The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

December 6, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Baking tips aid homemade cookie making

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.

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