Sunday, December 14, 2008

Baking Day!

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So when we last parted, I had a fridge full of cookie dough. Again, organization is the key to cranking out 400 cookies. I started with the sugar cookies because they are the most time consuming. I use a pastry board to roll out my dough, I keep a bin of flour close by to dust the dough and board when they get sticky, and I have some good tools. A bench scraper is a great tool to use to scrape up the stuck on bits of dough left on the board between rolling batches, it also chops hunks of chilled dough off. I also have these nifty things called dough bands which are chunky rubber bands that go on each end of the rolling pin. They are different widths so you can roll your dough perfectly even. It is a great idea for sugar cookies because you naturally roll your dough thinner at the edges and these bands virtually eliminate that problem.

I probably have 100 cookie cutters, I choose about 6 every holiday to use. It makes it easier to decorate when you narrow the selections. I start with one chunk of dough and roll and cut, re roll and cut and so on until I have done 2 sheets of a particular cookie cutter. I usually pick a small cutter to fit in the scraps and therefore have very little waste. I use cookie sheets with Silpats and start one in the oven. I set the timer for half the time and when it buzzes, I move that pan to the lower shelf and put in another, set the timer for the other half of time, and when it buzzes, remove the first, move the second and put in the third. It is a great method. You have a little time to roll out cookies, when one pan has cooled you can slide them onto the racks, and then stack them when they are completely cooled. I toss my used cookie cutter into the hot soapy water in the sink and move on through all the cutters. I follow the same method for the gingerbread men. There is more waste with this dough, it doesn't seem to re roll as well time after time. So now 2 batches, sugar and gingerbread are done, don't wash those silpats or cookie sheets, just the cutters, rolling pin, wipe down the workspace and start on the others.

The Mexican wedding cakes are pretty simple, adjust the temp, and start chopping off sections of dough,(I weigh mine to cook evenly), roll into balls and bake the same as the sugar, rotating your sheets halfway through the time. These cookies along with the pecan crescents need to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before you roll them in their respective sugars. I keep the leftover sugars to toss over them when I store the cookies. The Mexican wedding cakes will need to be tossed in powdered sugar before presenting, they seem to absorb it.

The pecan crescents are easiest rolled first into balls and then small cresents. Be careful to not taper the ends to a point, they look best plump.

The chocolate gingerbread cookies are another drop cookie that simply gets rolled in hand. Prior to baking they should be rolled in granulated sugar, non pareils or coarse sugar like I use. They are then baked and cooled and they are fabulous!

And the last to bake were the cardamom slices. The log is chilled firm, I use the bench scraper to slice uniform slices, about 1/4" and bake with a good 2" between them. These incredible cookies spread quite thin, but the flavor is great, and they are better dipped in chocolate. But that will happen on chocolate day! All these cookies should be stored in an airtight tin or Tupperware, alone, with crumpled wax paper and at room temp. The sugar cookies and gingerbread are OK in the fridge, but the cookies rolled in sugar with get gooey.
Whew! It is really just a cycle of sheets in and out of the oven, you have to get in a rhythm. But in one day, it's done! I came across a few new recipes I may try this week and I do see truffles in my future. I'm helping a friend with a dessert party on Friday so I have a home for all this stuff I'm baking!

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