Christmas in July 2019 - Day Twenty-Four

Discussion in 'Christmas in July' started by PamelaG, Jul 24, 2019.

  1. PamelaG

    PamelaG Moderator Staff Member

    Baking tips. I should have saved my chill your cookie dough tips for today! If you haven't read it yet, it's in the Cookies thread in the Recipe Archives.
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  2. FrostyShimmer

    FrostyShimmer Well-Known Member

    Hmmm....baking tips...

    I make all of my doughs up at once. If I'm going to have company at different times in December I divide the dough up so I can offer more variety to my guests, though I'll have fewer of each kind.

    I find cookie dough freezes wonderfully. Freezing cookies doesn't seem to work for me. I think there's too much moisture in my freezer because no matter how well I try to wrap them, they always end up with an odd taste.

    Baking on parchment is good for cookies for company or to be sent into school, work, etc. - no worries about cookies sticking.

    Use a piece of thread rather than a knife for slicing rolls of dough, pastry doesn't squish the dough, so it maintains a perfectly round shape with a nice clean cut.

    I like to take my time and do fancy icing jobs on my cookies, but since moving here I've found I get white splotches all over my icing. I think it's because there's just so much moisture in the air here. That's a problem to which I'd love a solution if anyone has one.
  3. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    Tips from the kitchen of Aunt Jamelle ;)

    Drop cookie recipes can be shaped into a log, chilled then sliced before freezing and/or baking to get professional looking results! Wrap log in plastic wrap, then foil, and chill overnight before slicing. The tip from FS on using thread would work great here - or plain unflavored dental floss works great too. If dough is pretty firm a sharp knife run under HOT water and dried off quickly works well too!

    As mentioned, chilled dough will help keep cookies from spreading. If a cookie does spread, however, use the back of a spoon to gently press back in the sides of each cookie AS SOON AS you take then out of the oven. There is only so much you can do with this but it can really make a difference.

    When baking a new recipe always do 1-3 cookies first to test baking time. Note whether starting from chilled or warm dough (chilled dough always best). Try 1-2 minutes less than recommended baking time if your oven tends to run hot. If possible, bake one sheet at a time on a rack in the middle of the oven for best results. When perfect baking time is figured out, write it down on the recipe!!!

    Cookies that are filled with bits of yummy goodness, candy, cookie bits - whatever - can be dolled up a bit by saving back some extra bits to press into the tops of each cookie just before popping them into the oven.

    Never put cookie dough on a hot baking sheet. It will melt and spread and just yuck. Rotate your sheets. If you can, always cook on parchment paper. It distributes the heat nicely and makes for easy cleanup. You can reuse the same sheet of parchment many times before it gets brittle and you’ll want to toss it.

    If a recipe calls for softened butter and you forgot to take it out of the fridge a few hours ago: Run really hot tap water. Take a drinking glass that will hold the whole stick of butter - still in the wrapper - and let it sit under the hot water until glass is HOT. Set stick of butter on one end and turn the hot glass (dried off) over the top of the butter stick and let it sit and think about the error of it’s ways. Repeat as needed until butter is softened.

    If you try to soften butter in the microwave, do it on defrost. A few seconds at a time. The risk is the uneven heating melting part of the butter. Unsalted butter is much harder to soften evenly this way.

    To rescue partially melted butter. Throw an icecube in the bowl with the butter and stir until the butter hardens back up again - remove what is left of the ice cube. Stop and think - wow, that was cool. Let’s melt some more butter so I can try that again.

    When working with any sticky dough remember your friend, cooking spray. Use it on your hands and any measuring cups or utensils that will interact with the dough to keep things from getting too crazy. Re-apply the spray as needed.

    Flour is cheap and the store brand will work fine - however - if you can, buying a better brand/quality of flours really does make a difference. King Arthur flour is a good one. Unbleached is better is my opinion. All sorts of options out there!

    Instead of mixing the spices with the dry ingredients, cream them in with the butter and sugar. The flavor compounds are fat soluble mixing them with the butter first will intensify the flavor.

    What if you aren’t sure if the eggs in the fridge are still good? Let’s say it’s a week or so past the expiration date. Fill a large bowl of cool water. Place the eggs - a few at a time - in the water. If they float or look like they are trying to float - toss em. If they stay on the bottom, they’re golden. If they’re standing up a little, use right away or toss, up to you.

