Busy homemakers rejoiced in 1957 when Pillsbury offered a new time-saving treat: refrigerated cookie dough. While cookie mixes first hit the market right after World War II, according to "The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink," Pillsbury's dough was the first that could go straight from the packaging to the cookie sheet. Although it saves lots of time, the problem with using store-bought cookie dough is that it often lacks the rich flavor of homemade cookies. If you make a few clever alterations to your dough you can fool almost anyone's tastebuds into believing they're homemade, even your own.
Open the dough package and dump the dough into a large mixing bowl. Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature so you can easily work with it. Add a couple of teaspoons of packed brown sugar to boost the cookies' flavor, as well as 3 to 5 tbsp. of softened butter.
Add candy crumbles, small pieces of dried fruit, or exotic nuts to the dough and mix well. The more unusual your mixed-in goodies are, the more believably homemade they'll taste, since stores typically sell cookie dough in a limited number of basic varieties.
Add a small amount, like ½ tsp., of flavored extract to the dough and knead it into the dough well. This will give the dough a "custom" flavor that others will doubt came from prepackaged dough. Try adding cherry extract to sugar dough for cherry-flavored sugar cookies or adding mint extract to chocolate chip dough to make mint chocolate chip cookies.
Cover the bowl's mouth with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 12 to 36 hours after you've altered it. This process will deepen the flavors you added to your cookies.
Spoon dough onto your cookie sheet. Make your cookies as large or as small as you'd prefer, but remember that the cookies will spread as they bake, so you should leave a couple of inches of space between each cookie. Sprinkle a small amount, less than 1/16 tsp., over the top of each cookie. The sea salt will bake into the top of the cookie, adding a flavor dimension most store-bought doughs lack.
Bake your cookies as directed by the dough's packaging, but add five minutes or more since you refrigerated the dough. Keep your oven's interior light on so you can monitor the process during the final few minutes of baking.
Serve your cookies while they are still warm. According to a "New York Times" article on the ideal chocolate chip cookie, many people claim that one of the main reasons people prefer homemade cookies is the taste of the cookie when it's still warm from the oven.