As we get further into December and the volume of Christmas cookies increases, here are a couple of baking tricks. The first has to do with sticky cookie dough, specifically how to scoop it out of the bowl and onto the cookie sheet without creating a big mess. Instead of using your hands and rolling the dough into balls (as is often called for), dip an ice cream scoop (or a tablespoon) in ice cold water, then measure out your dough. Dip the utensil in the water after every scoop and the dough will come off easily each time. It will also result in evenly sized balls of dough. Now, sometimes our cookies bake for too long, and we wind up with black bottoms on an otherwise fine treat. When this happens, break out your microplaner or small handheld grater and grate off the burnt ends of the cookie once it has cooled. Hopefully, the cookie's recipients will be none the wiser.
Michelle Stark, Times food editor