10 Secrets to Baking the Perfect Cookie


Why does butter temperature matter?

img_0282Butter acts like the ‘glue’ that holds together the other ingredients. Because of its structure, butter holds the key to the texture, aeration, and shape of cookies. Many cookies call for ‘creaming’ the butter and sugar together before adding dry ingredients. This ensures the butter will be distributed evenly throughout the cookie. For best results, creaming should be done for 2-3 minutes in most cases. Room temperature butter is best for this procedure. Avoid creaming butter and sugars together at a speed higher than medium. Too much friction will cause the butter to heat up and break down. For flaky cookies and many shortbreads you will need very cold butter. The cold butter globs settle between layers of flour and, when baked, melt leaving pockets of air which create layers and texture. For best results, cut butter into small cubes and place them in the freezer before starting dough. Consult the recipe and follow it closely.

Should you use paper or foil lining?

img_0283Lining baking sheets is one of the easiest ways to ensure the right type of baking and also makes for simple clean up. Parchment paper is the standard choice for most cookie baking, but it is not always the right choice. For thin cookies with a crispy bottom choose foil. Use the less-shiny side up in the bottom of your baking tray. The foil will radiate heat back up toward the cookie and non-porous nature of the foil will keep the fats near the bottom of the cookie creating a crispier bottom. In either case, allow the cookies to cool so you can peel them away from the liner if necessary. Tip: look for flat pre-cut parchment sheets at restaurant supply stores. They fit perfectly in pans and do not roll up on the ends.

Why does it matter how I cool my cookies?

img_0284It comes down to how long the cookies should continue to cook. For many standard cookies, which are somewhat soft on the inside and a bit crisp on the outside, cooling for just a minute or two on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely is the right answer. However other cookies, including many shortbreads, require cooling completely on the tray for best results. The additional contact with heat allows the cookie to cook more completely on the inside and creates a more sturdy bottom. As ever, consult the recipe and follow it closely.

How do I bake a baker’s dozen?

img_0285While baking cookies is a fun pastime, nobody wants to spend unnecessary time watching the oven. Using a baker’s dozen layout for your cookies will allow you to get more cookies done in less time. Plus, that leaves one extra cookie for the cook. Use the layout in the photo above. Start by placing the first ball of dough in the very center of the pan. Make a diagonal line from there across the cookie sheet with four more dough balls evenly spaced. Use those balls as the guide for the remaining rows of cookies.

Do I really need a cookie scoop?

img_0286The short answer is no. You don’t really need a cookie scoop unless you are making cookies that will be sandwiched together. However, if you want cookies to be of consistent size and shape it is the best way to ensure good results. Further, using a cookie scoop is often less messy than scraping from a spoon. Cookie scoops come in a wide variety of sizes. Pick up a few for differently sized cookies.

 

What’s the best way to measure flour?

img_0287Measuring flour properly is one of the most critical steps in consistent cookies from time to time. Also, improper measuring can result in a cookie that is too dry or tough. For best results use a scoop to gently shake the flour into your measuring cup. Then use a knife or offset spatula to scrape the flour level with the top of the cup. Tip: Although not commonly used in the U.S., the best method for measuring in baking is with a kitchen scale. For consistent results, measure ingredients from your recipe in grams. Make note of the measurements on the recipe for future reference.

Can I make cookies without a mixer?

img_0287You can and you should in many cases. The single most common cause for tough cookies is over mixing. The mixer is great for creaming together butter and sugars, but beyond that most cookies require very little beating. Dry ingredients and extras such as chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruit generally only need to be mixed just until the ingredients are incorporated. Of course, there are some exceptions.

Why do recipes call for refrigerating dough? Do I really need to do it?

img_0289The typical reason for this is two-fold. First, in some cases the flour needs time to work its magic. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, refrigeration is often recommended to allow the butter to come back to a hardened state. Even if the recipe doesn’t call for chilling, consider chilling and bringing the dough back to room temperature before baking. Cookie dough that has been allowed to rest and chill overnight often has better flavor and texture.

How can I bake more cookies in less time?

img_0290It’s all in the rotation. If you are going to make many cookies consider purchasing at least four baking sheets. Tip: Standard professional, rolled-rim baking sheets are readily available at restaurant supply stores and often far less expensive than gimmicky ones sold in retail stores. For maximum baking production arrange your oven racks in the center of the oven. Place a tray on each rack and set a timer for about a quarter of the overall expected baking time. To estimate the time add 4-6 minutes to the baking time in the recipe as if you were only going to bake one sheet at a time. At the end of the first time, take the bottom tray out and place it on the stove, turning the front of the tray to the back. Remove the middle tray and put it on the bottom, also turning it around. Move the top tray to the middle and turn it. Place the tray on the stove top on the top rack. Continue setting the timer and rotating the trays in the same manner until they are done.

