Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cookie Tips, The Second ...

My cookie stash is dwindling.

Which is the point. I gave most of them away to friends last week, kept a few for dessert for Christmas Eve, made a cookie plate for my brother and his family, and now have a few stragglers in the freezer, which are being eaten a few at a time, a treat for me who doesn't usually keep cookies in the house.

But as I was baking and wrapping and packing, I jotted down ideas as they came to me. Here, then, is the latest batch.

To bake or not to bake
Some recipes have large yields. Maybe you don't want six dozen cookies lying around the house, waiting to take up residence on your hips. Maybe you want to mete out the fresh-baked goodness a half-dozen at a time. Maybe you're tired and want to stop baking and go to bed. So line a baking sheet with some waxed paper (or parchment), roll the cookie dough into balls (or measure with a cookie scoop), place on the lined baking sheet, pop it into the freezer until the balls are solid, then plop six or 12 each into Ziploc bags and stash in the freezer. Unexpected guests? Bake off a dozen cookies and be a snack-time rock star. Having a crummy day? Bake off a few cookies in your toaster oven. It's hard to be pissed with a warm Toll House cookie in your hand. Bake the cookie dough, right from the freezer, for a few minutes longer than the regular number of minutes.

Don't take it or leavening it
Funny things, ingredients. In the democracy that is cookie baking, every ingredient contributes to the outcome. If a recipe calls for baking soda or baking powder, it's there for a reason. No, you cannot omit them. Nor can you necessarily sub one for the other. And take special note: self-rising flour has leaveners built in. It is not the same as all-purpose flour. You cannot use them interchangably.

Get cracking
If your recipes call for eggs, don't crack them directly into the ingredients already in the bowl, crack them, one at a time, into a small dish, and add to the larger bowl before cracking the next egg. Eggs are relatively cheap. Cheaper, certainly, than the butter your recipe likely starts with. If you crack a crummy egg into a bowl of creamed butter and sugar, the whole mess will need to go into the garbage. Eggs. Separate dish. Always.

More is better
When I'm in a baking zone, I don't want to break my rhythm to wash utensils. Buy several sets of measuring spoons and cups so you can keep on goin'. For that matter, it's a fine idea to have more than one mixer bowl for your KitchenAid (or mixer of choice) and paddle attachment so you don't have to wash them between uses.

Sheet safety
Cookie sheets might not look like they're in need of washing, but if you're baking cookies with nuts and then cookies without nuts, wash the sheets in between batches. Most people with nut allergies simply steer cleaer of baked goods if they're unsure of the source, but even traces of nut oils can cause reactions to those allergic to nuts. Play it safe. Better yet, bake the nut-free cookies first.

Packaging productivity
This year, I made seven collections of cookies, so I got into a serious assembly-line mindset. I cut all my cellophane at once, then, in a rare moment of brilliance, created index cards on which I wrote each recipient's name and number of each cookie variety they'd receive. Then I made tape loops for the back of each card and stuck each card to the counter, on top of which I placed a square of cellophane. Like a landing site for the cookies. As I took each variety out of the freezer, I was able to quickly dole out the cookies among all the cellophane, then tie each bundle with a ribbon and tag. I made stations on my dining table for each recipient and grouped the cookies around each person's name until I was ready to fill their boxes.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kristen said...

Fantastic tips. I always flash freeze cookie dough balls so I can have hot and fresh cookies when guests come over. I think it's a really nice touch.

3:24 PM  
Blogger bakingmom said...

I like your blog. Especially the advice about washing the cookies sheets between baking cookies containing nuts and those that don't!

4:13 PM  

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