With all the cookie baking happening this time of year, I thought you might be interested in these tidbits of information that I’ve gleaned that might help you solve some of your baking glitches!
Glitch: My dough is too crumbly.
Fix: Master measuring – accurately. Instead of scooping dry ingredients right from the bag, spoon them in to a dry measuring cup. Level it off by sweeping a flat spatula or knife across the top. This keeps the contents fluffy and not packed inside.
Glitch: My cookies come out in different, uneven sizes.
Fix: Get portion-perfect with a cookie scoop. Scope out your favorite kitchen-supply store for a sturdy ice cream or cookie scoop. Bakers love the ones with squeeze handles that easily pop out dough in matching drops. There are many sizes, but you really need only 1-teaspoon, 1-tablespoon or 2-tablespoon scoops.
Rolling and Slicing
Glitch: I have a hard time rolling my slice-and-bake cookies into a log, and knowing where to slice them.
Fix: Let parchment paper be your guide. Spread dough horizontally on parchment. Fold paper over the dough with edges facing you. Hold a ruler at the base of the dough, and pull on the bottom layer of paper. It’s tighten to form a log. At baking time, use the ruler and a pencil or food-safe marker to mark every one-fourth inch along the parchment. With a knife, lightly score the dough at each mark. Unwrap the log, and slice.
Helpful Hints from Seasoned Bakers
I’m not sure exactly where I found these hints, but I do know each of them work because I’ve used them many times. My mother-in-low made fabulous lemon cookies that she rolled, then sliced, baked and frosted, making them mouth-watering little ‘sandwiches’.
The other night I was making almond roca bars and thought “Hmm, I wonder if I can use tub margarine instead of butter” and then I thought “No better follow the recipe. You know the difference”. So, here is the breakdown of the various butters, compliments of the December, 2011, Cooking Light magazine, page 43, just in case you wonder what the difference is too.
What is it? Cream, the fatty top layer of whole milk, is churned until fat solids separate. By law, butter must contain at least 80% milk fat; artisanal versions may have more. May be salted and cultured. Baking: Fat coats flour proteins and holds air bubbles produced by leaveners to create a tender texture. Also key for browning. Nutrition: 100 calories, 11 grams fat (7 grams saturated, 0 grams transfats) per tablespoon.
What is it? Forcing hydrogen through vegetable oils makes margarine solid at room temp but also produces trans fats. Check ingredients; many margarines still use these hydrogenated oils. Others, now blend trans-fat-free palm oils with emulsified vegetable oils. Baking: Stick margarines with 80% fat content work like butter, but spreadable styles won’t hold form when baking. Nutrition: 100 calories, 11 grams fat (2 – 4 grams saturated, 0 – 2.5 grams trans fat) per tablespoon.
What is it? Simply butter with air beaten into it. Fat savings vary between brands, from 30% to 50%. Available salted or plain. Baking: With less fat, whipped butter cannot be substituted precisely in baking. Use as a spread only. Nutrition: 50 – 700 calories, 6 – 7 grams fat (3.5 – 5 grams saturated, 0 grams trans fat) per tablespoon.
What is it? Most start with ordinary butter, then replace some of the fat with water, starches, gelatins, or emulsifiers. Most also include salt to balance flavor. Baking: Higher moisture impairs leavening and browning. Another one to use as a spread. Nutrition: 50 – 80 calories, 6 – 8 g fat (2.5 – 5 grams saturated, 0 grams transfat) per tablespoon.
European and Artisanal Butter
What is it? European versions can contain up to 90% milk fat, which may result in an extra gram of saturated fat. Sold in 1- or 1 1/2 pound blocks, versus U.S. sticks. Also may or may not be salted. Baking: No different from regular, though refined palates may detect extra richness. Many are also cultured, which adds subtle depth. Nutrition: 100 calories, 11 grams fat (7 – 8 grams saturated, 0 grams trans fat) per tablespoon.