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How to avoid cookie disasters

Tracy Mattson of Cookie ... take a bite! has years of experience to help her avoid cookie disasters such as burned bottoms or shaped cookies that look like cow pies.

For those with less experience, Matson shared a few tips on getting the best results, whether you're baking for a cookie exchange party, for gifts or for your own family:

-- Buy fresh baking soda and baking powder. They are cheap and they make a big difference.

Holiday Cookie Ideas

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-- Use good-quality organic butter, such as Clover or Straus Family Creamery. It has less water content and will give your cookies a richer flavor.

-- Use good-quality chocolate - Valrhona, Cacao Barry or Caillebaut — that is around 64 percent cacao. "I don't use milk chocolate," she said. "The dark chocolate is less sweet so that you can experience the other flavors."

-- If possible, use fresh vanilla beans scraped from a vanilla pod. If you want to add moisture, use vanilla extract.

-- Sift your dry ingredients together, so that you don't have to overmix your dough.

-- Mix the flavorings, such as lemon, ginger and cinnamon, into the butter. That will intensify the flavor. But remember, a little cinnamon goes a long way.

-- Make the dough a day ahead, unless it has peanut butter or egg whites in it. That will intensify the flavors.

-- Refrigerate the dough before and after you cut it into a shape, so the cookies hold their shape.


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