Bake It Best

 

Baking cookies has become a favorite in almost every kitchen, especially in mine. One childhood tradition that I managed to successfully pass down to my own kids is baking a wide assortment of cookies to leave out for Santa. Creating the perfect cookie isn’t always as easy as it looks. Because I’m sure we aren’t the only family to carry on this tradition, I want to pass on some of my most helpful tips to make sure your baking goes smoothly and more enjoyable this Holiday season.


All about the Cookie

Types of Cookies:

  • Drop- Made from a soft dough that is spooned or scooped (my favorite way) into mounds for baking. Example: Chocolate Chip.
  • Icebox- Made from dough that is shaped into logs or rectan
    _MG_0238 copy
    Christmas Sugar Cookies

    gles, chilled thoroughly and then sliced into individual pieces and baked as needed.

  • Bar- Made from a stiff dough that is rolled into a log  and then baked. Biscotti is a good example. 
  • Sheet- Made from dough or batter that is pressed, poured or layered in shallow pans and cut into portions after baking. 
  • Cut-Outs– Made from a firm dough that is rolled out into a sheet and then cut into shapes before baking. Example: Sugar cookies.
  • Spritz- Made with a soft dough that is forced through a pastry tip or cookie press. 
  • Wafer- Made with a thin batter that is poured or spread onto a baking sheet and baked. When still hot, the wafers are molded into a variety of shapes. 

Chilling Out:

Most cookie recipes call for chilling the dough before baking. This step is recommended because it helps stiffen the butter and makes the dough more manageable. 

  • Chill all cookie doughs made with butter or shortening in the fridge for the time recommended in the recipe. 
  • If using margarine- you may benefit from quick chilling dough in the freezer for one third of the recommended refrigeration time. (It’s not advised to do this with butter or shortening as it will get too firm). 
  • For rolled cookies with Margarine, refrigerate for at least 5 hours or freeze for 2 hours before rolling. 

Choosing the right Cookie Sheet:

  • Opt for heavy- gauge aluminum with low sides or none at all.
  • Invest in lighter-colored cookies sheets. Darker sheets may cause cookies to overbrown.
  • Selecting sheets with a dull finish will allows cookie bottoms to brown more evenly.
  • Use shiny sheets for cookies that should not brown on bottoms, such as shortbreads. 

Baking Gadgets:
I can not stress enough at how helpful these gadgets are in the kitchen. They make life easier for every baker by speeding up production and keeping the work-space cleaner. If you do not already own these, you might want to consider purchasing them. 

  • Cookie/Ice-cream portion scoops- These can be found in many size (I have about 4 different sizes). They guarantee your drop cookies will come out the same size and shape every time. 
  • Cookie Press- used when making spritz cookies. The dough is added to a tube and then forced through a shape template. These allow you to make cookies in various shapes. 
  • Offset spatula- This is great for not only cakes, but cookies too. You can use them to spread frosting on bars or brownies keeping your hands above the frosting. They allow you to get into the corners and keep your Hands clean. 
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Cookie cutters

  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment paper- while this isn’t technically a “gadget”,  it is a necessity. I’ve only just started keeping this around my house. I always thought it was easier to keep the Non-stick spray handy but what I got was a sticky mess when it baked onto my sheet-pans. The parchment keeps my cookies from sticking and my sheet-pans clean. I also don’t have to change the paper every time I pull a batch of cookies out like when I have to keep adding spray after each batch. 

Storage:

  • Most cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer in a airtight freezer container.
  • Do not store crispy cookies and soft cookies in the same container– the crispy cookies will absorb the moisture from the soft cookies and ruin the texture of both
  • Do not store strong flavored cookies with milder flavored cookies.

Extra Know-Hows:

  • Always read your recipe before starting! This will help you have an idea about chilling time and preparation before diving in.
  • Use room temperature eggs and butter. Eggs and butter blend together better at room temperature. I like to make sure I put the butter out an hour before baking. If I am short on time or forget to bring out my butter, I like to cut it into smaller pieces before starting the rest of my mise en place. For eggs, I like to put them out about 30 minutes before I start cooking or I will cover them with hot tap water before starting. 
  • Use fresh baking soda and baking powder. These stay good up 6 months to a year so if you have had yours for that long or longer, it’s probably best that you replace them. Having fresh baking soda/powder will ensure your cookies don’t come out flat and lifeless. 
  • Underbake your cookies. Like chewy cookies? Then you will not want to skip this step. I’m a big chewy cookie fan, I actually can’t stand a cookie that has a hard, dry texture. I found that slightly underbaking my cookies by a minute or two than their bake-time gives me that perfect chewy texture. 

These are some of my favorite baking tips that I found to be most helpful throughout my years of baking.  I hope you found these tips equally as helpful to you. 

What are some tips that you help you in the kitchen?

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