by Pamela Redwine
If there’s ever a time to pull out your mixing bowls, baking sheets, and wire racks, it’s now. Baking multiple batches of cookies is a holiday tradition. You and your family can enjoy the treats now or freeze them for later. You can also take them to a cookie swap or to the office. As well as package them creatively to offer as gifts.
There are however, tricks that will help ensure success, especially when making lower-fat cookies. With such cookies, there is a narrower margin for error, and they may need to be handled differently than traditional cookies to achieve the same delicious results.
Top 10 Cookie –Baking Tips
Success depends on your ingredients. Use large-size eggs, unsalted butter and nuts, and pure flavoring extracts. Toss out old baking powder, baking soda, and ground spices (they go flat and lifeless with time) and refresh everything for your holiday baking.
Measure Accurately. Most cookie recipes call for all-purpose flour; don’t sift unless the recipes says to do so. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.
Chill dough for cut-out cookies. Soften it up at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling out. Try rolling dough between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap to reduce sticking.
Preheat your oven! Temperatures vary from oven to oven, so use an oven thermometer to check how yours performs.
Line baking sheets and pans with parchment paper for stick-free baking and easy clean-up.
Place dough on cool cookie sheets. For a cookie-baking marathon, have one sheet baking, one cooling off, and one lined and ready to go in the oven.
Leave 2 inches of space between cookies so they don’t spread into each other.
Adjust baking times to achieve the cookie texture you crave. A little less time produces chewier cookies; a little more time makes them crispy.
Bake bar cookies in the pan size indicated in the recipe.
Cool cookies completely before decorating. Slide cookies onto cooling racks, parchment paper and all.
Cookie Decorating Do’s
Blend confectioners’ sugar with butter or shortening and milk or water for simple icing.
Flavor icings with pure extracts of vanilla, lemon, orange, or almond; or substitute real juice.
For the brightest hues, use paste food coloring, available at craft and kitchenware stores. Mix color into 1 tablespoon white icing, then blend mixture into the rest of the icing.
For a glossy smooth finish, warm icing slightly in a microwave or double boiler.
Keep icing covered with a damp cloth and plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out
Frost with a pastry brush or small metal spatula. Add details with a pastry bag or small plastic bag with a tiny corner snipped out. Press candies or nuts into frosting before it hardens.
Dipped Cookies; chocolate for dipping should be tempered to keep it shiny and firm. For an easy alternative to tempering, melt chocolate in a pan over simmering water and whisk in a few drops of vegetable oil or melted paraffin.
Fast and Festive: shape cookie dough in logs, wrap and chill, then roll in colored sugar, finely chopped nuts, coconut, seeds, or sprinkles. Slice and bake.
Cookie Exchange Party
Ask each guest to bring a big batch of cookies. Figure 1 dozen multiplied by the number of guests, plus 1 dozen to eat at the party. They should also bring a big basket or tin for taking cookies home.
Keep track of who is bringing what, so you get plenty of variety.
Ask guests to bring copies of their cookie recipes or to e-mail them to you ahead of time so you can make individual recipe booklets for everyone to take home.
Set out baskets and platters to hold all those cookies, including one big platter for the cookies you’ll eat during the party.
Provide bags so guests can pack each kind of cookie separately to bring home.
Serve some snacks with protein to balance all that sugar!
Perfect beverages for your party are coffee, hot chocolate, punch, and hot cider.
Recipe of the Week
Cookies in A Jar
*5/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart or 1 liter jar, in the order listed.
Attach a tag with the following instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy. Add the entire jar of ingredients, and mix together by hand until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Cool on baking sheets, or remove to cool on wire racks.
*NOTE: 5/8 cup = 1/2 cup + 2 TBSP