Bake a Perfect Batch of Cookies
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Bake a Perfect Batch of Cookies

The right ingredients make all the difference.
Flour

All of our cookies are made with all-purpose flour. Bleached and unbleached can be used interchangeably. Choose pre-sifted flour, for more accurate measuring.

To measure: Stir flour in its canister or package to aerate, then spoon into the appropriate size measuring cup (use nested plastic or metal cups -- not a glass measure). Level off excess with a metal spatula.

Tip: During the dry winter months, flour has less moisture content, so if dough remains crumbly after all the dry and wet ingredients are combined, add a tablespoon or two of water or milk.

Granulated sugar

When our recipes call for sugar, we mean granulated sugar unless otherwise specified. When purchasing, be sure to choose pure sugar. Blended sugar, a combination of granulated sugar and dextrose (a corn-derived sweetener), may be less expensive, but it is only 70 percent as sweet as pure granulated sugar, and it absorbs more liquid, which could yield improper results when baking. Measure granulated sugar as you would flour.

Brown sugar

Brown sugar is a combination of refined white sugar and molasses, and is available in light and dark varieties (the latter has a higher molasses content). We use light brown sugar in our recipes, but either works well.

To measure "firmly packed brown sugar": Place a dry measuring cup on a sheet of waxed paper, and pour a generous amount of brown sugar into the cup so that it exceeds the level of the rim. With the flat side of a knife, firmly pack the sugar into the cup; level off excess.

Confectioners' sugar

Also known as powdered sugar, confectioners' sugar is a combination of finely granulated sugar and cornstarch. Measure as you would flour or granulated sugar. Sift the sugar if there is evidence of any lumps.

Butter and margarine

Use only butter or margarine that comes in sticks -- no whipped, reduced-fat or tub products. Read the label to be sure the product contains 80 percent fat (butter or margarine with less fat and more water is not recommended for baking). Unsalted butter or margarine can be used interchangeably with salted butter, without having to add any more salt to a recipe. (Note: Recipes for more delicate cookies may call for butter, with no margarine substitutions.)

Shortening

Use unflavored solid vegetable shortening stored at room temperature. Some brands are available in premeasured sticks, but most are sold in one-pound and three-pound containers and should be measured with graduated dry measuring cups and spoons. Shortening can be substituted for butter in some recipes, but the flavor may suffer.

Eggs

Eggs are available in different sizes -- medium, large, extra-large and jumbo. Our recipes use grade A or AA large eggs, the most common size used for baking. When buying eggs, be sure they have been stored under refrigeration and have clean, uncracked shells. Also note the expiration date. Finally, always store eggs refrigerated in their carton.

Storing cookies

Most holiday cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for one week without losing their fresh-baked flavor. For longer storage, freezing, not refrigerating, is best.

  • Cool cookies completely.
  • Arrange in an airtight container lined with foil or plastic wrap, separating the layers with wax paper or plastic wrap.
  • Seal, label and freeze up to one month.
  • Thaw at room temperature in a single layer 30 minutes before serving. Bar cookies may need to thaw 1 to 2 hours.

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