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Bake perfect Christmas cookies

December 3, 2012

By Kris Elliot

Even though my kids are teenagers, they still look forward to baking and decorating cookies for the Christmas season. It is a family tradition, one I hope they will pass down to their children. We are developing memories that will last a lifetime.
There are times when their cookies encounter little problems. Despite the fact that we make at least 15 dozen cookies a year, there are times when they just don’t turn out like they should. An example: the cookie dough sticks to the rolling pin. When that happens, lightly dust the surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking. You may need to occasionally repeat dusting with flour. You can also use a pastry cloth and stockinet-covered rolling pin to make rolling the dough easier, and to help prevent dough from sticking. Rub flour evenly onto rolling pin and pastry cloth for easy handling. If dough is too soft, refrigerate for about one hour.
You have rolled out the dough and put them on the cookie sheet only for them to spread and become flat after they have been baked. If this happens, refrigerate the dough until well chilled (1 to 2 hours). If the dough is too soft, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour.
It’s not necessary to spray the cookie sheet. This can cause the cookies to spread too much and brown too quickly around the edges.
You must start with quality ingredients if you want a quality cookie. Never use a low-fat spread with 60 percent or less fat in place of butter or margarine in baking recipes. Low-fat spreads have higher moisture content and will make cookie dough very soft.
If you want cookies that will be evenly browned, you may want to use a baking stone, or a shiny, aluminum cookie sheet at least two inches narrower and shorter than the oven. The sheet may be open on one, two or three sides. If you choose to use a dark colored cookie sheet, watch it carefully. It may cause your cookies to brown quicker.
Unless you have a convection oven, place one cookie sheet in the oven at a time in the middle of the center rack of the oven. If cookies are baked on the bottom rack of the oven, they may burn or not bake evenly. Make sure there is about 2 inches of space around the cookie sheet to allow for good air circulation.
Once cookies are made, you can freeze for later use for up to 2 months. Arrange cookies in a container lined with plastic food wrap or aluminum foil. For best results, wrap cookies individually in plastic wrap. Separate with layers of aluminum foil or plastic food wrap.
Store in an airtight container, with label and date. Thaw cookies, by letting them stand loosely covered on a serving plate for about 20 minutes before frosting or serving.
For answers to your baking questions, contact me at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in the Saline County Extension located at 1605 Edison Avenue, Suite 15 in Benton, call 501-303-5672, or e-mail me at kelliott@uaex.edu. You can also like on Facebook at UAEX Saline County Family & Consumer Sciences for your daily holiday tips.

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