Holiday Cookie Basics

Here are some helpful tips to ensure top-notch, mouth-watering cookies.
Cookie Fats and Leavening

Selecting the Right Fat

Choose the best fat for
your recipe.

Several types of fat are used in cookie baking. Butter is often used because it gives good baking results and excellent flavor. Salted and unsalted butter may be used interchangeably. If you use unsalted butter for cookie baking, you may want to slightly increase the amount of salt in the recipe. Use the convenient marks on the butter wrapper for measuring.

If you choose to use margarine for cookie baking, use one that contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil. If you can't tell from the front of the margarine package, check the nutrition label. The margarine should have 100 calories per tablespoon. Those margarines with less than 80 percent vegetable oil have a higher water content and can result in tough cookies that spread excessively, stick to the pan, and don't brown as well. Margarines also have convenient measurements on the wrappers.

Shortening is sometimes called for in cookie recipes. Shortening now comes packaged in sticks which are marked with measurements, just like butter or margarine. Shortening also comes in cans. To measure shortening from the can, press it firmly into a dry measuring cup and level the excess off with a straightedge.

Cooking oil is occasionally called for in special recipes. However, don't try to interchange oil for butter, margarine, or shortening.


All of the recipes that you will find on our Web site were tested with large eggs. Use fresh eggs for best results.


Baking powder and baking soda are both important when making cookies. They are chemical leavening agents that produce carbon dioxide to help cookies rise. Double acting baking powder produces gases in two stages: first, when liquids are added and then during baking. Baking soda creates carbon dioxide instantly when it is mixed with acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, sour cream, or fruit juices.

Any recipe that uses only baking soda as leavening should be baked immediately, before all those bubbles deflate.

Store baking powder and baking soda in a cool, dry place. For best results, replace every 6 months or check the "use by date."

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