By Sheridan Lane, director, LLCC culinary program and operations
While cookies in my book are the perfect treat for any time of year, the cookie season is quickly approaching. Some of you may be scoffing that the holiday decorations were up before Halloween was even over, but there is no better time than just before Thanksgiving to get your holiday baking in order. Here are three big reasons to get your baking started now:
1. For now, stores are chalked full of all the necessary ingredients to make lots of cookies. Stock up on all the essential ingredients as well as buy a few giveaway cookie plates or treat bags to use as host gifts once the season is upon us. In the world of uncertainty and possible pending quarantines, getting holiday ingredients now is a smart way to go. Freeze the butter. Eggs will keep, and so will cream cheese. Get plenty of sugar, especially brown sugar, if you like your cookies with more of that deliciously caramelized flavor. Make sure you have staples like cinnamon, cream of tartar, baking soda or powder (buy new if yours has been in your cabinet for a while) and vanilla. Plus, don’t forget to get food coloring, sprinkles or other fascinators if you like to decorate with the little ones in your lives. If you are short on storage, get a sealable plastic tote to store all of your cookie making ingredients, that don’t go in the refrigerator, until closer to the time. With an unpredictable holiday season just around the corner, you will be ready in an instant!
2. There is also a science to making great tasting cookies. One often skipped step is refrigerating the dough. Pastry chefs know that this, hands down, will improve the taste of your cookie. That being said, make the dough, refrigerate it overnight, and the next day using a portion scoop, make dollops of dough and freeze them on a cookie sheet. Then transfer the frozen dough balls into Ziplock freezer bags. Come December, you can simply take a few out at a time and bake for easy fresh cookies all season long. If you are looking to geek out on the science of cookie baking, check out this link for cookie science. There is so much science here in just a simple chocolate chip cookie!
3. When you spend time getting ingredients now as well as pre-making the dough, you can spend more time with less stress this holiday season.I know I look forward to a day in December (probably last minute and/or unplanned) when my nieces will want to come over and make cookies, and I want to be ready. 2020 has been the year of unpredictability, but let’s face it, not even a pandemic should interfere with holiday cookie baking!
Here are two recipes of cookie dough I am getting ready to make now for enjoying later! The first is a new recipe taken from November 2020’s edition of Food and Wine magazine that I cannot wait to try. The second is my all-time favorite cutout cookie recipe and definitely calls for making the dough ahead of time!
Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles
1 ¾ c granulated sugar, divided
2 T. ground cinnamon
1 ½ t. ground cardamom
½ t. ground nutmeg (freshly ground recommended)
½ t. ground cloves
1 t. kosher salt, divided
2 ¾ c all purpose flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda
8oz unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 ½ orange blossom water
1 t. vanilla extract
Step 1: Making the dough ahead. Cream butter and 1 ½ c sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Add orange blossom water and vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and ¾ t. salt and slowly add to creamed butter mixture until well incorporated. Cover and chill dough overnight. In a separate sandwich sized Ziplock bag, combine ¼ c sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves and ¼ t. salt. Reserve to roll dough balls in the next day.
Step 2: Using a 1 ½ ounce cookie scoop, roll approximately 20 balls in the spice and sugar mixture and freeze on a parchment paper-lined jelly roll pan. Once frozen, put dough scoops in a gallon Ziplock freezer bag. When ready to bake, take out of the freezer and place on a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and when thawed, bake cookies for approximately 12 minutes.
Cut Out Cookies
2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 c. sour cream
1 t. baking soda
2 t. lemon flavoring
5 c. all-purpose flour (will need extra flour when ready to roll out cookies)
Cream butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream and baking soda. Add eggs one at a time, beating each time, and finally add lemon flavoring. Slowly add flour and mix well. Refrigerate dough overnight and then fill quart sized Ziplock freezer bags with dough. When ready to cook, thaw dough in refrigerator overnight. Roll ¼” thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake in preheated oven to 425 degrees for approximately 8-10 minutes depending upon shape of cookie. Ice and decorate as desired.