Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Sugar Cookie Recipe

October 10th, 2007 by RG in Dessert Recipes, Ask A Chef

How to Make Perfect Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Recipe

I received an email from Kathy about preparing the “perfect” sugar cookie. She told me she made two batches of sugar cookie dough using the same recipe and one batch turned out perfect while the other “was puffy and lost shape.”

Kathy wanted to know why this happened so I contacted my friend Chef Jennifer Field, a graduate from the Orlando Culinary Academy, for some help since I’m not much of a baker. Jennifer had a bunch of questions that were answered in Kathy’s next email. Here is what she said,

“The batches were made and cooked on different days. The second batch was refrigerated for a couple days (at least). The recipe was the same, however, I may have beat my shortening, sugar and egg mixture longer the second time. Temp the same.”

Kathy’s Definition of the Perfect Sugar Cookie

“My definition of a perfect sugar cookie is one that is light and a little crisp with the buttery icing softening it just slightly. I’m not into a fluffy cakey sugar cookie. I definitely want one that will hold the shape and design of my cutter. I want to make snowflake shaped cookies at Christmas and my cutter has little cut outs you can add for more detail.

This is the recipe I used:

1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cup flour

I’m not sure exactly if my mixing was different either time usually I mix in this order: sugar and fats together till creamy, add eggs till fluffy, add dry ingredients that have been combined beforehand, and end with vanilla.
Bake at 325 degrees in a convection oven.

I’m anxious to hear from you and what your suggestions will be for my success.
Thanks again – Kathy”

Chef Jennifer Field’s Recommendations

With these facts in hand, Chef Jennifer was able to point out why the second batch did not turn out “perfect” plus offer some changes to Kathy’s recipe for future cookies.  Here is what she said,

“What immediately jumps out at me is the refrigeration time for the second batch of cookies.  I see that your leavener was baking soda.  Baking soda in a baked good only has one chemical reaction:  it fizzes and bubbles when it gets wet.This, of course, happened when you first mixed your ingredients together.  Since you baked your first batch immediately, the soda did its job correctly.

As your dough for the second batch chilled in the fridge, the chemical reaction ceased. Your rise was probably uneven because you beat more air into the dough (you said your mixing time was longer the second time) so, even though the soda had fizzled by the time you baked, you still had lots of little air bubbles that were probably not evenly distributed in your dough, causing a wonky rise.

I see that the recipe called for 1 teaspoon each of soda and cream of tartar.  It sounds like an old recipe.  Try substituting double acting baking powder next time.  Double acting powder has two chemical reactions:  one when it gets wet and a second one when it gets hot.  So, even if you let your dough hang out in the fridge and lose the first reaction over time, you’ll still get a fairly even second boost of leavening when you put your dough in the oven.

Since you’re also interested in your cookie holding a fairly detailed shape after baking, I’d also consider using shortening in place of the oil.  Since oil is liquid at room temperature and when heated, cookies will tend to spread a bit.  Shortening, being a solid at room temperature and a fairly slow melter, will yield a cookie with less spread.

I hope this helped!  Good luck with your baking.

Chef Jenni Field
Pastry Sous Chef
The Ravenous Pig

P.S.  Your idea of a perfect sugar cookie made me drool.  Just a little:-)”
Me too! – RG


Read Full Post »

Christmas Tree Decorating Tips

Tree decorating themes vary widely according to individual tastes. Many people like to decorate with a specific color or color combination. Here are a few basic tips, which may be helpful to you. The suggested sequence for decorating a tree is as follows:

  1. Lights
  2. Garland
  3. Tree Trims
  4. Ornaments
  5. Tree Top and Skirts

Tree Trim Tips

Tree Height
35 to 40 24″ to 3′ 30 pieces
70 to 80 36″ to 4′ 42 pieces
200 to 400 50′ to 55″ 35-50 pieces
400 to 600 85′ to 90′ 50-75 pieces
500 to 700 100′ to 110′ 75-100 pieces
600 to 800 130′ to 145′ 175-225 pieces
800 to 1000 185′ to 200′ 200-300 pieces

Regular Doorway
18′ to 25′
Double Doorway
20′ to 35′
Small Picture Window
18′ to 25′
Large Picture Window
20′ to 35′
Fireplace Mantle
18′ to 25′
Ceiling Decorations
50′ to 100′

C-7 & C-9 Lights*:

To calculate the amount of C-7 and C-9 lights for your tree, you may want to do the following:

HxD (divided by 2) for trees up to 7 feet.
HxD (divided by 3) for trees 7 1/2 feet and up.

For example, a 6 foot tree with a diameter of 45 inches would be as follows:

6×45 (divided by 2) = 135 lights

*Not all C-7 and C-9 lights are approved for artificial trees, but Cool Bright by GE is a good choice. Check packaging.

Do’s and Don’ts of Lights:

Never hook mini lights and C-7s or C-9s end to end. Connect only the same light sets together. They must be on their own outlet. This is also true when hooking your treetop to your light sets. the 3 outlet cords work very well in this situation. Do not hook more than 3 sets of lights together end to end. This can cause overloaded circuits and may blow fuses in your light sets. Some lights are commercial grade and you can connect up to six lights together. (Check packaging). Discard damaged sets (broken/cracked sockets, frayed/bare wires or loose connectors). Turn off all indoor lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.

Read Full Post »