Taking Care of your Cookie Cutters

As I carefully wash and dry all the Valentines cookie cutters used in the last few weeks, I thought it might be a good time to discuss the care of cookie cutters.
There are 3 basic cookie cutters that most of us have used.
Molded Plastic, Tin or Stainless Steel, and Copper (my fav.).
Plastic: Great all round cookie cutter. Simple shapes, easy to use, can be use for several ‘cutting jobs’.
Plastic cookie cutters are the only cutters that may be placed in the dishwasher. Most will be just fine.
I would bundle very small ones so they don’t get lost. Just tie a plastic bread wrapper twisty to bundle them together.

Tin or stainless steel: Never place these in the dishwasher. Only wash by hand with a mild soap. Dry completely before storing. (I hand dry all my cutters) Never let them just ‘air dry’ unless you keep turning them to drain the water out of the small gaps. (Water left in the cutter seams, will cause rust.)

Copper: LOVE copper cutters! They are so beautiful, easy to use, release cookie dough well and you can use them for decorations! Hand wash and dry. Sometimes you will need to use a copper cleaner to keep them looking bright. Be sure to completely clean the copper cleaner of the cutter before the next use.

Storage: Storing your cutters is easy. After they are all washed and dried, place them in large plastic bags by holiday.
This way they will be clean and ready to use next year!

Happy Baking!
Cathy

National Sugar Cookie Day!

Hello Cookie Decorators!

Have you baked, iced, eaten, gifted, or crumbled a sugar cookie today??  It’s National Sugar Cookie Day!  Yea! It’s like Christmas/New Years/ and The 4th of July to all of us cookie bakers and decorators!  I’m so excited about it…..I made and gave cookies away yesterday!  (Photos to be posted this week on a new cookie tutorial).

So…..you have the recipes, go bake some cookies.  Give some away……..It makes you feel so happy!

Really Happy Baking!

Christmas Cookies on Video!

It’s here! Just when you need it most!
Check out my “Bolg” for the newest “Video Tutorials on Cookie Decorating”.
These are about 2 minutes of quick, little cookie tips to help you with those last minute gingerbread cookie decorating ideas.
They are FREE! Just let me know if they helped.
Happy Holiday Baking!
-Cathy

Free Cookie Decorating Videos

I have just posted several free cookie decorating videos on You Tube. Please check these short videos and let me know what you think. (I am working on additional videos.)

Also, for you last minute cookie decorators I am offering customized on-line Skype classes. Please let me know if you would like to sign up for these personalized one-on-one classes. (Please see the top post.)

Mitten Cookie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npjDdVQyOS4

Snowman:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUaGG4OoItY

Sleigh Cookie:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y66Jmm32UM

Christmas Tree:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YSy8us7hsI

One Minute Snowflake Cookie:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEmz0HkwIG8

Thanks!
Cathy

“Love the South”!

Just got back from teaching Cookie Decorating Classes for the wonderful folks at Viking Cooking School in Memphis.

What a  lovely group of people!   Everyone is so warm and friendly!

“Southern hospitality” is alive and well in Memphis!  Can’t wait to return!

The classes all decorated beautiful Santa cookies, Happy Snowmen cookies,  Snow-covered Sleigh cookies and  Sparkle Snowflake cookies!  (And did a wonderful job!)

Photos will be posted on my facebook account, Cathy’s Designer Cookies.

Thank you again Memphis!  Love ya’ all!

Happy Holiday Baking!

Cathy

Packaging your Treats

It does seem a little early to be discussing packaging and the how-to’s of wrapping your cookies for gift-giving.  But, I like to share this information in the summer.  This way, as you are out shopping you can keep an eye open for tins, boxes and baskets on sale that you can store away and use when gift giving season rolls around.  Funny thing, the holidays come exactly the same time every year yet we are some how ‘surpised‘ to see how fast they arrive.  Nothing is worse than  making some beautiful cookies and having nothing to deliver them in.  I shop/buy  year round for unusual containers, tins of all kinds, pretty boxes and totes to place my cookies in.  Even the most humble homemade treats look fabulous in a lovely tin or little hat box.  It’s like getting two gifts.  #1, the cookies or treats you made and #2, the tin or container they arrive in.  Many people re-use the containers to store items or pass it on to a friend.

Keeping the cookies fresh is really important.  I always package cookies in airtight containers.   Because home bakers do not use any type of preservatives, most cookies will last 4 to 7 days without loosing quality.  After this, most cookies or baked goods start to dry out or become stale.  The exception are highly spiced cookies like my gingerbread cookies.  These cookies will last several weeks if kept in an airtight container.

It is important to keep crisp cookies together and soft cookies, (like chocolate chip cookies) in a different container.  Do not mix the two types of cookies.  The crisp cookies will absorb moisture from the soft cookies making both cookies taste less than perfect.  If I am going to ship two different types of cookies together, I’ll place each type of cookie in different air tight containers.  Then place the two types in the same box and ship it off.  I know the cookies will taste great when they arrive.  It is fine to place your cookies in large zip-lock type bags.  Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can before you seal it.  I like to wrap decorated cookies in their own little cellophane bags and hand tie the bags with a pretty ribbon.  This way, each cookie looks like a little “gift“. You can purchase these bags at party stores and hobby stores.

