Wednesday, May 16, 2012

That's How I Roll...

Time to make the doughnuts!  Sorry, what I meant to say is time to make the dough - NUTS, I forgot to set the butter out!  Well, let's get out all of the ingredients and let the butter get to room temp while measuring everything.  (Before I do that, let me apologize for my photo layout - they were supposed to be 3 across, but Blogger is NOT cooperating with me today!  Neither is the weather, as you can tell when the clouds really rolled in on some of my photos...)  So, let's get started on our cookie dough!

While measuring ingredients, slice butter into a mixing
bowl to soften to room temp - I usually let the butter
sit for 1/2 hour to an hour (it doesn't take that long to
measure everything, so I like to pre-measure dry
ingredients for future batches if I have the time : )

Cream the butter (using paddle attachment on speed 1)

Butter isn't done yet...scrape your blade...

Butter is almost careful
not to over-beat... it may cause
cookies to spread in the oven...

Butter is just right!

Now add the sugar...

...and mix on 1...occasionally scrape the blade...

...not there yet - don't over-beat...

...done creaming the butter and sugar!
(note: storm rolling in...)

Now add salt...

...flavorings (love my DASH measuring spoon)...

...the eggs...

...and mix on 1 - but not too long...

...until it looks like this!

Now add the flour, a large cup at a time...
(note: the storm has passed)

...give it a stir before mixing so it doesn't poof all over...
I pulse it a few times until it is just incorporated before adding
more flour - you don't want to over-mix the flour or your cookie
will make lots of gluten & be too tough!  Remember to
occasionally scrape the bowl and blade so you incorporate everything.

After the last (4th) addition of flour - I'm making a double
batch so lots of flour here - I know
it is ready when it kind of just falls off the blade...
Pretty, isn't it? Well, it will be in a sec...

Take it out of the bowl, pat it - you can't NOT pat
your dough - & it's ready for rolling!  See, pretty!

I like to divide the dough into 4...

...'cause it's easier to work with...
and because I like to roll my dough out...
BEFORE chilling!  I'm such a rebel!

I fold a piece of parchment in half, and
put the dough on one side...

...then fold the other side over it...

...and roll...
...until you have the desired thickness. You can either eyeball it, use rubber rings, a dough-board, paint sticks, or a handy-dandy Joseph Joseph adjustable rolling pin - perfect every time!  (Note: No extra flour used for rolling! If you typically have issues with spreading, using some flour does help, but don't use too much.)

Now, for my favorite part... the
FLIP-FLOP!  I'm pretty sure I invented it
myself, but I may have seen it somewhere before
& just don't remember... my husband thinks I'm a
genius, so let's just say I invented it... Anyhoo,  
Put a piece of parchment over the top
of your dough...gently smooth it on there... slide a thin flexible cutting mat (or something
like it - sometimes I use cardboard) all the
way under the bottom to support the dough...

...gently place a smaller thin flexible cutting
mat (or the like - LOL, love that phrase!) over the
parchment covered dough...

*This is where the next photo would be... sorry there is no photo
of the actual FLIP-FLOP as it requires both hands...I'm not that talented...

Now, (if you are a righty) gently place your left hand over
the top mat, and grasp the bottom mat with your right
hand... Lift the whole thing up, and flip it, making sure
to flip your left hand as well, supporting the dough,
and then gently remove your left hand from the bottom.
The small mat will now be underneath, and the
larger mat will be on the top.

 See?  Now, lift the larger mat off of the top, and
peel away the parchment (the piece you rolled on.)

 Now, you are ready to put your dough on
a pan to chill in the fridge. 

 Simply lift it from under the bottom
mat, and slide it onto a pan!

 Repeat for the other 3 balls of dough...

 And now...

 Cross-stack the pans so you can fit them
in the fridge...

 ...and chill for several hours before cutting.
(Hint: Do not have anything garlic-y in your
fridge - the dough will pick up the odor! Yuck!)
They are now also chilled enough to stack and
store in Tupperware for up to a few days
(how handy, there is already a layer
of parchment under each one!) or, you can
 wrap each layer in Saran wrap, and even freeze it! 

