baking tips Robin's Cookie Baking Tips
Robin's Olson's Baking Tips, ©1997

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1. Always use the freshest ingredients possible. Buy new baking soda and baking powders at least every year. (I buy new every 6 months.) Age tends to weaken those ingredients and render them ineffective, so why waste valuable time and money on other ingredients if the recipe doesn't work out?

2. Butter is better. Butter adds incomparable flavor and texture to baked goods. For centuries, butter was considered a luxury. Take that, margarine! When baking use unsalted 'sweet' butter, that way you can control the salt content.

3. Be prepared before you bake. Have all the ingredients out on the counter before you start, so that you don't spend time looking for ingredients and then forget which step you were on.

4. Measure ingredients accurately. A level measurement means flat at the top of measuring spoon or cup, use a metal spatula to level off. Heaping means as much as the spoon can hold.  One extra pinch of salt can make cookies too salty. Not enough sugar, bland.

5. Use a non-stick cooking spray to coat measuring cups for gooey ingredients like honey and molasses, they'll slide out easier, less waste, easier clean up.

6. Use a small ice cream scoop for drop cookies, as it makes the process faster. Also gives professional results, and the cookies will be the same size and proportion.

7. Over mixing the dough, once the flour has been added can create too much gluten and the result could be tough textured cookies. When it's time to add the flour, mix or stir until just combined on a low speed or do the last part by hand with a wooden paddle.

8. Use a pastry mat (with baking guidelines imprinted) or parchment paper to roll your dough onto when using cookie cutters.

9. Use Reynolds Parchment Baking Paper to line cookie sheets as the parchment prevents the cookies from sticking and over browning. (No more burnt cookies at the cookie exchange!) Line bar cookies with parchment paper overlapping the sides and when done, lift the entire bar out of the pan. Let cool before cutting, you will have perfectly sized bars and no sticking or breakage!

10. Bake cookies 2-4 days before the cookie exchange. The cookies should sit out over night to release excess moisture. Cookie, if stored properly in airtight tins, can last up to a few weeks and remain fresh. Store in a cool, dry place.

11. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for one minute before transferring to cooling racks to keep them from breaking.

12. Some tend to over bake their cookies by thinking that they don't look done when, in fact they are. Follow the recipe time for baking, you can't tell just by looking at them. Some cookies puff up and then settled down. Set the timer one minute early and check. It's easy to bake longer, impossible to undo over baking. Realize that the oven will be hotter towards the end of your batch. Either lower the temperature or pull them out early. The cookies will continue baking for one more minute before you transfer them to the cooling rack. The color of the underside of a cookie should be the same color as the top. A cookie that is crunchy soon after baking is over done. A cookie that is supposed to be crunchy should be moist and chewy soon after baking and then firm up after sitting out over night.

13. Stack your cookies in groups of 6-8, cool on the racks overnight. Lay a sheet of wax paper loosely over them. Do not seal the cookies for at least 8 hours to let all the moisture out. If you seal freshly baked cookies right away, they may crumble. Allowing excess moisture to be released allows cookies to remain fresh for about 3 weeks. Store in cookie tins, one type of cookie to a tin, layered with wax paper. Keep tins in a cool, dry place. Make sure the tin is airtight by placing a piece of wax paper on the top of tin and putting lid on. I have a table set up in my garage, which gets as cold as a refrigerator in the winter. All the filled cookie tins are set up on the table.

14. Most cookie dough such as drop or rolled can be made ahead of time. They'll keep well in the refrigerator for up a week, if stored properly. Cookie dough absorbs others flavors, so wrap tightly. Wrap logs or disks in wax paper and then tightly in plastic wrap. The same type dough logs or disks can be plastic wrapped together en masse. Cookie dough can last in the freezer up to 3 months. For dough that is to be frozen, cover dough rolls or disks in wax paper, then in aluminum foil or meat packing paper, tape shut, and label.

15. If you intend to ship cookies through the mail as gifts, send them in a sturdy, airtight cans. Be sure to let the cookies sit out overnight first, so the moisture is released and isn't contained within the can or the receiver will get a box of crumbs. Cut out rounds of wax paper and layer each row of cookies, preferably of the same type on each level to prevent flavors from mixing. Fill the can to top so the cookies don't move around. If there is still space, crumble wax paper make sure cookies are tight and don't move around if you shake the can lightly. Even delicate cookies can be shipped successfully if they're packed well. On the top layer, use a round of wax paper larger than the can lid so it will have a tight seal. Cookies are absorbent. For extremely fragrant cookies that have strong spices like ginger, allspice, and cardamom, separate into a different tins before shipping.

Enjoy baking and remember...broken cookies have fewer calories!

Go here for a condensed text version to print for your CE guests. Include with your invitation.

Happy Holidays!

~Robin Olson

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