How can I tell when my frosting consistency is perfect?

For frosting cookies, you need more than a recipe. You not only need to know how much of each ingredient to put in the bowl, you need to know how temperature and humidity affect the final product. A recipe is a good start but if you rely only on measured amounts of ingredients, you will soon learn that every time you mix you will get a little different consistency. About half of the skill is recognizing perfect consistency and half is coloring in the lines. If you have both of those, you are going to have some great looking cookies. Always begin by measuring your ingredients. When you mix, the temperature and humidity will affect your frosting. Lift the spinner and allow the frosting to drip

What if I HATE to clean up this mess?

​Let's get real. When you pay someone to make your cookies or your cakes, you are not paying them for their delicious ingredients or their talent or their time. You are paying her to clean up that mess that your cookies made in her kitchen. The more she makes, the more the mess multiplies (okay, so I am a fan of alliteration. I can't help myself.) Having been fired by more than one cleaning lady, I am the first to acknowledge that baking can facilitate a huge, powdery, sticky, greasy mess in your kitchen. Depending on how attentive you are to cleaning up as you go, the ultimate messiness can make a baker want to abandon this hobby altogether. Over my years of baking, I have discovered a few

Help! I made a mess of my frosting. Can this be fixed?

If you work with frosting long enough, you are going to mis-mix some. A few of the Americolor brand colors are ones that get really dark, really fast. I'm looking at you, peach, leaf green, teal and fuchsia. Whenever I add color to my frosting I like to squeeze a bit in the bowl and stir, hoping it will render the perfect shade that I needed. I have done that more than once with leaf green. I want more of a kelly green and I end up with forest green. Everyone's first inclination is to add more white frosting. Will that solve your problem? Yes, but then it will create another problem of mixing way too much frosting. If you don't want to end up with a gallon of green, you need to follow these

How long can I keep leftover frosting?

If you come into my kitchen on any given day, you will find a bunch of snap top bowls containing bits of colored frosting. If you know me, you know I hate waste (the one characteristic that would make my mama most proud). Many bakers toss leftover frosting once they have made their cookies but I don't. That has my buttervan and sugar in there. So, whenever I have enough of one color, I will save it in a bowl by itself because chances are, I will need more of that color tomorrow. Now, if I have just a smidgen of a color left, I squeeze it all into one bowl. It looks like a mess but I have plans for that multi-colored concoction. No matter what colors I am combining, if I stir it all up, it wi

Marginal Moguls

I am raising a couple of enterprising teenagers. The entrepreneurial gene begins developing the minute you won’t buy something they want. I am sure you recognize the first response, “Fine. I’ll buy it with MY OWN money!” Regrettably in this household, their money is still MY money and it cannot be squandered because we worked too hard to earn it in the first place. Second response is usually a default to Grandma who is a softer target, for sure. If that roadblock is encountered, the creative problem solving really ramps up. When Caroline was 14, she encountered a windfall of cash for Christmas. By Christmas night, she had figured out exactly how she wanted to part with $300. She desired a RE

Can I keep this leftover dough or do I have to bake it all up now?

Yes. Keep it. Bake it. Do whatever you want with it except throw it out. This is a baker's recipe so naturally, it is going to make more cookies than a standard recipe. In fact, if you bake up this whole batch of dough, it will yield roughly 6 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters. If you only need three dozen for your party, you will find that you have dough leftover. First, if you know from the outset that you don't need many cookies, you can easily half the recipe if you can do the math. But, if you do mix up a whole recipe and you are too tired to bake one more cookie, you can keep the dough up to a week. I wrap the left over ball of dough in clear wrap and then put it in a ziploc

When you have 2,000 cookie cutters, how do you find that one that you need?

I'm not gonna lie. There is a 12 step program for people who hoard cookie cutters. I am unapologetic. I love cutters; tin, plastic, brass, and printed. Before the day of the 3D printer, a baker who wanted a custom cutter had to drag a knife around an index card template. It was an unsightly mess and the cookies that methodology yielded were less than lovely. Now that I have a 3D printer in my life, I can get any cookie cutter, any shape, any size, any time. It is a beautiful thing. Back in the day when I had a couple dozen cutters, I kept them neatly tucked in a snap top craft box. I enjoyed the sound the cutters produced when I was pillaging the box looking for the one that I needed at the

Can you fix a broken cookie before it is baked?

