Winter Cookies, What a Treat!

I am SURE all of you think January/Febuary cookies are a bit of a no no. But truth is…..a bit of sweet makes the chilly winter months seem more enjoyable.
One of my wintertime favorite cookies is a Snowball Cookie. Yes, it is the old fashioned mexican tea cake or pecan ball or sandies (as my mother called them). These buttery, nut ball are formed and baked just a few minutes then rolled while still warm in fluffy powdered sugar! Perfect with a cup of tea or hot cocoa!
Here’s the recipe:

1 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teasp. pure vanilla
2 teasp. water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (or hazelnuts or almonds)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Beat butter for 30 seconds; add granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and water; beat well. Stir in flour and pecans. Don’t over work the dough. Roll into 1 inch balls, place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 15 to 20 min. in a 325 degree oven. Or until very lightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes then roll in the powdered sugar. Makes approx. 37 cookies.
Happy Baking!
Cathy

Flour; "What’s Best"?

“What’s the best flour to use”? Is a question I am often asked. I say, “Depends on what you are baking”.
Flour is the backbone and structure of your baked goods. It is a binding and an absorbing agent. It affects the quality of your baked goods. It adds flavor and nutritional value to the baked product. That’s a lot for humble, little ‘ol flour to do.

“All Purpose Flour” is just what the name suggests; this flour can be used successfully in a variety of baked goods. It is a mixture of soft wheat flour and hard wheat flour and gluten flour. (Gluten adds protein). I have used “unbleached all purpose flour” for many years. I like this type because it has less chemical treatments. For most home cookie bakers this is the flour I recommend. I like to buy organic flour when I can find it. (I just feel good about using anything organic.)

Do not be tempted to use cake flour for your cookie baking. Cake flour is extra fine, soft milled flour (low gluten) and your recipe measurements will be off. (If all you have is cake flour, substitute 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for each cup of all purpose flour your recipe calls for.)

I look for “low protein content flour” for cookie baking. (9.2 or lower) This will help produce a tender cookie.
For bread baking you want high protein flour. (14.5 or higher.) Since you want to develop the gluten in bread, you need this extra protein in your flour.

All flour has a shelf life. The expiration date should be printed on the package. If you buy a large quantity of flour on sale, you can freeze the extra. Be sure it’s wrapped well and placed in a freezer bag. Flour can keep 5 to 6 months in the freezer.

So, why have I said all of this??? Just to say it’s okay to use a good quality all purpose flour. Most home bakers will be very satisfied with the results.

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!