It's time to dust off the baking sheets and the Kitchen-Aid mixer and start baking holiday cookies.
We asked readers to share their best oatmeal-cookie recipes, and although they have some similarities, these cookies are as individual as the cooks who created them.
Few people are inexperienced cookie bakers, but if you've had a batch or two fail, you might need to review these cookie basics.
If the recipe gives a choice of old-fashioned oats or quick oats, it really doesn't matter which one you choose. But don't use instant oats, which dissolve into mush when stirred into cookie dough. Steel-cut or Irish oats are too tough to be used in a cookie.
Most kitchens are stocked with the basic equipment needed for baking, but if it's time for new some items, here are some tips from Mom's Big Book of Cookies by Lauren Chattman (Harvard Common Press, $21.95):
■ Select baking sheets that are of good quality and that are heavy, so they won't warp in the oven. Cookies baked on flimsy, lightweight sheets tend to scorch before they are cooked through. Cookies baked on parchment paper-covered rimless sheets are easy to slide right onto racks for cooling.
■ Parchment paper is sold in rolls next to the aluminum foil. No matter how sticky the cookies, they simply peel away from the paper after cooling.
■ A hand-held mixer will work just fine for mixing cookie doughs. Food processors overmix cookie doughs.
■ Mixing bowls and measuring cups and spoons are essential. A small ice cream or cookie scoop will help you produce a batch of uniform drop cookies.
■ A wide, flexible metal spatula or turner is good for lifting cookies from cookie sheets.
■ Wire racks are important for cooling cookies properly because they allow air to circulate underneath as well as above.
These cookie baking tips are from Cookies by Jill Snider (Robert Rose, $22.95).
■ If you prefer soft, chewy cookies, remove them from the oven about 2 minutes before they are done. If you like them crisp, bake 2 minutes longer.
■ When baking, place your cookie sheet on the middle oven rack, making sure it doesn't touch the sides of the oven. Bake only one sheet at a time.
■ Be sure to preheat your oven at least 15 minutes before you're ready to bake.
■ Have all your ingredients at room temperature before you start to bake. This makes for easy blending.