Baking Dos, Don’ts, Recipes

Baking Dos, Don’ts, Recipes

Cranberry and Lime Bars

Photography by Terry Brennan, food styling by Lara Miklasiewicz

It’s time to check off your list—baking skills—and make sure you’re ready for the holiday baking season. Cookies and bars are always welcome at get-togethers, whether you’re hosting them or arriving with a delicious plate of the good stuff on hand. I’ve collected tips and recipes from the pros to review so you can create bread with confidence not just this holiday season, but anytime you want to bake.

Tips from Twin Cities chef and Saint Paul College culinary instructor Jason Ross will help you turn out the cookies you’re looking for. Everyone’s favorite chocolate cake can be made soft and chewy or crunchy if you have pastry chef and author of “The Baking Answer Book” tips and recipes Lauren Chatmann. Plus, level up your bars with more tricks from Chatmann below.

Cookies from Chef Jason Ross

Scrape the bowl until you get a completely mixed dough: Do this after adding the eggs, or adding dry ingredients to wet, or wet to dry ingredients. The blender attachments don’t quite reach the bottom and sides of the bowl, so portions are left unmixed. Use a rubber spatula to stir the unmixed portions back into the dough, scraping down the paddle attachment.

Chill the dough: It makes the mixture easier to handle and gives the flour enough time to fully absorb the liquid ingredients and produce a more consistent dough. For the chocolate cake recipe here – and any soft cake – bake from frozen. This will result in a soft, crunchy cookie that stays chewy. Keep cookie dough balls ready in the refrigerator during the holidays in case of a “cookie emergency.”

Finish with salt: Just sprinkling a little grit on top of the crackers will hit the palate first, bringing out a surprising flavor. Don’t use enough that you can see them – like a pretzel – but just enough for a pinch of salt.

Cool cookies on rack: The cookies will continue to cook on the hot pan. Unless they are too soft or fragile to handle, remove from pans with a metal spatula and let cool on a wire rack.

Color signalsPay attention to the brown color, especially around the edges, and the light color in the middle. This helps define a perfectly baked cookie. Since the cookies are small, a little time makes a big difference. If a few cookies are done on a tray, pull them out to cool and finish cooking the rest of the tray.

Rotate the pans halfway through the cooking process: All ovens have hot and cold spots, so rotate the pans to get even cooking across the pan. Be quick, you don’t want the oven to cool down.

Spread cookies
The way cookies spread and thin has a huge impact on crispness, softness, and chewiness.

  • More butter and sugar will add more air and make it more spreadable. The cookies are less creamy and less spready and chewy.
  • A lower temperature, even just a few degrees, slows the cooking process and gives the dough more time to spread. A higher temperature will make the cookies thicker because they set more quickly.
  • More sugar — especially sweet sugars like honey, molasses, or corn syrup — will spread more easily and make softer cookies.
  • Overmixing the flour reduces spreading and makes the cakes doughy.

Indispensable tools

scoop: Use a portion control scoop instead of a spoon to avoid messy fingers and scoop balls of the same size quickly and easily. The cookies will bake more evenly. Use it for ice cream too!

Digital scale: Especially helpful in measuring flour – the weight difference between cups of flour can be surprising. If you don’t have a scale, avoid pressing the flour into the measuring cup; Alternatively, place it in the cup and smooth it with the straight edge of a butter knife.

Parchment paper and silicone mats: Both work well and have an impact on cooking along with ease of cleaning: the cookies will spread more on the silicone mat and stay tighter on the parchment. Parchment paper will brown the cookies a little better, while silicone will produce a less crisp cookie. If I had to pick one, it would be parchment, but they both have their place depending on which cookie you’re baking. If you’re using aluminum pans without either, try a little oil spray and maybe dust them with flour if you’re having trouble with the cookies sticking.

More tips From Ross and use your skills with the Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe here.

Cookie and Bar Tips and Tricks from Lauren Chatman

Tips and Tricks: Soft and cakey chocolate chip cookies
• Cream the butter and sugar together. This will pump some air into the dough, so the cookies will puff up a bit in the oven.
1/4 A teaspoon of baking powder with soda will provide more lift.
• Subtract the egg yolk and use extra egg white. Egg whites contain more water than egg yolks, which when evaporated in the oven helps cookies rise like mini-cakes.
• Use twice the amount of brown sugar compared to white sugar. The brown sugar, which is slightly acidic, will react with the baking soda in the recipe to get a higher rise.
• Add a little extra flour – enough to add structure, but not so much that it dilutes the sweetness of the sugar.
• Cool the dough. Cold dough will spread less in the oven, creating a cake center.
• Increase the temperature. If the recipe calls for 350°F, increase the temperature to 375°F. A hotter oven will allow the cookies to bake before spreading them, resulting in the centers of the cookies appearing.

