Tips for baking your best batch of holiday cookies yet


From Brandpoint Services

It’s the time of year when home bakers shift into high gear, creating delicious cookies to share with family, holiday parties or cookie swaps. Some bakers dare to experiment with new recipes, while others stick with old favorites. Yet, even the tried-and-true recipes don’t always turn out right.

Experienced bakers know how to achieve perfect cookies every time. But don’t worry! There’s no need to buy high-priced equipment or enroll in culinary school. All you need are simple tools, practical know-how and the best tasting, highest quality natural ingredients, including the holiday staple such as Ground Cinnamon, to make cookies that will please everyone.

Here are a few simple tips for delectable holiday cookies.

* Invest in a food scale. Baking is all about chemistry. For consistent results use a simple food scale. This is important when measuring flour, which settles and varies in density if scooped. The rule of thumb is: Every cup of white flour equals 5 ounces, though some sources may recommend less. Many recipes indicate required ounces or grams. The right amount of flour is needed to absorb the ingredients, and to provide correct ratios with raising agents.

* Chill the dough. After mixing ingredients, chilling cookie dough for an hour or more prevents cookies from over-spreading while baking. Time spent in the fridge also gives ingredients the chance to gel, enhancing flavors, especially if you’re using spices. Another upside: You can prepare dough ahead of time and chill until you’re ready to bake, making prep easier.

* Use parchment paper. No need for pricey baking sheets. Parchment paper on cookie sheets does wonders for preventing overdone cookie bottoms.

* Hone your decorating strategy. You don’t need a lot of skill to achieve beautiful results. Start with good dough (properly chilled) and use a variety of cookie cutters to achieve perfect shapes. Cool cookies before applying icing or toppings so they won’t melt or run. Use Food Coloring with no artificial dyes for the best results in colorful holiday-themed treats. Creating effects with a variety of toppings (candies, sprinkles, icing, etc.) will make it look like you spent days in the kitchen.

* Use high-quality ingredients. Always start with high-quality, fresh ingredients for the best taste and appearance. Make sure your flour and raising agents, like baking powder or baking soda, haven’t sat in your cupboard too long, losing their effectiveness. Using the best quality flavorings like Watkins All Natural Baking Vanilla Extract results in scrumptious holiday cookies. Unlike ordinary vanilla, which has a higher alcohol content, Watkins All Natural Baking Vanilla is made with flavor-rich Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. It is a double-strength vanilla, so you need only half the normal amount in your baking.

Here is a classic recipe to delight your family and guests.

Deluxe Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Watkins All Natural Baking Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
2 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 teaspoons Pure Orange,  Pure Lemon or Pure Peppermint Extract, to taste
Food Coloring

Cookies: Combine butter, sugar, egg, extracts and milk in large bowl. Stir in flour and baking powder; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours). Heat oven to 400 F. On lightly floured surface, roll dough one third at a time to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with floured cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes or until edges are light brown. Immediately remove to cool on wire rack.

Frosting: Combine all ingredients; beat until smooth.

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