Happy Baking!

Cookies of Louisville!

A really big Thank you to all of the students in my Cookie Decorating classes in Louisville, KY this week!

Classes were held at Campbell’s Gourmet Cottage in Louisvillewww.gourmetcottage.com (ph.502-893-6700).  The class members made wonderful Holiday cookies in the “Christmas in July” Cookie Decorating Class.  About 18 students participated in each class. The students learned several decorating techniques and applied them to a Giant Santa cookie, as well as several other cookies we created in class.  Everyone’s cookies were simply outstanding!  Students were able to take home 4 beautiful Holiday cookies they decorated in the class.

In addition to the Giant Santa Cookie, the class made a large Holiday Cottage, an adorable Snowman and a Decorated Christmas Tree.

I encourage everyone in the greater Louisville area to check out the classes at Campbell’s.  Sign-up for a cooking class, and bring a friend!

(Special thanks to Jennifer for bringing her gal friends Cindy and Amber!  We all had way too much fun!)

Looking forward to September!

Happy Baking!

Baking Sheets: The Key

I know, I know. What could be more boring than a discussion about cookie baking sheets?
I taught a cookie decorating class last night and question came up about baking sheets. “Why couldn’t I just use my moms’ old thin baking sheets?” was one question. I understand perfectly well, why you would not want to toss out an old baking sheet. It’s still good, right? If it’s like the baking sheets I grew up with, it probably was thin, light weight and would warp after about 4 minutes in a hot oven.

I like to use very heavy gauge aluminum baking sheets. There are several good quality manufactures of baking sheets. Several are commercial quality. I prefer shiny aluminum to dark coated sheets. Even though they might be a bit expensive, I consider them an investment. These baking sheets will last forever.

Baking on a good quality baking sheet is a joy. Cookies bake evenly, because the heavy sheet transfers the heat to the whole pan. No ‘hot’ spots. Cookies bake to a golden brown.
Plus I use these baking sheets under casseroles, pies, cobblers and anything else that might bubble or spill over in the oven. Even roasting vegetables or potatoes is easier. The result……I almost never have to clean my oven! I do have a self-cleaning oven but why turn it on and heat up the kitchen to 500 degrees for several hours? Yikes! Think of the energy you save!
One more trick is to line the sheet with parchment paper. I use this under my cookies and don’t have to wash the baking sheet. Yea! Less dishes to wash!

I recommend you invest in at least 4 high quality baking sheets. The sheets must cool down between batches of cookies. Do not place chilled cut out cookies on a hot-from-the-oven baking sheet. The butter in the cookies will start to melt and your cookies will loose their shape.

Happy Baking!
Cathy

Cookie Tips and Techniques-2

Okay…….here it is!  The one technique you will use nearly every time you bake  a batch of sugar cookies.

After you roll out your well chilled cookie dough, cut out the shapes you want with your cookie cutters.

(Note:) Bake same size and same shapes of cookies together on a baking sheet.  This will insure even baking of all cookies.

Once you have placed your cut out cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, place the whole tray of un-baked cookies in the freezerfor 20 minutes.  Remove the tray from the freezer and place in a preheated oven.  Bake as usual.  This will do two things.  1.) It will re-freeze the butter in the cookie and  2.) It will help keep the cookie shape during baking.  What happens:  The butter, if not frozen or well chilled, it will start to melt as soon as the baking sheet is placed in the  hot oven.  If the cookie is frozen before baked, the cookie will start to bake before the butter starts to melt.  It’s that simple!  Once I discovered this simple tip I was amazed at how well my cookies kept their shape during baking.

Also, be sure you let your baking sheets cool between batches of cookies.  Never place chilled cut out cookies on a hot baking sheet.  This is why I recommend buying several heavy duty baking sheets.

Try it this week end!

Happy Baking!

Cookie Tips and Techniques

I know all of you want to make really “pretty ‘ cut out cookies that don’t look like the dreaded “blob” cookie. ( Note to self,  if no one can tell what the baked cookie shape is………time to read the “Cookie Tips and Techniques.” ) Again.   You want nice, sharp cookie edges.  (This is, after all why we buy cookie cutters…….so the cookies will have some resemblence  to the cutter shape.)

Always have all of your ingredients at room temperature.  This will make creaming your butter and sugars so much easier.  Be sure the butter and sugars are well creamed before adding the room temperature eggs.  Add one egg at a time. Combine each egg and then add the next.  Making sure all of your wet ingredients are well combined will make adding your dry ingredients much quicker and easier.  You do not want to over beat the dough once you have added the dry ingredients.  Beat just to combine.  

Chilling your cookie dough is very important.  Well chilled dough doesn’t stick to the surface as you roll out it out. (I mean cold.)  The more flour you add as you are rolling  your dough out, the  less tender the baked cookie will be.  Incorporating more flour also makes the cookie ‘grow’ larger.  I only re-roll my scraps one or two times before I bag up the left over dough to use for drop cookies or “eating cookies”.  I’m sure all of you cookie bakers have made the ”giant…is it a poodle or Easter egg” ? cookie.  No one can tell what it is!!  Scary! 

More tips Friday!

Happy Baking!