Tips and Tricks: Fluffy and chewy chocolate chip cookies
• Use melted butter, not softened, to get a thick, chewy texture.
• Extract an egg white and add an additional egg yolk. The yolks contain more fat than the whites, which gives the cookies a dark, rather than cakey, texture.
• Use twice the amount of white sugar compared to brown. White sugar, which is neutral and not acidic like brown sugar, will cause the cookies to spread instead of rise. It will also give your cookies a nice crispness around the edges.
• Heat rejection. A cool oven will allow the cookies to spread without drying out.
• do not make it too much. The cookies will continue to harden and dry out as they cool, so take them out of the oven while they still look a little moist on top.

Find more Chatman’s tips and recipes for soft, crunchy, crunchy, and chewy cookies are here.

Plus: Elements of science come together to create your ideal treatment Cake or Fudgy Brownie Recipes

Make something different this season with the following recipes for Cranberry Lemon Bars by Lauren Chatman and Walnut Lace Cookies by cookbook author Georgianne Brennan, featured in Real Food magazine.

Cranberry Lemon Bars

Makes 16 servings | Recipe by Lauren Chatman

A touch of lemon zest gives these simple bars great flavor. Give them a bakery-style finish with a drizzle of white chocolate.

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
Half a cup of unsalted, soft butter
Half a cup of sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Half a cup of dried cranberries
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel, plus more for garnish
12 ounces white chocolate chips

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, tucking it into the corners and leaving a 1-inch overhang on all sides.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, using an electric mixer, mix the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until well combined. Mix in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture over low heat until the ingredients are mixed together. Add cranberries, lemon peel, and 1/4 cup white chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth using a spoon. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden around the edges. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Melt the remaining chocolate chips and use a fork to sprinkle them over the bars. Garnish the top with lemon peel if desired. Leave it for an hour until the chocolate becomes solid. Use aluminum foil to lift them from the pan onto a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut them into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Walnut lace cookies

Photography by Terry Brennan, food styling by Lara Miklasiewicz

Walnut lace cookies

Makes 3½ dozen cookies | Recipe by Georgian Brennan

These fluffy cookies are described as being rich and crunchy, and they are also quick to prepare. For variety, use pistachios, almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts. When the biscuits are still warm, they can be rolled into a thin, cigar-like shape. Or place two cookies together, sandwich-like, with chocolate frosting between them. Lace cookies tend to absorb moisture, so they should be stored in cool, dry conditions, such as an airtight container.

A quarter cup of walnuts, halved or chopped
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar, well packed
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¾ cup quick-cooking oats
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. In a small frying pan over medium heat, toast the walnuts, stirring or shaking. When fragrant, after 3 to 4 minutes, remove to a work surface and chop finely. Sit aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place parchment paper on a baking tray.
  3. In a heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter. When foam appears, add the sugar, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Add the molasses and corn syrup, add the walnuts, oats, flour, salt and vanilla and stir until well combined.
  4. Remove from heat and drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches of space (cookies will spread as they bake). Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and the edges are slightly darker and starting to pull away a little.
  5. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, until slightly firm. Using a metal spatula, transfer to a flat surface or wire rack to cool. If desired, while still pliable, shape cookies around the handle of a wooden spoon to create cigar-like cookie rolls.
  6. Leave to dry at room temperature for 45 minutes, until no longer pliable.
  7. To store in an airtight container for up to 1 week, line the container with wax or parchment paper. Place cookies in a single layer. Place a layer of wax or parchment paper on top and repeat.

Cooking Note: If desired, make a cookie sandwich by spreading a teaspoon of chocolate cream on the bottom of one cookie, then covering it with the bottom of a second cookie, pressing together gently. Enjoy within 1 to 2 days.

Nutrition information (per serving)
• Cranberry Lemon Bar: 270 calories (104 from fat); Fat 12 grams (Saturday 8 grams); Shol 28 mg. Sodium 168 mg. Carbohydrates 38 grams; Fiber 1g; Protein 4 grams
• Walnut cookies: 38 calories (14 from fat); Fat 2g (Saturday 1g); Chol 3 mg; Sodium 16 mg. Carbohydrates 6 grams; Fiber 0g; Protein 0 grams

Hungry for more cookie recipes?

Glazed Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

Enjoy the seasonal taste of adult-style gingerbread, and don’t have to worry about whether you’re starting with a small bite of the foot or head of a member of the gingerbread family. (If you want to bake them in advance, these cookies can be stored carefully in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.)

Cranberry, Macadamia Nut Cookies Recipe

Keep old cookie friends but make new ones this holiday baking season

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