Monday, December 19, 2016

My grandmother's best cookie-baking advice

I only have a few of my grandmother's cookie recipes, and will have to post her famous Aunt Sally's Cocoa Drops recipe one of these days ... a true heirloom.  But today as I was baking Christmas cookies in my own kitchen, I was reminded of something my grandmother often did -- something I should do much more often.  It would save me a lot of trouble in the end.

Especially when trying out a new cookie recipe, my grandmother would follow the recipe exactly, and preheat the oven to the specified temperature.  Then she would bake a test cookie or two, setting the timer for the specified number of minutes. 

And then she would see how the cookie came out.  Was it underdone?  Overdone?  Too brown?  Not brown enough?  Did the dough spread too much or not flatten out enough?  She would then make adjustments to the baking time temperature and sometimes, even to the dough, adding a bit more flour or liquid if needed.  I think she probably learned to do this as a result of baking in unpredictable wood stove ovens.

I should have done this a couple of weeks ago when I made Whipped Shortbread

Photo from Taste of Home
This is an old family favorite that I've made countless times through the years.  I always cut the recipe in half because it makes nine dozen.  I thought that's what I had done this time.  But apparently I made a mistake in the measuring, for the cookies did not stay nice and round as you see in the above photo.  They spread out too much and the edges were thin and crispy.  The flavor was still great, but the proportions were definitely off.  I will serve them on cookie trays at home and church, but will not use them for gifts.

Today I made a second batch and the cookies turned out perfectly.  As I measured, I tried to think what could have gone wrong.  There are only a few ingredients in these cookies -- butter, confectioners sugar, flour, and cornstarch -- so there isn't a lot to remember.  But as I think about it, I believe what may have happened is that I cut the amount of flour and butter in half, but left either the cornstarch or confectioners sugar measurement (or both!😕) the same.  I could have avoided wrecking an entire batch of these by just baking a test cookie and paying attention to the results.  At the time, I noticed the dough seemed soft, but thought it just needed to chill awhile.  That turned out not to be the case!

My Gram has been gone for 25 years.  But her cookie-baking advice is still golden!

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