This section ought to be titled
"shortening." Vegetable shortening, margarine and butter in some recipes
are interchangeable. Ask most experienced bakers, though, and they will tell you
that one of their secret weapons is plain, pure butter. Butter serves several
purposes in cookie baking, it tenderizes and conveys the flavor of the cookie.
Compare the difference between a shortbread cookie and that of biscotti.
Shortbread cookies seem to almost melt in your mouth, where as biscotti has a
much lower butter content and are hard and crunchy.
If a cookie recipe calls for
butter, I'd use the butter, especially in cookies where butter is the flavor of
the cookie. On the other hand cookies such as Molasses or gingerbread, I
wouldn't hesitate to use shortening.
Do not use "reduced fat" or
whipped butter products when you bake cookies, they can contain up to 58% water.
Besides the obvious of sugar as
a sweetener, sugar also helps to tenderize cookies and it helps the cookie to
absorb heat which browns the cookie. Sugar is also hygroscopic, which means it
draws moisture or water to itself.
There are basically 2 types of
sugar, white sugar and brown sugar, both light and dark. Both white and brown sugar
are refined. Brown sugar may get its color from molasses being added to it after
processing. The molasses, because of its high water content, helps brown sugar
have stronger hygroscopic properties than white sugar. This is why, in addition
to some flavor benefits, brown sugar and white sugar are often used in tandem in
cookie recipes -- they both help to sweeten, and the brown sugar boosts the
moisture-holding properties of the white sugar.
Granulated sugar and brown
sugar are rarely interchangeable. Brown sugar is moister, heavier and coarser
than granulated sugar, so it will also change the cookie texture.
There are many types of flour
that are suitable for cookie baking. For cookie recipes on this site, unless
noted otherwise, use All-Purpose Flour.
All-purpose: Flours labeled
"all-purpose" usually contain a blend of high gluten hard wheat and low gluten
soft wheat. When a flour calls for all-purpose you can use bleached or
unbleached flour. Has a protein count of 12 -13 grams per cup.
Bread Flour: Has a protein count of about 14 grams per cup.
Cake and pastry flour: Has a protein count of about 8 grams per cup and are used
when a very tender crumb is desired.
Why is this important? Gluten is formed by the amount of proteins in flour. When
gluten is developed it is what gives the dough the strength to rise. Gluten is
great in bread but not what you want when you make cookies, cakes or a pie crust.
Leavening agents are an important part of most cookie recipes. The most commonly
used leaveners for cookies are baking powder and baking soda. Possibly the
single biggest culprit in cookie failure is the tendency of the cook to misread
which one is called for and add the wrong one.
The big difference between baking soda and baking powder is that baking soda
requires the cookie dough to have at least one acidic ingredient, while baking
powder has its own acid built in as acid salts -- cream of tartar, usually.
Baking soda can be activated by buttermilk, sour cream, creme fraiche, yogurt,
fruit juices, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, honey, maple syrup and cocoa (not
the Dutch-processed kind, which is acid-neutral). A quick formula is: 1/2 to 1
teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of liquid.
Baking powder tends to be used in recipes that have no acidic ingredients, or
call for chocolate or cocoa. Single-acting baking powder produces all of its
bubbles when it gets wet. The batter must be cooked immediately. Double-acting
baking powder produces bubbles when it gets wet and again when it gets hot. This
means the batter does not have to be cooked immediately. For cookie purposes,
use the Double-acting baking powder. A quick formula is: 1 teaspoon of baking
powder for every cup of flour.
Eggs are another common cookie leavener, but their main job is to serve,
frequently, as the only liquid in the ingredient list. Egg whites tend to dry
out cookies, while egg yolks enrich and soften the dough.
What happens if?
You want the cookies to spread
more: Use all butter or add 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid (water, milk or cream) or use a low-protein flour such as bleached all-purpose (but not one
that is chlorinated) or add 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar.
You want the cookies to spread less: Cut the sugar by a few tablespoons or add
1/4-1/2 cup additional flour.
You want the cookies to have a chewy quality: Melt the butter instead of simply
using it at room temperature.
Note: Some of the information
in this article comes form the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
You'll find more
information here: Baking Tips
Sugarplum Shoppe for some of my favorite
Christmas Cookie Recipes.
Cookie Recipes] [Christmas
Bar Cookie Recipes] [Christmas
Cookie Swap] [Christmas
Candy Recipes] [Village
Candy Store] [Snowman
Soup Recipe] [Santa's
Claus's Kitchen Recipes]
Appetizer Recipes] [Christmas
Eve Dinner Recipes] [Christmas
Day Dinner Recipes] [Beverage
Stuff for Christmas] [12
Days of Christmas Recipes]
in a Jar Recipes] [Mix
in a Jar Recipes] [Razzle
Dazzle Recipes] [That's
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