Holiday time is baking time. All the cookie exchanges, pot lucks, family parties, Santa Claus or treats for neighbors. Cookies bring a lot of great memories and warmth during the winter. There is nothing quiet like a nice scoop or ice cream or glass of milk with a warm cookie.
The holidays bring out the old recipes and many varieties. Baking cookies is an art from conception to decorations. The basics to cookie baking will make your cookies the talk of any holiday party. Butter handling and use is the key to a successful cookie. Most recipes call for softened butter. This is best achieved by setting on the counter for about 60 min before starting. You will know it is the right temperature when it leaves a slight indentation when touched lightly, but maintain it's shape. Microwaving will rush the process, but not achieve the proper results.
The butter must be handled with care. When purchasing butter for baking it is best to purchase unsalted butter. This allows for you to control the amount of salt in your recipe. Softened butter should be softer, but still cool. It is best to avoid using margarine when baking. This has a high content of water and more chemicals than food basis.
When using white and brown sugar you want to make sure that they are recently purchased. Measuring brown sugar must be placed in a measuring while pressing it into the measuring cup. When this is placed in the mixing bowl should hold its shape. White sugar should be spooned into the measuring cup for accuracy.
Whipping the sugar(s) and butter is key to your cookie success. It is best to use a beater for this process. It should take about 3-5 minutes of beating to achieve the proper mixing. If the butter is to soft or to hard it will not mix well in the batter.
Eggs in your cookie batter emulsifies the fat in the butter. Make sure your eggs are fresh. You can check your eggs for freshness by placing cold water in bowl and an egg. If the egg sinks to the bottom and lays flat on the sides the eggs are fresh. If they are a few weeks old (still good)they will stand on one end at the bottom of the bowl. If they float to the surface they are no longer eatable. This is a good test if you get eggs from a farm. The 3 digit number on the side of egg packages represents the day in year in numbers. 001 means eggs are packaged on January 1 of the year.
Mixing eggs into the butter and sugar mixture requires adding them one at a time. This allows for the emulsification to be completed. The egg brings the structure, richness, tenderness, and flavor to your cookie. You can substitute eggs with 1/4 cup of applesauce per egg if necessary in your cookie batter.
Flour, raising agent, spices, and salt should be mixed in a separate bowl. Measuring the flour is extremely important. Measuring the floor by spooning into the measuring cup until it is over the top. Use a straight edged utensil to level the flour across the top of the cup. Flour can be sifted to add air if you do not have a sifter toss lightly with a fork will work. All purpose flour is the best type of flour for your cookies. Whole wheat flour will absorb more liquids and most recipes are calling for all purpose.
Raising agents for cookies is baking powder or soda. Making sure that your agents are still fresh can be tested. Use 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of raising agent. The agent is fresh if it bubbles when added to the vinegar.
Toss the dry ingredients until well mixed. If you use salted butter you may want to reduce the salt in the recipe. Slowing mix the dry to the wet ingredients by adding slowly. Mixing all the dry at the same time will create more gluten and a denser cookie.
When making cookies with additions like walnuts, chocolate chips, and fruits make sure to fold them. This will prevent over mixing of the cookie dough.
The best key to your oven is to ensure that it is up to temperature is turned on before starting the mixing process. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicon cookie sheet lingers. Measure with a small ice cream scoop and leave plenty of room on the tray for the cookies to bake without touching. Remember some cookies will spread out on the sheet as they bake.
The cookies may be complete once cooled, but other may need a glaze, icing, painting, or decorating. There are many ways to complete the cookies. A favorite at our home is sprinkles. There are so many varieties that you can use to make it a fun unique cookie.
Bake the cookies according to the instructions provided. Rotate the cookie sheet during baking to ensure proper baking. When you take them out of the over they need to cool on a cooling rack. We recommend Variations Bakery, in Phoenix Arizona, for your cookie needs if time does not permit. Enjoy one with your favorite glass of milk or ice cream before getting them together for your holiday event.