    If recipe calls for room temp eggs and you forgot to take them out? Run a bowl full of warm to slightly hot water and put the eggs in that for 5 minutes or so - just take one out and hold in your hand to see if the chill is off before using them.

    If you are mixing icing with food coloring and are trying to get a true Christmas red - try adding a little brown food coloring as well. It deepens the hue and avoids the neon/pinkish red problem. Go to a craft store with a cake decorating section for best selection - gel food colors give most intense colors vs. liquid. Dip a toothpick into the gel and drag though what you are trying to color. Repeat with additional toothpicks until color is achieved.

    If pouring a glaze over cookies - or on anything where you KNOW it’s going to run down and off their sides - make cleanup easy. Have the cookies on a wire cooling rack - sitting on sheets of newspaper. You’ll still have to clean the rack when done, but just roll up the newspaper and toss.

    Remember extracts when making icing - or even as something to mix into store bought icing. Vanilla of course - but Almond extract is lovely - smells like cherries to me! There is Maple extract, orange, lemon, etc. Add a tsp or so, mix, taste and add more if desired. You can add a pinch of salt too if wanted.

    Getting bread to rise: Bread likes places warm and draft free. So no doors opening and sending an icy blast. One option is to turn oven on lowest setting for 5 minutes - turn off - let sit a bit with door cracked. Stick your hand in the oven - your want warm but not hot air in there. When it’s right, put in your dough to rise - covered with a dampened lint free towel - either leave oven cracked or close - see what works best. Leave the oven light on, that will help too.

    Another option is what I call “putting the bread to bed:) If you own a heating pad, you can do this. Take some old towels and put one down surface of choice - I’ve used the nightstand in my bedroom for this - just make sure it is somewhere away from drafty windows. On top of the towel place the heating pad. Cover the pad with another old towel. Set the bowl or whatever that has your dough in it on top. With additional towels make a “nest” around the sides of the bowl. Turn heating pad to LOW and let it rise to it’s heart content. Check it every so often in case your heating pad turns off automatically. You can cover the dough with plastic wrap lightly spritzed with cooking spray when using this method. Or a dampened towel works too.

    Getting a nice brown color on bread: Most recipes will call for an egg wash, Just an egg, beaten with a fork - you can add a dash of water to thin a bit, but you don’t have to. This helps give bread a golden color when finished. An alternative to egg wash is simply brushing on some milk. You do this just before baking. Depending on the bread you can brush on the wash and then sprinkle on herbs/seasonings - the stickiness of the wash helps them stick to the bread dough. Grated Parmesan cheese (like from a can) is great to sprinkle on too.

    Flash Freezing - Whenever you are wanting to freeze something that you are afraid will stick together if you just dump it in a freezer bag as is - i.e. berries, cookies, cookie dough, etc. you can flash freeze it. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Set all the little bits of goodness on the wax paper, close but not touching. Freeze until they are good and hard. Then they can be put in a freezer bag for longer storage. Use the wax paper itself as a kind of funnel to easily pick up and slide the contents into freezer bag all in one go. Easy peasy.

    Cutting Dough - If you ever have to cut long strips or shapes out of dough - don’t use a knife -use your pizza cutter. SO much easier!

    Baking Soda - You know how people put an open box in the back of the fridge to absorb odors? I figure the same principle would apply to the open box in my pantry that I use for baking. So I keep it in a plastic Ziploc bag to keep it odor free!

    Brown Sugars - I always keep these in a Ziploc bag as well, all the air squeezed out. Helps keep it from hardening!

    Cake Tip - To avoid crumbs in icing:Brush layer of jam (probably will need to heat slightly to get to brushing consistency) over the cake and let it set a bit before applying icing. You can also do a very thin layer of icing - called the "crumb layer" - let it harden and then go back and ice the rest of the way.
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  4. DahliaDoll

    DahliaDoll Well-Known Member

    What great tips AJ!

    For cookies dipped in chocolate, I put a couple inches of hot water in my slow cooker, turn it on low, place a bowl of melted chocolate on top of the water. It keeps the chocolate at the perfect temperature for dipping. I stir mixed nuts into the left over chocolate, drop spoonfulls onto parchment or waxed paper to cool and have nut clusters.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
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  5. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    DJ - THAT is brilliant! I've used that trick before to keep the chocolate warm but never thought of that way to save the remaining chocolate vs. tossing! I hated getting rid of the leftovers!!! THANK YOU for sharing!!!
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  6. Minta

    Minta Administrator Staff Member

    Another shortcut for butter that you forgot to take out of the frig, pull out your food grater. I have the 4 sided grater and each side is a different hole size so I will grate a stick of the butter on the side with the largest holes. By the time you are done grating the butter most of it will be pretty soft.

