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SARAH SAYS: I will bet that most cookie bakers use a large ceramic or stainless-steel mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, cookie sheets and lots of elbow grease. But, sometimes more tools are needed, but it's not necessary to go overboard:
Cookie cutters come in all sizes and shapes. Use sturdy, sharp-edged cutters and cut cookies closely together.
Cookie molds and carved rolling pins are used to create design in some European cookies. Wooden molds, available in specialty shops, come in all sizes and shapes. The dough is pressed into the floured mold and leveled off. The mold is then inverted and tapped sharply on the back to release the molded cookie, for example, when making Scotch shortbread. Special carved rolling pins imprint a design when rolled across and pressed into a sheet of dough. The dough is then cut apart to form individual cookies, as when making German Springerle.
Cookie presses (also called cookie "guns") are used to make Swedish spritz and other pressed cookies. They come with a selection of templates in various designs. A soft dough is spooned into the press, then pushed through the template to form a design.
Cookie stamps imprint a design on the dough's surface. A ridged or patterned meat tenderizing mallet will achieve the same effect.
Cookie irons are sometimes used to shape cookies. The rosettes and krumkake, French gaufrettes, Italian pizelle and the Dutch siroop wafel all belong to this category. Rosettes, the deep fried batter cookies, are produced with a rosette iron. The iron is preheated in hot oil, dipped in the cookie batter and plunged back into the oil until the cookies are golden. The other shaped cookies are all made in hinged waffle-type irons.
Mixers: Some use heavy-duty mixers for stirring large batches of cookie dough because hand-held portable mixers are usually not powerful enough to mix stiff cookie dough. Be careful not to overmix. Once the flour is added, the dough should be mixed by hand, but not at length for this will toughen the cookies or melt the fat. I use a hand-held mixer to cream the butter and sugar and then I finish the cookie dough by hand with a wooden spoon.
Pastry bags, used for piping cookies onto baking sheets, are cone-shaped bags with a large opening at one end (for spooning in dough) and a small opening at the other (for a decorative tip). They come in various sizes and are usually made of parchment or easy-to-clean vinyl.
Cookie sheets: Three heavy-duty cookie sheets, in a size that will allow 2 inches clearance all around on the oven rack. If you have three cookie sheets, one can be in the oven and one can be cooling off while the third is being filled with cookie dough.
SARAH SAYS: I have found that the best cookie sheets are the ones that are: Non-insulated, dull aluminum pans (light in color, not dark) with or without sides, preferably NOT non-stick. Make sure they are heavy in weight. These pans bake cookies the best and evenly: the cookies are lightly and evenly browned around its edges, a hint of browning on top, experience less spread and bake the fastest.
SARAH SAYS: Many cookbooks advise against using cookie sheets with rims, on the theory that the rims interfere with the circulation of heat, but I have used rimmed cookie sheets and jelly-roll pans (15 x 10 x 1 inch) for years with no problems. Be sure the sheets are flat and not warped.
SARAH SAYS: Preparing cookie sheets: There are several ways to prepare cookie sheets and the recipe will direct you. You can grease them, not grease them or use parchment or Silpat Mats, a reusable woven mat made from silicon, useful for its non-stick properties. (Waxed paper is not recommended when making cookies because it can tear and burn easily). If cookie sheets are greased, the cookies will spread more than if not, but greasing may be essential to the recipe -- the less fat a cookie has, the more the need for it. Spritz cookies are best baked on ungreased pans, for little cookie spread because it's important that they keep their shape during baking. Chocolate chip cookies are best baked on ungreased sheets or parchment paper if you want puffy ones, or greased ones if you want the cookies to spread and be flat. If using parchment paper, to keep them from slipping over the sheets, dab some water or cookie dough on each corner of the pan, center the paper and press all four corners. Parchment paper can be reused several times, both front and back.
Rolling pin: I like to use my wooden, straight-sided rolling pin, but many bakers use tapered ones instead. Choose the type that is comfortable for you. Don't wash the pin to clean; merely scrape off any dough that has stuck on and rub to remove tiny bits of flour.
Silpat, non-stick mat for rolling out gingerbread boys and other cut-out cookies. It reduces problems with sticky dough. You may want to tack the pastry cloth to a large breadboard. Flour it lightly before starting to roll the dough.
Long-bladed metal icing spatula for taking delicate cookies off cookie sheets. Use a large metal spatula when removing baked cookies from their sheets. The cookies are less likely to crack. Use one that has a thin, sharp edge because if it has a thick edge, it will smoosh the cookies when trying to get them off the cookie sheet.
Wire cake or cooling racks. My favorite ones are 3 inches from the countertop allow my cookies to cool without damp bottoms. I find that ones that are closer cause condensation to form on the bottom of the cookies. If you don't have ones that are tall, just prop the ones you have with a tall glass or can under each corner or a flat bottomed bowl turned upside-down. Do not pile cookies on top of each other. If you do not have enough space on the cooling racks, putting the cookies on plain brown paper grocery bags works well. Cool thoroughly before decorating, storing, or freezing.
QUESTION: I only have only two cookie sheets and lots of cookie dough to bake. I know that I can't place the dough directly on a warm baking sheet, so what do I do? I don't want to be baking all night just because I have to wait until my pans cool.
SARAH SAYS: If you have only 2 cookie sheets, while the first two batches are baking, you can shape the dough for the third batch in advance on parchment paper the same size as your pan. That way you also don't need to clean and cool cookie sheets before reusing, or cookies may stick to sheet or spread too much.
I first place my parchment paper sheets on an upside-down pan or large piece of cardboard to keep the cookies from bending. I then shape them and refrigerate or freeze until needed. No need to thaw the cookies before baking.
When a batch is done, slide the parchment paper off the pan and let the pan cool. Then, slide a new batch of cookies onto the pan and bake.