Baking Tips For the Holidays
With cookie baking season upon us, here are a few baking tips that will make your days in the kitchen easier. If there were ever a time to pull out all the stops, it is the holiday season. Trays of cookies put out for guests or wrapped and given as gifts, everyone enjoys these little treats.
Cookies that include chocolate, brown sugar, molasses, or honey benefit from being double panned which simply means placing the baking sheet with the cookies on top of another baking sheet. Because the bottom of these cookies can burn before they are baked through, double panning insulates the cookies and slows the heat to the bottom of the cookie so it doesn’t over bake or burn. For more information on this important technique see my post on Double Panning.
Piping cookies can be hand wrenching when the dough is stiff. At the bakery, we hand piped cookies and during the winter months, the bakery could be very cool if we weren’t by the ovens.
These baking tips will keep your hands from aching and stiffening. Microwave the dough briefly to soften it and make it more pliable. You should warm only enough dough that fits into your piping bag or cookie press since the extra dough will stiffen while it waits. Care should be taken to only warm it slightly. If overheated, the texture of the baked cookies can change or they can spread more than usual.
Chilling cookies that are piped or cut out prior to baking can help immensely to prevent spreading or losing their shape while baking. It also makes cut out cookies on wax paper much easier to move to baking sheets to chill. They don’t get stretched out of shape as they can when they are soft. The edges stay crisp and professional looking.
Rolling dough between wax paper
Speaking of cut out cookies, rolling the cookie dough between two pieces of wax paper is an invaluable assist in keeping them thin or simply rolling out soft doughs. While I have seen parchment paper and even plastic wrap suggested, I like wax paper best for several reasons. First, it is waxed which allows cookies to release easily from the paper. With parchment paper, they can stick. Second, you can see through the wax paper. With parchment, you can’t, so if there is a problem with rolling out you won’t see it. Parchment is also thicker which allows for deeper wrinkles on the underside of the dough.
Under no condition do I suggest plastic wrap as it is difficult to get it smooth top and bottom. It is also flimsy which makes it difficult to flip the dough over from time to time to smooth out the wrinkles on the underside. If not smoothed out, the dough will stop moving out when rolled. The wax paper can be used on consecutive roll outs unless it has torn, at which time it has to be replaced.
When the cookies are rolled between wax paper, it is easy to pick up the paper with the cookies on it, place it on a tray and freeze or chill it for a few minutes. Removing the excess dough is so much easier and the cookies don’t stretch out of shape.
Here is a good tutorial for rolling cut out cookies between wax paper.
Storing cookies in airtight tins rather than paper boxes helps keep them fresh much longer. The tins can be purchased from container stores, especially this time of year. I have had many of mine for years and they have served me well.