Did you run out of food coloring? Are you unhappy with your crust? Do you not have the right tools? It’s no problem with these great baking hacks
It’s that most wonderful time of the year: holiday cookie time! This year, don’t dread it, own it with these Christmas baking hacks to salvage any quandary. From a baking powder substitution and what to do if you don’t have a rolling pin to what to use in place of eggs or butter, we’ve got the goods on making goodies.
1. Holiday baking often calls for some pepperminty goodness, but who keeps peppermint syrup on hand for once-a-year baking? (No, Schnapps doesn’t count). Use an abundant ingredient: peppermint candies. Just put them in a Ziploc bag and smash them to bits. A great stress reliever!
2. Use tongs to make an even crimping pattern along the edge of your pie crust.
3. No rolling pin? Try this rolling pin hack: Use a wine bottle as a rolling pin (no, it doesn’t have to be full!).
4. Fill a wine bottle with ice (and cork well) to keep pie dough chill while rolling it out, great for when it's hot or humid.
5. Sub a little of your water for vodka and your pie crust somehow comes out flakier. And now you have an almost-full bottle of vodka on hand. Just sayin'...
6. Add a marshmallow to the top of your cupcakes five minutes before you take them out of the oven for a gooey, perfect topping—no frosting required.
7. If you run out of food coloring, use Jello to tint decorative icing.
8. Looking for a natural way to dye when baking? Check out these simple recipes for making natural food coloring yourself.
9. Fill an oral syringe with thin icing to get precise lines and letters when decorating.
10. If you do have piping tips, fill two piping bags or Ziplocks with different colored frosting. Don't overfill the bags; now put both bags into one tip, and you'll squeeze out a swirl of color.
11. Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to give your bread a crisp, browned crust. You can also use a spray bottle with water; spritz the oven to create steam.
12. Substitute butter in your next boxed cake recipe for a super-rich and luscious cake. You can even just melt it to make sure it incorporates easily.
13. You can also sub avocado for butter if you want something dairy-free and heart-healthy. Use one avocado to one stick of butter ratio. And if you run out of butter (or avocado), you can use applesauce in its place.
14. When making pies, freeze your butter, and then grate it into your flour mixture, instead of trying to crumble it with your fork. This will help integrate it more evenly and keep the butter cool.
15. Soften your butter BEFORE you mix it into your cookie dough batter, and try using salted butter instead of sweet cream.
16. Use a set of visual measuring cups. Perfect for kids and parents who need to squint just to read the measurements, the shape tells the size! The innovative cups make cooking and baking fun and easy for everyone.
17. Soften butter in the microwave, but be careful. Use a low power level, like two, and put it in for no more than 10 seconds to avoid melted butter (vs. softened). If it's not soft enough, continue to microwave at five-second intervals until it is.
18. Soften too-hard butter by putting it between two pieces of waxed paper and whacking it hard with a rolling pin. Once it’s been smacked a bit, roll it out (still between the waxed paper). The kids will love helping with this one.
19. Another method for softening too-cold butter without microwaving it to a puddle: set it on top of the stove while the oven is preheating. It will gradually soften: this works great if you are baking a cake and want to use the butter for a no-fail frosting.
20. Bring cold eggs to room temperature by placing them in a bowl of hot water for 5-10 minutes.
21. Use the other part of an eggshell to remove any errant bits of shell. Miraculously, this works and is way faster than struggling with a spoon or your fingers.
22. Baking for someone with an egg allergy? Use a flax egg. Simply measure one tablespoon of flaxseed meal (that’s flax seeds you put in the blender or you can buy already blended) to two tablespoons warm water for each “egg.” Mix it and let it sit for five minutes. The consistency will be similar to an egg. Or, opt for this egg alternative from Bob’s Red Mill.
23. If you want your chocolate chip cookies to have a more caramel flavor, sub out ½ cup of white sugar with additional brown sugar. If you want them with a more sugar-cookie-like taste, leave out all the brown sugar and use only white (most recipes call for some of each).
24. Use a muffin tin to make sure your cookies turn out uniform in size.
25. Easiest cookie ever? Hershey’s Kiss in pretzel circle, melt on parchment paper covered cookie sheet in oven until just soft. Boom. Next level: Use Rolos instead.
26. Dust your cookie cutters with flour or powdered sugar before you use them to help keep them from sticking.
27. Want soft gooey cookies? Under-bake them slightly. If the recipe says 12 minutes at 375 degrees, pull them out at 10.
28. Sprinkle just a little bit of sea salt on your chocolate chip cookies before baking for that sophisticated professional flavor.
29. Use a wine glass to cut out perfectly even biscuits or sugar cookies.
30. If you’ve “sorta” burned your cookies, use a box grater to shave off the darkest parts.
31. Also, measure out your cookie dough with an ice cream scoop, then chill them on the pan for a bit before baking (you can even freeze them, which means you can do this all ahead of time, bake the cookies the morning of and you get a better cookie). If you can’t afford the time (or space), just chill the bowl of dough for 20 minutes in the freezer before you start to scoop.
32. Store your cookies (or what's left of them) in an air-tight container with an apple wedge to keep the cookies moist.
33. Use an ice cream scoop to assure level amounts of batter for cupcakes.
34. You can make gluten-free flour by blending up gluten-free oats until they are powdered.
35. Moisten the heck out of your boxed cake mix with a ½ cup of applesauce, yogurt, or even—wait for it—mayonnaise. Try it! We swear it works.
36. Add ½ cup of oil and two eggs to any boxed cake mix and LEAVE OUT the water or other liquids... and voila! You’ve got cookie dough. (Mind. Blown.)
Related: Baking Kits for No-Fail Treats
37. Keep your brown sugar from going rock-hard by storing it in an air-tight container. Toss in a piece of bread to keep it moist.
38. If it's too late and your brown sugar is already hard, microwave it for 30 seconds in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel or place it in the oven to soften for about 15 minutes.
39. Does your recipe call for powdered sugar, but you are out? Use a spice grinder or food processor and pulverize white granulated sugar until it’s powder.
40. Slice your cheesecake with dental floss (but not the minty kind).
41. Hate dealing with metal sheet pans and cookie tins? Use a silicone baking mold instead. We love Silpat molds—there's no need to ever grease the molds or use liners, and your goodies bake to perfection (though depending on your oven, you may want to add a couple of minutes to the cooking time).
42. Need a baking powder substitution? The following are equal to 1 tsp. of baking powder:
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1 tsp. baking soda. Mix dry ingredients first before adding yogurt to dry ingredients (Reduce the amount of water or other liquids.).
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice + 1/4 tsp. baking soda.
Looking for more common baking substitutions? We've got you covered.
Great! You’ve got the hacks. Now you need the recipes. Here are our favorite 51 insanely popular cookie recipes.
—Additional reporting by Taylor Clifton and Erin Lem