JOPLIN, Mo. —
I used to think making slice-and-bake cookies was the easiest way fill the cookie jar. Then they came out with pre-cut cookies that are ready to be placed on the cookie sheet. Opening the package is the hardest part.
But what if you want to whip up a batch of homemade cookies for a holiday gift, or just because they sound good? Yahoovoices.com gives some tips for making sure your cookies are the best they can be:
- First, make sure you start with fresh ingredients. While sugar will keep quite a while, other ingredients, especially flour, baking soda and flavored extracts, can lose flavor and become stale over time.
- Preheat your oven. Don't stick that first batch in the oven when it's only 225 degrees. Wait until the oven has reached the desired temperature of 350 degrees.
- Invest in insulated cookie sheets. My friend, Carolyn Phillips, recently asked me the difference between a cookie sheet and a baking pan. A cookie sheet has smooth sides for easy exits and a baking pan has a lip all the way around that can result in undercooked tops and overcooked bottoms of your cookies.
- Your second batch will not take as long to bake as your first batch, if you don't cool down the cookie sheet between batches. That second batch will start cooking as soon as you put the dough on a hot sheet.
- Don't use substitutions unless you are sure it's going to work. You don't want to risk wasting a bunch of ingredients because you decided to experiment. If you want to try a different flavor, remove a small amount of batter and try it on that.
Recipe calls for butter? Make sure it's softened to room temperature. Be careful if you try to soften it in the microwave. I've found recently if I zap it for 12 seconds, stop the microwave, then zap again for 10 seconds, a stick of butter is just right for mixing.
All microwaves are different, so you will need to figure out the ideal settings for your softening needs. If you need melted butter, that might be a good time to try to soften first. That way, if you go too far, it's not a total loss.
- Be sure to add the ingredients according the the directions. Cream the butter and sugar then add eggs, etc. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together, then add the dry ingredients to the mixed wet ingredients.
- Like microwaves, ovens cook at different rates, so be sure to set your timer for a couple of minutes less than suggested to make sure you don't overcook. Consider the suggested time a guideline, not a hard-fast rule.
I've found I need to pull the cookies out of the oven to eyeball them because, for some reason, they look less done by the oven light than they do by the kitchen light. I like to pull my cookie sheet out a little early and let the cookies continue to bake on the sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
I remember years ago when Marcella Fullerton would bring chocolate chip cookies to the Bank of Carthage and she shared that secret to her fabulous cookies. She was right! Good luck baking those holiday cookies!
Our plans were for my grandson, Atlas, to stay with his grandfather while his mother, great-grandmother and I attended the Sunday open house hosted by Belsnickle creator Linda Lindquist Baldwin. He asked if he could go with us, and, of course, we said yes with the warning to not touch anything.
He turned out to be quite the little shopper. He came home with two items that caught his fancy, and I'm sure they'll be treasured for years to come. Who can blame him when he saw the beautiful Belsnickel Santas and other figures? I would much rather he get something he can pass down to his kids than a toy that's going to last a week or two. It's a great tradition that we will continue.
Get into the holiday spirit of music and giving at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Carthage Memorial Hall. The Duke Mason Band will be performing its annual Christmas concert. A $10 toy or $10 cash will get you in.
The proceeds will benefit the LaVerne Williams Children's Christmas party, sponsored by the Carthage Police Department and benefiting several hundred local children. This is near and dear to my heart as LaVerne was one of the most awesome men I've ever had the honor of knowing. The children's party was so important to him. I know he would be proud of this legacy.
Today, I'm sharing three cookie recipes from my Cookies of the States folder. There's rich pecan bars, no-bake rolls that are actually bars and soft chocolate chip cookies. Adding the pudding to the dough for the chocolate chip cookies really does produce super-moist cookies.
Melissa Adams and Julie Smith have both brought these cookies to work, and there's really something special about them. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!
Pecan pie bars
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups corn syrup
2 1/2 cups pecan halves
Spray 10-by-15-by-1-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Beat crust ingredients on medium speed until mix is fine crumbs. Press into pan. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, beat all filling ingredients, except nuts, until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour over hot crust. Bake 25 minutes or until filling is firm around the edges. Cool and cut into squares. Yields approximately 48 bars.
Salted nut rolls
1 (12-ounce) package peanut butter chips
1 (24-ounce) package roasted, salted peanuts
1 (10-ounce) package miniature marshmallows
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
Grease 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer half the peanuts on the bottom. Mix remaining ingredients together, except peanuts, and melt together. Pour over peanuts in pan then sprinkle remaining peanuts over top; press down. Cool and cut into squares.
Pudding chip cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup margarine
1 (12-ounce) package chocolate chips
1 (4-ounce) package vanilla instant pudding
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Nuts, if desired
Mix margarine, sugar, vanilla and pudding; beat until smooth. Beat in eggs. Add flour and baking soda; stir well. Stir in chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.