Christmas cookies and happy hearts, this is how the holiday starts. ~Unknown
As a former home economics teacher and one who loves to bake, I’ve compiled a list of tips that’s sure to make your cookie baking this holiday season, one that will have everyone raving about them and asking you for your recipe.
- Use the BEST ingredients that you can afford to purchase. If your recipe calls for butter, don’t use margarine. Likewise, use real vanilla extract instead of imitation vanilla. If your recipe calls for chocolate, buy the best brand of chocolate versus the least expensive. It will all pay off in the flavor and texture of your cookies.
- Freshness is very important. Don’t use expired baking powder or baking soda. If you’re unsure, test it by putting some in a little vinegar. If it foams, it’s good to use. Don’t use old butter or nuts. Both can turn rancid over time. Even some flour can turn rancid, so beware!
- Temperature is important in more ways than one. Make sure your oven is adjusted for any variation it may have. Our oven is 10 degrees cooler, so if a recipe calls for 350 degrees, I always have to set my oven to 360 degrees. You can check this by buying an oven temperature gauge to put into your oven. If your recipe calls for softened butter, don’t melt it and don’t try using it while it’s hard and cold. Plan accordingly and take it out of the refrigerator early enough for it to softened. If your recipe tells you to let your dough refrigerate a few hours or overnight, there’s a reason for it, so don’t try rolling it or baking it before it has chilled.
- As you add your ingredients to your bowl, sometimes you will see where it might say to scrape the bowl or mix well between adding different ingredients. Don’t skip over this part. You want to make sure everything gets mixed well and not to end up with a clump of sugar or butter that hasn’t mixed well into your batter. Not good!
- When rolling your dough, try using the approximate same size cookie cutters and to make sure the dough is rolled to the same thickness each time. For drop cookies, the best thing to use is a cookie scoop. If you don’t have one, make sure all your cookies are the same size so they will bake the same. Otherwise, you may find some that are over baked and some that might be a bit raw on the inside.
- If you’re working with a sticky dough, gently dampen your hands very lightly. This will make your dough less sticky in your hands.
- Did you know that you should lightly press on each dropped cookie with the bottom of a glass or lightly with your palm? It will help the cookies to cook more evenly so you won’t have burnt edges and undone centers.
- Try using one of the new silicone non-stick baking mats or use parchment paper. Both will work wonders in keeping your cookies from sticking to the cookie sheet. I happen to use parchment paper which you can find in your local grocery store, where the foil is located.
- Don’t use too much flour when you roll out your cookie dough. This tends to happen and when it does, it will make your dough more tough. Try rolling your dough between sheets of parchment paper. If it looks like it still wants to stick, put it in the refrigerator or freezer long enough for it to get cold enough to peel the paper off.
- Cool your pans. When you remove your cookies from the oven, check your recipe because some of them need to set on your cookie sheet for a while before you remove them. Also, if you have to use the same cookie sheets, let the one from the oven cool awhile before you put a fresh batch of dough on it. It it’s too hot, it could make the dough start melting and to spread out more during the baking process.
- Freeze your cookie dough. If you decide you have too much dough or don’t feel like baking it all at one time, most cookie dough recipes will freeze just fine.
- Freeze all your extra cookies. I use to make batches of cookies when the kids were around, but now it’s just Mr. Cottage and I. Depending on when I bake and when we’ll need the cookies, I always put them in an airtight container and into the freezer. I put Saran wrap between each layer, which keeps the cookies from sticking to each other. After the holidays, I always find more cookies in the freezer. After taking a few out of the container, once they thaw, they’re as tasty and fresh as the day I baked them.
Tomorrow I’ll share the BEST SUGAR COOKIE RECIPE EVER! Shhh…I’ve only shared it within our immediate family, so you’re in for a treat.
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