Thursday, December 15, 2011

I did it all for the cookie, the cookie 1-Sugar Cookies

**Authors Note** About a week before Christmas my Mac went on the fritz and my blog on Sugar cookies was not done in time. I love this recipe and they are great for any occasion so ignore the Christmas-centric parts and just enjoy

So not only has it been a month since my last blog but this is the first blog to address my true food love; baking. When I started baking was when my interest in food really took off. Fresh, homemade baked goods, particularly sweets, make people happy. Making people happy should make you happy so baking makes everyone happy. Now baking is also closer to science then cooking and recipes, amounts, ratios, etc can not be played free and loose or your end result will be less awesome then it should. Baking can be a bit challenging at the beginning but if you follow a few steps and it all becomes routine it's really a walk in the park. So here are a few general rules to successful baking experiences.

1) Unless the recipes states otherwise bring all your cold ingredients up to room temperature
2) Make sure your oven is preheated to the proper temperature
3) Quality ingredients= quality results. Avoid Christmas Tree Shoppes vanilla extract and cinnamon etc
4) Sift together all your dry ingredients ahead of time
5) Better hardware= better results
6) preparation makes everything go more smoothly

Regarding hardware, if you"re really going to do a lot of baking invest in a stand mixer. I did. Save up your spare change and get a good one. I did. Literally. I turned all my coins into Coinstar for an Amazon gift card and got myself a Kitchenaid and I use it all the time. By hand and hand mixers work but are way more labor intensive. Also for cooking trays avoid anything labeled "cookie sheets" or "baking sheets" and go pursue nice heavy duty half sheet pans you can find at most cooking stores. Nothing fancy about them but they don't warp and they conduct heat like a superstar. Lastly invest in some silicone baking mats. They can be reused hundreds of times and nothing sticks to them

So the first baked item I want to discuss is cookies. Cookies are the perfect dessert as they are a special treat warm out of the oven, stay fresh for days and are ultra portable and a perfect bring along item. Now, as holidays are looming I want to discuss my 2 favorite cookies before its too late to show off your holiday baking skills. We're talking sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies. Both are made using the creaming method and both doughs come together quickly and easily. We'll go over sugar cookies first as making the dough is easy while rolling and cutting takes a little more practice


2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter

1 cup sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg lightly beaten

1 Tbsp milk

Step 1- Prep- Early in the day you're going to bake take out the 2 sticks of butter. Leave them wrapped of in a covered bowl. I do it before I leave for work and it's perfect when I get home. When you're ready to get going preheat the oven to 375. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat together the egg and milk in a small bowl

Step 2- add butter to work bowl of mixer with paddle attachment. Turn on low and start creaming the butter. You can increase the speed a bit. The color of the butter should lighten. Turn back to low and add the sugar. Increase the speed a bit for 10-20 seconds to finish creaming the butter and sugar. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl

Step 3- add the egg mixture and mix on slow for a minute until the liquid and creamed butter mixture are combined.

Step 4- with the mixer on low slowly add the dry ingredients. I use an oversize spoon and add a scoop at a time waiting for the flour to incorporate before adding another scoop. At about the halfway point, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl. The mixture will become denser and start pulling away from the sides of the bowl. When the last of the dry ingredients are added continue to mix until the dough pulls away from the sides completely

Step 5- separate the dough into 2 even pieces and form them into shallow disks. Wrap the disks in wax paper and put them in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or longer)

So at this point we're going to roll the dough to cut into festive shapes. This is not simple and takes some practice. I implore you to watch the video as to type the whole rolling process would be boring and repetitive. Some general hints ar:
A) use a well floured surface. Actually I prefer confectioners sugar as it won't change the consistency of the dough
B) while difficult to work with the dough must be cold. If it gets warm it will stick to your table and/or rolling pin. Keep a sheet pan in the freezer and if the dough gets to warm lay the cold sheet pan on top of it for a few minutes
C) Roll with even pressure to keep the thickness uniform. We're looking for 1/4" thickness
D) Choose sensible cookie cutters as the more elaborate they are the harder they are to work with
E) Try and get as many cookies as you can on the first pressing
F) Quickly re-roll the left over dough for a second pressing etc

Step 6- Arrange the cut dough on a 2 sheet pans with parchment paper of a silicone baking sheet. Don't crowd them (I usually go 6 to a sheet or a dozen at a time. Apply a liberal amount of appropriately colored sugar crystals

Step 7- Put in the oven for 7-9 minutes rotating pans once at 4 minutes. When the edges are just starting to brown they're done. Let cool on the pans for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling racks

I'm not kidding when I tell you these are probably the one thing I make that people can't get enough of and that are, with the exception of getting the rolling down pat, pretty damned simple to make. Well, if you have a stand mixer (go get one)