Monday, December 23, 2013
It's the height of cookie baking season now, so here are some of my top baking tips. I've included some dos and don'ts and also a few troubleshooting suggestions in case things aren't going as smoothly as you'd like. BTW, if you are baking rolled cookies, my very popular post on the best way to roll out dough is here. It is definitely the easiest method I know.
If you're still looking for some recipe ideas, here are also the links to several favorite cookies and bars in my repertoire. All would be perfect for the serving or giving for the holidays.
Good all-purpose sugar cookie dough is here and all-purpose icing is here.
Cranberry-cherry bars recipe (shown below right) is here.
Peppermint brownies recipe is here.
Stained glass (shown at bottom right) and light catcher cookie how-to is here.
Earlier this week I also posted my holiday newsletter here--it features all my current Kitchenlane news, plus pics, and more recipe hotlinks I think you'll enjoy.
Top Cookie Baking Tips
No matter what cookie recipe you're making, these tips from my latest baking book, Simply Sensational Cookies Book can help you have good results
>Butter that’s too cold or too warm won’t fluff up well when beaten. Use the “press test” to check; it’s the right temperature if your finger leaves an indentation when you press the butter. If it doesn’t “give,” let it warm up more. If it squishes, chill it a bit, as too soft butter melts quickly in the oven and can cause dough to run and yield flat cookies.
> Baking powder loses its oomph over time, so be sure to check the “use by” date (normally on the can bottom).With spices, the nose knows: Fresh, quality spices smell intensely fragrant and pungent. Stale spices smell ... well, hardly at all.
>Never substitute reduced-fat, diet, or tub-style margarine for butter as they have more water and less fat and won't work well. If you must substitute for any reason, use top-quality stick margarine (though it won’t taste like butter, of course.)
>Don’t firm up overly-soft cookie doughs by automatically adding extra flour–too much flour makes cookies dry and tough. Let the dough stand 5 to 10 minutes and it should stiffen. Then add just a little more flour if necessary.
>Different brands of cookie sheets cause different amounts of spreading, browning, and crisping, so if you want uniform appearance bake all the cookies on the same kind of pan. For most even baking and browning, choose sturdy, light-colored pans with low rims or no rims so the air can flow over the cookie tops.
>Preheat the oven at least 15 minutes. BTW, ovens thermostats are often off, so consider buying a thermometer to check for the right temperature.
>Place any slightly thicker or larger cookies around the perimeter and thinner or smaller ones in the pan interior; heat reaches the cookies around the outside first. This will help ensure that they all get done at once.
>Allow baking sheets to cool before reusing.Warm sheets can cause dough to run and flatten too much.
> Dried fruit for cookies should be slightly moist and succulent, not hard or dry. Dry fruits will gradually hydrate and draw the moisture from the dough, yielding dry cookies.
>If cookies spread too much, chill the dough in the refrigerator a few minutes before continuing. The butter will firm up, so the cookies hold their shape better. Also, be sure to let cookie sheets cool completely before each re-use, or cookies may run.