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Win the Cookie Swap With These Holiday Baking Tips

How to soften brown sugar, whip up meringues, and pack and ship desserts for optimal delight.

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The holiday baking marathon is something we look forward to all year—poring through mountains of recipes, the meditative process of mixing dough and sorting through all the glimmering sprinkles and dragées. You too? Then you know the joy of going unapologetically over the top, baking several different batches of cookies, assembling a gingerbread house worthy of an Architectural Digest home tour, or making the kind of fruitcake that changes people’s long-held opinions.

Or maybe you’re a little trepidatious about baking—but still eager to gift and celebrate your favorite people with delicious and festive treats. Either way, our tips and recipes are sure to inspire your holiday dessert dreams, or at least make them feel a little more manageable. Starting with a guide to one of the most famously finicky cookies…

Maggie Hoffman

Maggie Hoffman is a contributing editor at Epicurious. Previously, she was the managing editor of Serious Eats and the founder of that site's drink section. She's the author of Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Drinks for Every Occasion and The One-Bottle Cocktail: More than 80 Recipes with Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit, both published by Ten Speed Press. Her writing about food and drinks has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Food + Wine, Rachael Ray Every Day, and others.