***Before launching into today’s wonderful post, I wanted to let everyone know that I am out of town (out of the state, actually) for a conference for my “real” job. I may be unable to approve and/or reply to comments right away. Thanks for your patience! Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging…***
Ahh, the humble sifter. It looks innocent enough, but this devious device will give your hand a serious workout. There have been many nights where I’ve
yelled screeched to my husband to finish sifting for me and my cramping hand. However, I can’t underestimate how important it is. Some recipes explicitly instruct you to sift – don’t ignore it! I also always sift my powdered sugar when making royal icing. Some bakers say that it doesn’t make a difference to them, but one bout of gritty royal icing was enough for me to always sift! Besides, you can get one pretty cheap (under $10). Take the time to complete this important step.
A necessity, you say? Is a cookie scoop really necessary? For me – it absolutely is! The thought of trying to make decent looking drop cookies by finagling two spoons together with a sticky dough sounds like torture. I promise that it will make a huge difference in the appearance of your cookies – they will look uniform…like a yummy, edible army. A scoop will also help ensure that your cookies are done at approxmitely the same time (different sized globs of dough = different levels of doneness). Plus, when I didn’t have a cookie scoop, I was always compelled to mold my misshapen balls of dough into something more presentable…and the only time you should be touching cookie dough with your hands is when you are shoveling it into your mouth (Salmonella be damned). Like a sifter, this item won’t break the bank.
I think a lot of new bakers just let their cookie, cake, etc. cool in the pan. The problem is that as long as your baked good is touching a hot pan, it will continue to cook. That means that cookies or cakes that looked perfectly done when they first came out of the oven will be a little too done after cooling down. Depending on the instructions in a recipe, I usually let cookies sit on the pan for a couple minutes to allow them to become firm enough to transport to a cooling rack. They cool down faster on the racks too – and that means a shorter wait until they’re in your belly (and on your thighs, and on your hips…)
Truth be told, I really enjoy using a hand mixer. There is something so….satisfying about the control and motion that using a hand mixer allows. However, the more cookies I have been baking and the more royal icing I have been making, this device has become invaluable to me. What used to be brought out mainly at the holidays for the Christmas cookie extravaganza is now a weekly staple for me. It really is a fabulous tool, though a pricey one.
I will NEVER bake cookies without parchment paper. Never ever. It makes such a difference! I don’t have to worry about greasing any cookie sheets, with super easy clean-up. I’ve never had any cookie stick to parchment paper – this is especially helpful for making gooey, soft cookies that have a tendency to make a sticky mess on your pan. Another fun trick with parchment paper: You can actually roll out your cookie dough directly onto the paper, cut out various shapes, remove the excess dough and voila! No transferring cookies to your cookie sheet – they are already there! Just pop them in the oven.
The more you know!