Christmas - Pro Tips for Cookie Baking

Monday Morning Blog

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

New to the cookie baking?

Need a seasonal brush up?

There's still plenty of time to bake some yummy treats!!

Here's some tips:

1. Prep Ahead

Before you start mixing.....
Review the recipe.
Get out the pans, bowls and other tools you'll need.
Measure all ingredients into separate containers.

2. Understand Ingredients

Here's the lingo....

Flour means all purpose flour.

Always bake cookies with butter.
Recipe calls for margarine?  Use butter instead. They'll be 100% better!
"Shortening" means the solid white stuff (like Crisco) - not margarine.

Eggs are large or extra large.
Using another size?  Measure them.  One large or extra large egg = 1/4 cup.

Baking powder and baking soda make cookies rise. 
Never substitute one for the other.
Use aluminum free baking powder (like Rumsford in the red can at the grocery store).  Your cookies will taste infinitely better!

You don't have to grease pans if you use baking parchment.
Use parchment for ungreased pans, too!
And using parchment means you don't have to wash pans between batches!

3. Measure Accurately

Soups and stews are forgiving.
Baking is not..... Accuracy counts.

For dry ingredients (flour, sugar, nuts etc.) use what are called "dry measuring cups" - a nest of cups in one quarter, one third, one half and one cup sizes.

To measure flour, lightly spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off (the back of a table knife works well). No shaking, tapping or packing allowed.

Brown sugar is always lightly packed into a dry measuring cup (use the back of a spoon). 
It should hold it's shape then crumble apart a bit when the cup is inverted.  Don't pack too hard.
Scoop white or raw sugar into the cup. 
Scoop nuts and chocolate chips, too.

For liquid ingredients (anything pour-able), use a "liquid measuring cup" . 
Usually glass or clear plastic. 
There's extra space & a spout above the measurement line so you don't spill a drop. 

4. Bake Right

Unless your recipe says otherwise, always position the rack so cookies will bake in the center. Allow ten to fifteen minutes for the oven to preheat uniformly.

Bake one pan at a time.
Baking more than one pan always means burned cookies even if you rotate the pans.

5. Test Your Cookies

Bake one or two cookies to see how they look (and taste!). 
Check for spreading, baking time and size of the finished cookie.  Make adjustments as needed.

6. Keep Cool

Always let your cookie sheets air cool between batches.
Never hurry the cool down with cold water or by placing the hot pan in the fridge..... You'll warp your pans.

Baker's tips: 

For the most efficient cookie baking, have at least three cookie sheets to use in rotation - one baking, one cooling down and one that you're getting ready for the oven.

Recipe calls for creaming sugar & butter?
Always put the sugar in the bowl first.  It makes things go better!


Perfect Butter Cookie Cut-Outs

Ordinarily, I don't like recipes that call for only egg yolks because I'm left with the whites.

People always tell you to save them for another use.
While that's very noble, I rarely have the room (or desire) to collect them in my freezer until I've gotten together a dozen or more for an angel food cake or meringue pie.

I make an exception for this cookie recipe which is made heavenly rich and buttery by using only the yolks instead of the whole egg.

What do I do with all those eggs whites?
My dogs get treated to an egg white omelet for dinner.

Makes about 3 dozen (3 inch) cookies
Uses cookie cutters and parchment paper

1 stick butter (slightly softened)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoons sugar
1 large or extra large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons brandy
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour 

Using a heavy duty electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, yolk, vanilla and brandy together until fluffy - about 1 minute. 

On low speed, add remaining ingredients and stir until it comes together forming a dough - about 2 minutes. 

Divide dough into 3 portions.  
Flatten each portion into a circle that's about 1/2 inch thick.  
Wrap in plastic. 
Refrigerate at least 1 hour - longer is OK.

When dough has chilled and you're ready to bake, position oven rack so cookies will bake in center. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Greasing pans, coating with baking spray or using non stick pans not recommended.)

Work one portion of dough with your hands until it is pliable. 
Roll out on a lightly floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. 
Cut out desired shapes. 
Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned on bottom (tops should not brown much, if at all) - about 7 minutes for a three inch cookie that's 1/8 inch thick.

Remove from oven and cool 1 minute. 
Slide entire sheet (paper & all) onto cooling rack. 
Do not remove cookies from parchment until completely cool - about 20 minutes. 
Repeat with remaining dough then re-roll scraps.

Baker's tip: Thicker cookies or cookies that vary in size may require an adjustment in baking time.


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