    When dealing with molasses or honey. Grease the inside of the measuring cup with a little oil. Molasses and honey will slide right out with leaving a sticky mess.

    I like to make several different types of cookie at the same and then pop the dough into plastic bags or Tupperware containers and chill. When I do my big bake fest right before Christmas, the night before I start baking I will make the cookie dough for 4 to 6 of the cookies on my list and let them chill over night. The next morning I come down to a clean kitchen with a cleared kitchen island and counter space. That way I can get busy baking, decorating and cooling the cookies without having to stop to make room or clean up. That evening I will pre-make the rest of the cookie dough on my list, let them chill over night and bake them the next day.
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  7. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    What an amazing tip. I have struggled with dipping in the past so I am going to try this. TFS.
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  8. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    Another great tip. You girls are amazing.
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  9. Holiday_Mom

    Holiday_Mom Well-Known Member

    My mom used to wrap up cookies in brown paper and put tape on it like the butcher would do. She would write "Liver" on it. We never even suspected that cookies were there! I have done something similar. I save the large meat freezer boxes that had a bulk package of hamburger or steak. Then I put the cookies in there before putting the box in the freezer. :p
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  10. Myron's Mom

    Myron's Mom Well-Known Member

    Yes to everything above!!!
    I’ve invested in a kitchen scale and weigh everything now, I found that I get consistent results in my baking
    along with making sure my baking powder and baking soda are fresh.
    Mixing dough up the night before is a must for me and my back. The only time I don’t is if I’m freezing the raw dough. I will flash freeze the dough balls and vacuum seal into small packages.
    I will flash freeze baked cookies and vacuum seal also. It works well for just about all my cookies unless they are something fragile. If I’m giving as gifts I will package them separate and put names on them so all I have to do is defrost and put in a decorative container.
    When I was working and time was always limited I would pre measure all my dry ingredients and label them. Then on baking day all would be ready to mix. It would save me a little bit of time on baking day.
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  11. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    This is a great one, Myron's Mom!!! Really what this tip is doing is taking the place of the store bought prepacked mixes - for much less and you know for sure what is going in it! This can be done weeks or months ahead!!! I often use masking tape written on with a sharpie marker to keep track of what is what when I do this.
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  12. DahliaDoll

    DahliaDoll Well-Known Member

    I have flat cookie sheets, so when I bake cookies on parchment paper, I just slide the whole piece of parchment with cookies on it over to my cooling rack. I don't mess with trying to spatula a warm cookie off of the paper. I have 3 stacking racks, so I just stack the next rack and am ready for the next batch. By the time I'm ready for a 4th rack if needed, the first batch is cooled and can be removed from the rack to free it up for re-use.

    I don't save the parchment paper, but I definitely could re-use it.
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  13. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    Nice idea on the "slide" method! Easy peasy!!!

    I am usually baking a lot at once so it is easy for me to reuse the sheets until they are obviously ready to be tossed - however - IF I was going to be baking more the next day and wanted to save them out of the way - I'd brush them off, stack the sheets and use a plastic skirt hanger to clamp on to one edge - then hang the whole thing up in the pantry until needed again!

    FYI - Parchment paper is much cheaper from Sam's than my local grocery store. I get two huge boxes that last forever (205 ft in each box!) for a little over $11 - can't beat that!
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  14. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    Just remembered another "trick" - use a skirt hanger to hold a printed paper recipe you are following - hang from the knob on an upper cabinet for easy viewing and to keep it up out of the way of splashes and spills :D
  15. DahliaDoll

    DahliaDoll Well-Known Member

    I do this often throughout the year for favorite recipes, including pancakes. When I'm making a favorite recipe, I often use a separate container for a second recipe of whatever and put all the dry ingredients in it, label and have ready the next time I want to make that recipe. This works great for things like cornbread, brownies, cookies, bread, quick bread, pancakes, etc.
    Holiday_Mom, AuntJamelle and Minta like this.
  16. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member


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