Sugar Cookies


Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Procedure

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color.
  3. Add egg and milk and beat to combine.
  4. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  5. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar.
  8. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill.
  10. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time.
  11. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack.
  12. Serve as is or ice as desired.
  13. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sugar-cookies-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Holiday Cut-Out Butter Cookies


Holiday Cut-Out Butter Cookies
Ingredients

For the Cookies

  • 1 1/4 (163g) cups Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons (262g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 (3.77g)  teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5.6g)  almond extract
  • 2 3/4 cups (343.5g) all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with knife

For the Icing

  • 2 1/4 cups (293g) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (43.7g)  light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (35.5g) milk
  • Food coloring and sugar decorations, optional

Preparation

  1. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt, and almond extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth.
  2. Add the flour and mix on low speed until well combined. The mixture will seem dry and crumbly at first, but don’t worry — it will come together.
  3. Scrape the dough onto a work surface (if it’s sticky, dust very lightly with flour).
  4. Shape into a ball and cut in half; form 2 discs, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator; let it soften on the countertop for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Work the dough with your hands for a minute or so, until it feels soft and pliable enough to roll. Be careful not to overwork it; it should still feel cold.
  9. Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour.
  10. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour as well.
  11. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll to 1/8″ – 3/16″ thick, sprinkling more flour over and under the dough as needed so that it doesn’t stick.
  12. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes.
  13. Use a thin metal spatula to lift the cut dough off of the counter and onto the prepared baking sheets (they can be close together; they don’t spread).
  14. Re-roll and cut the dough scraps, dusting more flour as necessary so the dough doesn’t stick.
  15. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, until they’re set and barely browned around the edges. (Note that the cook time will vary depending on the thickness and size of the cookies. And mini cookies might be done in as little as 8 minutes.)
  16. While the cookies cool, make the icing.
  17. Combine the sugar, milk, and corn syrup in a medium bowl.
  18. Stir with a spoon to make a thick but spreadable icing. If the glaze is too thin, add additional confectioners’ sugar. If it’s too thick, dribble in additional milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time. (You’ll know the consistency is right when a ribbon of glaze dribbled from the spoon will sit atop the glaze in the bowl briefly, before settling and disappearing. Be careful not to make it too thin, or it will drip right off the cookies and make a sticky mess.)
  19. Using a small spoon, dollop the icing on the center of the cookies and use a spoon, knife, toothpick or your finger to spread it all the way to the edges.
  20. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other sugar decorations while the icing is still wet.
  21. Allow the icing to harden before storing the cookies.

Cook’s Note

The cookies are best eaten within a day or two, when they are perfectly tender and crisp. They’ll keep much longer stored in an airtight container, but they’ll soften up.

Eggnog Scented Christmas Sugar Cookies with Easy Vanilla Icing


Eggnog Scented Christmas Sugar Cookies with Easy Vanilla Icing.
Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract* (optional)
  • 1 egg, at room temperature*
  • 1/3 cup high quality eggnog
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Easy Vanilla Icing

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 6-8 tablespoons water
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • assorted food coloring, holiday sprinkles and or candies, to decorate (optional)

Preparation

  1. To make the cookies, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about a full 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add the egg and eggnog and mix until evenly combined.
  3. Add half the flour, baking soda and salt, beating until combined.
  4. Then add the remaining flour and beat until the dough forms a ball.
  5. Generously flour your work surface.
  6. Divide the dough in half and flatten each half into a disk.Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Make sure you are using enough flour or your dough will stick. You can also roll the dough out between two piece of wax paper.
  7. Cut out the cookies into your desired shapes.
  8. Carefully transfer the cookies to a parchment line baking sheet.
  9. Cover the baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer, freeze until very firm, about 25 minutes.
  10. Roll out the leftover scraps, and repeat with the remaining disk of dough.
  11. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  12. Bake the cookies on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes or until just lightly golden brown. Do not over bake.
  13. Cool on the baking sheet five minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  14. To make the icing, combine the sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  15. Mixing on low speed, add 6 tablespoons water.
  16. Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.
  17. Add the vanilla bean seeds and nutmeg, mix until just combined.
  18. Frost the cooled cookies and decorate as desired. I like to keep things simple and use holiday sprinkles to decorate most of my cookies. You can also use food coloring and color the frosting red, green or whatever colors you like.
  19. To pipe the icing onto the cookies, add the icing to a gallon size ziploc bag (or a piping bag), then snip of a small portion of the corner off.

Cook’s Notes

* If you do not have almond extract on hand or cannot find it, feel free to just leave it out. BUT if you can find it, I think it really adds a lot.

