If this is your first year baking, or even if you are an old hand at cookie making, the following tips will help keep you sane and organized.
Cookie Baking Tools
You need the right tools to make good cookies. You should have a number of cookie sheets if you are making multiple batches. This way you won’t have to wait for your cookie sheet to cool before putting the next batch in the oven. Make sure that all of your cookie sheets have the same finish. Darker finishes absorb heat, which makes cookies set and brown faster, so either keep this in mind, or make sure all of your cookie sheets are similar.
You should also have either parchment paper or silicon sheets to protect the bottoms of your cookies from burning. If you are doubling up on recipes, stop at your local restaurant supply store and pick up a couple of large aluminum mixing bowls. Get a good oven thermometer, oven mitt, rolling pin, and measuring cups. Wooden spoons and cooling racks are also a big help. Multiples of these items are an excellent idea, but only if you have the space for a couple of prep stations.
Tips on Cookie Ingredients
Always use the ingredients specified in the recipe. Margarine is composed of about 20 percent water content and will cook differently from butter or shortening. Granulated sugar will react differently in a recipe from brown sugar, honey, or artificial sweetener. If you want to make modifications to a recipe, try it in a small batch first, and keep emergency substitutions to a minimum by spending some quality time on making an accurate shopping list. More about your shopping list in a minute.
Use the best ingredients you can afford. Real vanilla is more flavorful than imitation. If you’re using spirits, use the good stuff. When you buy flour, be careful to buy the type of flour that the recipe calls for. There are lots of flour varieties out there, so don’t buy self-rising or bread flour unless that’s what the recipe recommends. High-end specialty flours even measure differently, so read the back of the flour bag for a quick primer on the flour facts that will make your cookie baking free of unwelcome surprises.
Before you start your baking project, calibrate your oven by testing the temperature with an oven thermometer and adjusting your oven dial accordingly. Placing a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch drips is a poor idea. It will impact the oven’s temperature and performance. There is less risk of spills with cookie making than many other types of baking, so get that aluminum layer off the bottom of your oven. If you know your oven cooks unevenly, make it a habit to rotate your cookie sheets halfway through the baking process.
Always allow plenty of room on the cookie sheet for your cookies to spread. The recipe will often give you a recommended distance between cookies. Pay attention. A well-formed cookie with intact edges stays fresher longer and holds together better when it’s containered.
What To Look for in Your Cookie Recipes
Review all of your cookie recipes thoroughly when doing your inventory and making your shopping list. Make a notation on the side of your list of all the quantities that you will need, adding them up as you go along. Nothing is more frustrating than running out of something when you are almost through with your project.
Read your recipes on bake day. Cookie dough that has to chill should be made ahead of time. Recipes with dough that should be formed and then chilled will take up more room in your refrigerator, so they need to be planned for. Make a timetable so you can incorporate assembly line efficiency into your routine.
You need some room to work, with areas for dough preparation and cookie cooling. You’ll be rotating cooled cookies off the racks and onto another flat surface, so you need a place to put them, too. Flat storage for the first few hours until your cookies are completely cooled is preferable.
If you have a large table or counter you can use, cover it with cut up paper bags and move your cookies from the cooling racks to the paper bags. This will keep them flat until you are ready to place them in containers. It will also help to absorb any extra oil from the bottom of the cookies. If space is a problem, try using the top of the refrigerator, the top of the washing machine or dryer, even the space on top of your kitchen cabinets will work if it’s clean up there.
Be a cookie guru by making cookie day a breeze. Get your ingredients and tools ready and organized this holiday season. Cookies can be inexpensive, thoughtful gifts. They show you care in a unique and individual way. Make this year’s cookies the best ever by taking a little time to plan and prepare.
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