dozen at once.

Always A Treat!
Always A Treat!
Get Prepared:

  • Before you get started, have all your recipes chosen, all the baking ingredients on hand, mixing bowls, measuring utensils and baking sheets ready to go. I like to have 3 baking sheets going at once, I find them cooled off enough to fill again as I’m rotating batches in the oven (I bake one sheet at a time).

Day One:

  • Most cookie doughs can be refrigerated or even frozen ahead. I like to make up several different batches of dough all in one day and then refrigerate them until I’m ready to bake.
  • Cover each batch of dough well with plastic wrap and make a label with masking tape: Write down the type, the temperature to bake, the amount of time to bake and whether or not the dough needs to be chilled when shaped or at room temperature. For example: P.B. 350 @ 10-12, chilled. That tells me “Peanut Butter dough bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes, dough needs to stay chilled”. Fix the tape onto the wrap. As you take out the dough to bake, you won’t need to refer back to recipe cards or cookbooks, all the info you need to know is on the label.

Day Two:

  • Bring out any batches of dough that need to be at room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper and begin filling them with cookies. Start with the batches of chilled dough. When the first tray is ready, pop it in the oven and start filling the rest of your trays. If the dough you’re using is fine at room temperature, add dough on top of sheets of parchment paper. These can then be lifted onto baking sheets when you have one available. For best results, make sure to place dough on sheets that have cooled first.
  • Lay cooling racks along the counter so they’re ready for the goodies hot from the oven. Since I only bake one sheet at a time in the oven, I’ll take the extra rack out of the oven and use this for a cooling rack (it’s nice and big). For smaller varieties, I’ll use a regular rack. Let them cool for at least 30 minutes before moving off the racks to make room for the next batch coming out of the oven.
  • I find best results when baking just one sheet at a time, it’s worth it to invest in a few large baking sheets (measure your oven first to see how large you can go). For a perfectly fitted large baking sheet, you can try wrapping an oven rack with foil (several times to give it some thickness so the cookies won’t get scorched and undercooked). While one rack is baking you can fill up the next rack with dough.
  • If they need to be rolled in a coating or iced while still warm, do that while other batches are baking. I like to save these for the end of the baking spree.
  • Once they have completely cooled, you can pack them for storage or seal them in containers until you’re ready to decorate them.

Day Three:

  • Decorate as desired. Allow decorations to fully set. Package as required.

I find this to be a less hectic method for baking big batches (well over a hundred can be made over the weekend stress-free) and it only consumes a couple hours each day (baking day will need a few more hours depending on how many are being made). If the kiddos are excited about helping decorate, it’s really nice to be able to sit and do the decorating with them rather than jumping up and down getting cookies out of the oven or shaping dough onto sheets.

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    • se7en

    We just did exactly this – Christmas cookies over three days… day 1: dough; day 2: cutting and baking; day 3: decorating… I normally try and do this in one day and it is a complete nightmare, with many short people completely melting down. Spread over a couple of days it was totally manageable and fun all the way!

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