** To quickly bring your eggs to room temperature, place them in a large bowl with their shells on. Cover them with warm water and let them sit 5 minutes.

*** The cookie dough can also be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. To bake remove from the freezer and let sit on the counter for 5 minutes prior to baking. Bake As directed.

This Trick Will Free You From the Frustrations of Rolling Out Cookie Dough


img_0242Many sugar cookie recipes will ask you to chill the dough post-mixing—and for good reason. Room temperature butter is more likely than cold butter to glom onto the work surface (and, consequently, to require extra flour protection, leading to less tender cookies). Plus, when the dough rests under refrigeration, the protein strands relax and it becomes less susceptible to shrinking as you roll it, cut it, and bake it.

Instead of rolling the cookie dough post-chilling — roll it out pre-chilling, but between two sheets of parchment paper instead of on a floured work surface. Sandwiched by parchment, your very-pliable dough has no chance of latching onto your rolling pin or your kitchen counter. Once you’ve got it at your desired thickness, you can carry the flattened dough right on over to the refrigerator, where it can chill until firm. (If the dough slab is going to be too large, just cut it into pieces and stack them up with parchment dividers.)

You needn’t have an expanse of clean marble or incredible forearm strength for nice-looking cookies! With parchment as protection, rolling out cookie dough has never been easier or neater.

And, bonus tip — since the dough is already on parchment paper, you can cut out the shapes you want, then let them remain in their same place: By pulling away the scraps around the cuts rather than trying to transfer the cookies themselves (in other words, by messing with the negative space and leaving the positive space alone), you’ll keep your reindeer and snowmen perfectly intact. Reroll the scraps later.

Reindeer Sugar Cookies


Easy Reindeer Sugar Cookies
Ingredients

  • 1 cup (230g) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (192g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon  (5.6g) vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons (7.6g) baking powder
  • 1/4 (1.25g) teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with a mixer until smooth.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract and egg.
  4. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time.
  6. When it’s all mixed in, wet your hands and knead it by hand until it’s a good
  7. dough consistency.
  8. Immediately roll small batches out onto a floured surface to about 1/4″ thick, then cut with cookie cutters. (Don’t chill the dough)
  9. Bake at 350F for 8 to 9 minutes.

How to Decorate

The cookies turned out beautifully! Perfectly round, with even colour and no darkening around the edges. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

img_0227To decorate them, I used Wilton’s Black Gel Icing, Wilton’s White Decorating Icing, and red and brown M&M’s.

img_0228Start by using the black gel icing to draw two tiny eyes, pretty much right in the center of the cookie.

img_0229Then draw two diagonal lines upwards away from the eyes.

img_0230

Then more diagonal lines to complete the antlers.

img_0231

Add a generous dot of white icing where the nose is going to go.

img_0232Then gently press on the M&M with the “M” side facing down.

img_0233These reindeer sugar cookies are really easy to make and they look ADORABLE! The cookie recipe is so good! Perfectly even cookies, with no chilling required!

img_0234Easy peasy!

img_0237These reindeer sugar cookies are really easy to make and they look ADORABLE! The cookie recipe is so good! Perfectly even cookies, with no chilling required!

img_0235Aren’t they cute!?

img_0236
These reindeer sugar cookies are really easy to make and they look ADORABLE! The cookie recipe is so good! Perfectly even cookies, with no chilling required!

4-Ingredient Pecan Balls


4-INGREDIENT PECAN BALLSThese easy 4-ingredient Pecan Balls (5 for a chocolate version) make a great game day snack, appetizer or anytime treat!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional chocolate drizzle

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

 

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 275.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar and flour with a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  3. Fold in the pecans and salt and stir until combined. The mixture will be crumbly but will stick to itself.
  4. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1/2-inch across) and place on an ungreased baking sheet. (You can wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking to you.)
  5. Bake at 275 for 45 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely on the baking sheet before transferring to an airtight container. These pecan puffs keep for up to a week on the counter or in the pantry.
  7. To make the chocolate sauce: Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir and microwave in 30 seconds intervals until chocolate is melted and can be stirred together. Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled pecan balls or dunk balls in the chocolate sauce.

Cook’s Notes

  • If your butter isn’t at room temperature — mine never is — you can microwave it for about 20 seconds to soften it. You don’t want it melted.
  • I buy pecan pieces – they are cheaper than whole, in-tact pecans, and they just need a rough chop to break up the big pieces for this recipe.
  • The mixture is crumbly but the dough does stick to itself to be able to roll into balls. You can wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking to you.
  • These are crumbly straight out of the oven, too, so be sure to let them cool on the pan so they can set up. Then they’re ready to share or transport!