If you’re looking to jump-start your baking skills, you might as well begin with cookies. For starters, there usually aren’t any super-complicated pieces of equipment, ingredients, or Le Cordon Bleu-type knowledge required. And secondly, most cookie doughs are forgiving, meaning even those of us who are challenged in the kitchen can turn out a tasty cookie. Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff’s 250 Treasured Country Desserts is a collection of tried-and-true recipes that have been passed down through the generations—and all of which have stood the test of time. As a bonus, this cookbook offers tips and techniques to guide you along and boost your baking know-how.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when making cookies:
- Don’t use imitation ingredients: Go for the real vanilla extract, high-quality chocolate, and butter (not margarine).
- Butter should always be used at room temperature: Lumps of cold, hard butter in the dough will cause flat cookies.
- Chocolate should be melted over low heat to avoid scorching: A double boiler or metal mixing bowl over simmering water should do the trick.
- Toast nuts before adding them to the batter, to maximize flavor: Nuts should be toasted whole and then chopped. To toast, preheat the oven to 300˚F. Spread out the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 7 to 10 minutes.
- Raisins that are hard and shriveled going into cookie dough will be hard and shriveled in the baked cookie: To reconstitute, pour boiling water over them and let them sit for 10 minutes. Then drain off water and use as directed. For additional flavor, soak raisins in wine, brandy or fruit juice.
Check back tomorrow for a recipe from 250 Treasured Country Desserts.