However you slice (or drop) it, there's a cookie style for everyone.
Drop CookiesFormed by spooning mounds of soft dough onto baking sheets, these cookies are some of the simplest to make.
• Ensure even baking by dropping the same amount of dough for each cookie. Use a measuring spoon to scoop the dough, then push it onto the baking sheet with your finger or another spoon.
• For a one-handed option, use a cookie scoop (available at kitchenware stores), which looks like a small ice cream scoop. These gadgets come in a variety of sizes, from one teaspoon up to several tablespoons.
• Coat whatever you use to scoop the dough with cooking spray first to encourage easy release.
• There's no need to flatten the cookies; they will spread and flatten as they bake.
View Recipe: Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, and Pecan Cookies
Rolled CookiesThese are made by rolling out a stiff dough into a thin layer; the dough may then be cut with cookie cutters or sliced into shapes.
• For the dough to hold its shape once cut, it needs to be firm. Chill thoroughly before cutting.
• Roll the dough between sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap to prevent sticking or tearing.
• If the dough becomes soft after rolling, place it in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, or in the freezer for five minutes, until it firms.
• Dip cookie cutters into flour or powdered sugar to make clean cuts and prevent them from sticking to the dough.
• After cutting the dough, gather the scraps, knead gently, and reroll. Cut out one more batch of shapes. Do not reroll the scraps again, as the dough will be overworked at this point, resulting in cookies that are tough.
• To ensure cookies retain their intended shapes, follow two rules: Roll the dough to the thinness specified, and be sure the dough and pan are cold as they go into the oven.
Sliced/Icebox CookiesAlso called refrigerator or slice-and-bake cookies, these are formed by shaping dough into a cylinder and then slicing into thin disks before baking.
• To shape dough into a log, roll it back and forth across a lightly floured cutting board or work surface.
• Chill the dough thoroughly before slicing.
• Use a thin, serrated knife to make clean slices.
• After every two or three cuts, roll the dough log a quarter turn to make sure it keeps its round shape and doesn't flatten out.
Striped CookiesThese unique treats, which use rolled dough that is stacked and sliced, are actually a hybrid―a cross between rolled and sliced/icebox cookies.
• Cutting and stacking different colors and flavors of dough creates alternating stripes.
• For pinwheel variation, stack the two (12 x 8-inch) dough rectangles on top of each other, and roll up into a 12-inch-long cylinder as if you're making cinnamon rolls.
• Chill the roll before slicing.
Hand-Shaped CookiesA step beyond drop cookies, these are the ultimate hands-on project.
• Coat hands with cooking spray before handling the dough to prevent it from sticking.
• Use a ruler or measuring spoons for the first few cookies to help you determine the right size; then you can judge the rest by eye.
• If the dough starts to stick to the bottom of the glass you use for flattening, coat the glass with cooking spray after every three or four cookies.
• To ensure thumbprint cookies hold their shape so they can be filled, chill the dough thoroughly after making the thumbprint indentations.
• Spoon filling into thumbprint cookies only after they've cooled completely.
Twice-Baked CookiesThese are meant to be hard and crunchy, perfect for dipping into coffee or hot chocolate.
• Biscotti are the most common type, but mandelbrot is another kind.
• Once the ingredients are combined, the dough will be crumbly. Knead it in the bowl so all the flour is incorporated.
• The finished dough will be slightly sticky, so you may want to coat your hands with cooking spray before shaping it on the baking sheet.
• Leave plenty of space between the dough rolls so they don't spread and bake together.
• After the first cook time, the rolls will be slightly crunchy; use a serrated knife to slice them without crumbling.
Bar CookiesThese moist cookies are typically made by spreading batter into a pan with sides, then cutting into pieces after the batch is cooked.
• For easier removal of cookies, you may find it helpful to line the entire pan (bottom and sides) with parchment paper.
• Set your timer alarm for three to five minutes before the time specified in the recipe. That way, if your oven runs hot, you can remove the cookies before they overcook.
• Cool the cookies completely in the pan they bake in before cutting them into portions.