So that's How I Roll...  Just remember - scrape down your
 bowl & blade as necessary, don't over-mix and handle gently
after rolling, or you will have dented dough.  Which isn't pretty.

Oh, and before you go...
...find someone to do the dishes!

See you next time for a cut & bake session!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

My Mom... She's all kinds of wonderful and sweet and silly...  She lives kinda far away and I don't get to see her much - I miss being able to be with her, especially on Mother's Day!  Of course, my man & my kids spoil me on Mother's Day, but I would love to be able to do the same for her.  How about when we come out to visit next month?  Mom, are you reading this?  Good... so, next month when we visit, I am picking a day to spoil you!  So start thinking about what you would like to do... And if it involves any kind of ice cream, or sappy movies, or silly makeovers (hint, hint...) all the better!  Happy Mother's Day Mom!  I love you!

Also, I want to wish my mother-in-law a very happy Mother's Day as well, not only for the special woman she is, but for what she has given me - my husband, the most wonderful man in the world!  She also lives kinda far away - but we had a lovely visit with her over Spring break.  All 5 of us at her beautiful home, so it really wasn't a "break" for her hehehe...  I miss her (and the smell of breakfast in the morning... :o)  I love you!

Of course, there's also my 3 sisters-in-law, my step-mother-in-law, grandmother, our aunts, cousins, and friends who are all moms too... Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful moms out there!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's go shopping!

I can't believe it's been a week since my last post!  Not because I have nothing to say (definitely not THAT!) but I've just been super busy, as most of us are. I think a nice shopping trip is in order!  Maybe a new bag, some shoes... Yeah... no... Actually I need to go shopping for ingredients. To make more cookies. And icing. 'Cause that's what I do. So, let's go!

Aahhh, here we are!

What's that? What can I find at Macy's? Why, a cute bag & some shoes, of course! Oh, yeah, not shopping for that today (well, I could probably find some cookie cutters there...)  Sigh... Ok, ok, let's go... First, I must stop for gas, or I won't be getting very far! 

Callooh! Callay! 
Filled up for only $99.00!!!

I need sugar, flour, powdered sugar, eggs, butter, baking powder, salt, flavorings, corn syrup, colorings... I'm out of almost everything! So, in order to get:

(sometimes they have bulk
but not today!)
(pretty boxes and watering can
for cookie bouquets!)

I need to go to:

...because not any one of these stores carries all of the different brands I use...

(...and I even went here...

...but they did NOT have what I needed!  Grrr... all that time & gas to accomplish nothing... boo!)

I guess to make things easier I could change my brand of butter, or baking powder, or sugar, or flour... But would you use anything but Fluff on your Fluffanutter sandwich?  OK, that doesn't really apply here but, last year I had a dough crisis where my cookies started spreading in the oven, for no apparent reason.  One day beautiful cookies, next day - unrecognizable!  So I had to test batch after batch (after batch...) to figure it out. It took months.  And I didn't ever really figure it out at all - I just kept tweaking my recipe using different brands of different ingredients, changing a few measurements, trying different baking pans and oven temperatures until I had pretty, delicious non-spreading cookies again.  So, no, I'm sticking with my brands, multiple stores and all... 

Anyhoo, I've gotta put all this stuff away - just in time to take it all back out tomorrow to make some dough!  So check back in a day or so...  Happy baking! (or shopping, whatever you did today!)

More Teacher Appreciation Cookies!
Yay for Teachers! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How much dough do I need?

Let's see... A cool million should do it! What with college and weddings to pay for, a European vacation would be nice, no mortgage... Oh, sorry, you meant cookie dough. Good question!

If you're making cookies for fun, a batch'll do ya.  But, what's that?  You say you need 100 cookie favors for your best friend's wedding shower on Saturday?  And it's already Wednesday?  It would be in your very best interest to make enough dough in the first place, because your best friend is getting married, and you have a ton of other things to do for her, let alone stop everything to make more.  I used to just guess and hope for the best, but I've had enough late night dough emergencies to not want to go there ever again.  2AM dough is usually missing something... like vanilla.  Or it has too much of something... like baking powder (not good!)  Not that I've ever had those kinds of disasters, of course... just waiting for the butter to soften when you're half asleep is torture enough! 

