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Appetite for Knowledge

The Perfect Festive Cookies

The perfect cookie crunches ever so slightly; tastes buttery, sweet, and salty all at the same time. There are so many ways for a batch of cookies to go wrong. With a little help from these tricks, you will have perfectly delicious cookies every time!

Read First

1. Read the cookie recipe before starting. Be sure you understand the directions.

Correct Pan Size

2. Use correct pan size specified in the recipe. Recipes are carefully calculated as to yield and changing the pan size alters the baking temperature and time.

Quality Ingredients

3. Use top-quality ingredients. You cannot expect first-rate cookies using second-rate ingredients. Be sure the ingredients are fresh and high quality; use butter, and pure extract. Check expiration dates of baking powder and baking soda, replacing if expired.

Use large sized eggs and add them one at a time, thoroughly beating in before the next one is added.

Use type of flour specified in the recipe. Be sure to mix baking powder and/or baking soda into the flour; blending well.

Smell and taste nuts before using, oils in nuts become rancid. Toss the nuts in a little flour from the recipe so they won’t clump together. Add nuts to the batter last so they remain crisp. Store nuts in the freezer.

Margarine must contain at least 80 percent vegetable oil or it can result in tough cookies that spread excessively, stick to the pan, or don’t brown well.

If using salted butter, only use half the amount of salt called for in the recipe.

Make sure butter is at room temperature, so it will cream properly with the sugar. Quickly soften cold butter by shredding the amount needed on the large holes of a grater. Room temperature butter should be pliable enough that a finger can leave a mark in it. Softened butter will leave a deep indentation, and still be firm enough to pick up. Soft butter will be too soft to pick up. Do not try to microwave the butter, as it will end up too soft.

Check shortening because the newer trans fat-free brands, can go bad introducing off-flavors to cookies. Store shortening in the refrigerator.

Sugars with a finer granulation promote more spread. Powdered sugar, when it contains cornstarch, prevents spread in cookies.

Room Temperature

4. All ingredients should be at room temperature, unless otherwise specified.

Measure Correctly

5. Measure the ingredients quantities correctly. One common cause of baking failures is inaccurate measurement of ingredients. Always use level measurements unless the recipe specifies something else. Use a liquid measuring cup for liquids. Measure dry ingredients in dry measuring cups, never in liquid cups. Lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup or spoon, and sweep a spatula across the top to level it off. Too much flour can make some cookies hard. Measure brown sugar and shortening by packing it firmly into a measuring cup or spoon so it will hold its shape when turned out.

Sift any chopped nuts or chocolate to eliminate the “dust” from these ingredients and maintain the color of the dough.

Cream the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes. Once you combine the dry and wet ingredients, mix until just combined and no longer, unless you like tough cookies!

Accurate Temperature

6. Accurate oven temperature. Be sure the oven is exact by testing with a thermometer; otherwise, it will affect the cooking time, texture and appearance of the cookies.

Preheat the oven 15 minutes before baking cookies unless a recipe specifically calls for a cold oven.

Cookie Sheets

7. Cookie sheets. A cookie sheet should be at room temperature; otherwise, the dough will start to melt, adversely affecting the cookies’ shape and texture. Place a hot sheet under running cold water until it is completely cool, and then dry it.

Grease cookie sheets with either shortening or butter. Vegetable oil burns. Flouring a cookie sheet after it is greased prevents cookies from thinning out during baking. Lining cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats eliminates the need for greasing.

Baking Time

8. Baking perfect cookies. Chill cookie dough an hour in the fridge or 20 minutes in the freezer before baking it. Dough made with margarine should chill in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. This will give the batter more body and the cookies more rise.

Use a scoop to create uniform size cookies. Leave 2 inches between cookies.

Rotate baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Turn the sheets front to back, and swap rack positions if using more than one sheet.

Check the cookies at the minimum baking time listed in the recipe. Unless the recipe directs otherwise, remove baked cookies from cookie sheet to wire rack immediately to prevent further baking and soggy bottoms. Let the crust of bar cookies cool completely before topping it; otherwise, the bottom may become soggy.

Store cookies in airtight containers. For delicate and frosted cookies, use a wide container with parchment paper between the layers. Separate the hard and soft cookies and cookies with different flavors.

Additional Advice

If you prefer crisp cookies, use egg whites in place of some of the whole eggs. If you prefer soft cookies, slightly under bake them. Substituting brown sugar for some or all of the granulated sugar in the recipe will produce softer cookies. For chewy cookies, use melted butter. Then add a couple of egg yolks to increase the fat content.

Use a sharp knife to score cookie bars as soon as the pan comes out of the oven. Then cut the cooled bars along the scored lines to prevent jagged edges.

These tricks apply to making and baking all types of cookies, so get bakin’ today to put them into practice! Now bake away, bake away, bake away all!

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Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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