The smell of Christmas is already in the air. And I don’t just mean the gingerbread, pine tree, and anxiety-induced sweat of holiday shopping. What I smell are sugar cookies, freshly baked and frosted to perfection.
Okay, maybe I’m just smelling this in my own kitchen. And maybe these cookies aren’t actually frosted to perfection (they’re more like a kids’ coloring book gone wrong), but I put five store-bought chilled sugar cookie doughs up for the ultimate taste test just so you know. exactly what to buy. in December.
But before shopping for the extremely limited number of options (chocolate chip dough was no different, which I ranked earlier this year), I sought advice from Reece Scelfo, owner of Los Angeles-based Brady’s Bakery, who has developed a bit of a cult following. following through the years.
“Several things make up a good sugar cookie,” he tells me. “But above all, the first thing is, ironically, the salt.”
“Salt is completely undervalued and underused in baking, but when you get the right balance (between salty and sweet), it’s perfection.”
Granted, I couldn’t handle a premade batch of dough, but this is an ingredient all novice bakers should be aware of when looking at nutrition facts labels, coating slices, and baking to a finishing note and/or whipping up your own. prescription.
“Most store-bought cookie doughs are made to last a while, so the ingredients will certainly reflect that,” adds Scelfo. So I tapped into the expertise of the cookie expert to get some quick tips on how to bake with the premade product. (My mass classification follows).
Avoid dough that has mixed decorations. “It never tastes so good and it takes the fun out of decorating all on its own. I try to make sure the ingredients are as healthy as possible by avoiding words like ‘hydrogenated’.”
Play with the baking temperature and cooking time. “Use a slightly higher heat and shorter time for a fluffier center…or use a slightly lower heat and longer time for a flatter, crispier cookie. If you want a doughier center, then shape the dough to be more spherical compared to a disk.”
Work with cold (not frozen) dough and have fun with it. “Get a little crazy, even. One of our most popular cookies at Brady’s is a sugar cookie that has Nutella stuffed in the middle and topped with crumbled brown sugar. Sprinkle a little of that Maldon sea salt on top of each ball of dough before it bakes and it will balance out the sweetness of the cookie.”
5. Nestlé Toll House Sugar Cookie Dough
The only thing oilier than this batch of sugar cookies is my forehead. I’m not sure if Nestlé changed their recipe or is swapping the (more expensive) butter for more oil, but I couldn’t get over the excess grease I got on my fingers while eating and the inability of the biscuits to crunch. Unfortunately, this was a miss and a definite member of Santa’s “naughty” list.
4. Pre-Cut Cookie Dough for Favorite Christmas Sugar Cookies
There was nothing wrong with the flavor, texture, and thickness of Target’s version of the timeless classic, but we didn’t love how we were limited to three pre-cut shapes. Like, there’s so much more to Christmas than a snowman, a star, and a tree—there are sloths, zombies, and a (random, I know) groundhog that I plan to make and decorate with my own cookie cutters. Getting them to start freezing is also quite limiting if you plan to zhuzh the dough with a spice and/or the aforementioned salt.
3. Sweet Loren’s Sugar Cookie Dough
While these certainly tasted delicious, they are ugly. In fact, they are like a cardboard-colored persimmon once baked and removed from the oven. That said, the dough is gluten-free, portioned, and packed with simple, sustainable ingredients, so there’s absolutely nothing to complain about. Just drizzle them with your favorite frosting and candies to coat the color and voila, you’re done! Santa won’t notice a thing.
2. Cheryl’s Cut Out Cookie Dough
You can only buy this brand in two two-pound jars, but it’s worth the investment because who only wants to decorate half a dozen at a time? I do not. My inner artist will need to spoil at least 10 cookies before creating a masterpiece. While these delicious cookies could have easily taken top honors (especially since they’re made with real butter), are slightly less sweet than our winner, which makes “sugar” sound like false advertising. (But that just means you can add even more sweet toppings.)
1. Pillsbury Sugar Cookie Dough
The Dough Boy is doing “hoo-hoo” on his way to the bank because Pillsbury has, bar none, the best pre-made dough of the bunch. The cookies are fluffy, golden and with that aforementioned touch of salt that takes them from excellent to almost perfect. While I would love the use of real butter instead of oils in the recipe, I know it would make them less shelf stable (not good for something mass produced). They still come out tasting buttery though, so I’m not too concerned. And neither should you be. Enjoy!
This article was originally published on TODAY.com