Anyway, unless you are a really good guesser, there are a few things you can do to figure out how much cookie dough you need.  First step is to know how far your dough will go.  Kind of like your household budget - the batch of dough is your paycheck, and the cookies are your bills.  A single batch for me is about 29oz.  If I have used a cutter previously, I already know what it weighs  - every time I use a cutter for the first time I weigh the cutout & keep a pile of post-its fancy shmancy spreadsheet to keep track.   For instance, rolled at 3/8" thick, my 1" square cutter is  .33oz of dough, so if I needed 100 of that cookie I would need (at the very least) 33oz of dough.  One batch of my dough would not be enough! (I would have guessed that it would have been... so there ya go - a dough emergency for sure!)  

I also try to keep a little spare dough (like 10X 5X re-rolled-dough) in the fridge just for this purpose: I can cut one out & weigh it, re-roll the dough & back in the fridge it goes - for a while anyway - you know, dough only lasts so long...  (What's that?  Yeah, that's true, since you have to make at least one batch anyway, you could just cut one out of that to see how much more to make - duh brilliant!) 

But sometimes I don't have spare dough and I am impatient, and like to plan ahead.  Way ahead.  Like, I want to know last week how much time I need to spend making dough tomorrow, and to be sure I don't wind up on a 2AM flour run. So, since I am impatient and may not have any spare dough, I developed a very scientific way of figuring out how much dough to make.  My friend Lisa over at 148 Cookie Street thinks I'm crazy (she's one of those good guessers, so she thinks lots of things I do are crazy!), but it works for me.  Ready?  I trace the cutter onto grid paper (the kind with 1/4" squares) and then count the squares.   The 1" cutter is 16 squares, and weighs .33oz -  therefore, one square is approximately .02oz.  That means if my traced cutter is, say, 75 squares, the cutout will weigh 1.5oz and if I need 36 of that cookie, I will need (at least) 54oz of dough.  Sounds complicated, but it really only takes a minute to do.  In the name of science I have tested this method and have found that it is accurate to .003oz on square and rectangle cutters.    As we all know, not all cutters are created equal... they ranged from .017 - .02oz per square so I use the .02 as my norm.  For odd shaped cutters, I guesstimate (yes, I actually do sometimes...!) the partial squares - like two half-ish squares equal one, an almost full square counts as one, and barely-there squares don't count at all.   It seems to work well - because after I cut the actual dough out, I weigh it for my post-it stack spreadsheet so I'll have it for next time, and so far I've been pretty accurate! (After re-reading this paragraph, I'm beginning to think Lisa might be right about me!)

Now, I know the question you are dying to ask me is... So why not just make a lot of dough & so what if there is some left over?  Sure it's nice to have extra dough, but I will tell you...  I have a 5QT mixer, and making a single batch is no biggie.  To save time, I can do a double batch, but it isn't quite as easy - it's no fun trying to keep all 6 cups of flour in there & not all over me the kitchen!   So, if I can get away with  making 1 batch over 2, or a double batch over 3, you can bet that's what I'm gonna do!    Of course I add some to my "calculation" so that I can make extras in case any cookies get accidentally eaten prematurely broken, burnt, dropped, or should any other tragedy befall them.  And I haven't been short on dough in a very, very long time!

So, there you have it.  I'm crazy a planner.  I hope you don't mind too much 'cause I plan to tackle that list from my first post over the next few weeks.  You know the one - buy, measure, mix, chill, roll, cut, bake, plan, measure more, mix more, color, flood, detail, clean... yep, that one!  So, please come back & visit soon! 

Disclaimer:  I do need to point out that if you don't use some kind of guide (rings, dowels, dough board etc.) or if you roll a different thickness each time, all of these methods are pretty much completely useless.  In which case I hope you are a good guesser...