Yes. Especially if the cookie is still in its dough state. Every baker has struggled with custom designs with little bitty appendages that snap off when you are attempting to move it from the frozen tray to the baking stone (I'm looking at you little aggravating pom pom on top of Santa Claus' hat!) If you ever break a cookie (and if you bake, you will), you can rescue it. All you have to do is put it on the stone and touch the broken parts together. The heat in the oven will actually fuse the cookie together. You may see a little line where the break was but if it is going to have frosting on top of it, nobody but you will know. Fixing a cookie is an easy procedure, and even if you can't fi

Defying the laws of baking

My mama used to have a recipe she affectionately called a "dump cake," duly named because you just dump everything in the bowl and mix. Everybody knows you don't just dump your ingredients in a bowl. You must cream your butter and sugar, then add your wet and dry ingredients alternately at various increments so as to produce a light and fluffy cake. The same laws apply to cookies, even if you don't want them light and/or fluffy. Most of the roll-out cookie dough recipes tell you to mix your ingredients in a certain order then it says something like add 6+ cups of all purpose flour. And you are supposed to know how much equals (+). Even after I started teaching everyone how to bake, I woul

What are you baking on and what difference does it make?

My mama was a big believer in the Airbake cookie pans. She probably baked a half million cookies on them. But, I, on the other hand, have baked a million cookies on something else. I prefer a baking stone. Evolving as a baker you come to appreciate some things more than others, and my baking surface is certainly one of them. . The picture above represents the same dough, the same oven, the same temperature, and the same baking time. The only variable is the baking surface. I prefer a baking stone because I want the back of my cookies to look like the front. In the photo, the first cookie in each row shows the top of the cookie and the other two cookies show the back. I haven't baked anythi

How can I soften butter fast?

Most all cookie recipes begin with softened butter. But let's just suppose that you didn't think about getting out your butter last night and here you are, ready to make cookies and your butter is refrigerated. What do you do? (Please don't say "I stick it in the microwave and push the soften butter button!") Guys who build microwaves don't typically bake cookies so if you inquire of any ordinary, garden variety inventor type, he will probably not understand why bakers don't think much of his "soften butter" button. They do enough research to realize that softening butter is something we often do in the kitchen but they don't know why. Here's the deal. Soft butter is still a cream product, w

How can I make my cookies a uniform thickness?

Most rolled cookie recipes tell you to roll your dough out to 1/8" thick. So, when bakers are in my beginner class, I ask them how many of them got out their rulers and measured their dough. (And much like the dentist when he asks if you floss twice a day, I already know the answer!) Nobody. Life would be better if everything was measurable and quantifiable and when I DO measure, it is not cookie dough. Ain't nobody got time for that! Still, I want uniform thickness of all my cookies. Some rolling pins come with removable disks of varying thicknesses that are supposed to help you roll out dough evenly. I have found that those rings just cause me to say ugly words and I have thrown them all

Is this Royal Icing?

Nope. It sure isn't. Royal icing involves egg whites or meringue powder and it dries hard very quickly. It is perfect for building gingerbread houses because you can hold an entire candy bar on the side of a graham cracker house because of its strength. The fact that it dries quickly makes it easy to use for very detailed, highly decorated cookies. The only drawback is that the icing is not soft, it is hard and breaks like hard candy when you bite into it. The texture of the frosting reminds me of chalk, and it has a slightly distinctive taste rather than a smooth, yummy frosting. Now, if you like the taste and texture of meringue powder, by all means, they are your cookies! Do what you like

How HOT is your oven?

Whenever I teach a class, I ask the beginning bakers how they know how hot their oven is. They always reply, "I look at the temperature dial!" If you believe your dial, then you have the same degree of accuracy your Grandma had when she added another stick to her wood burning stove to increase the heat. Every oven is different and it is very rare if your oven dial matches the temperature inside. You really don't know how hot your oven is unless you have a thermometer hanging on your rack. An oven thermometer is the greatest, cheapest invention that applies to baking. You can buy them anywhere you purchase kitchen gadgets. For a few dollars, you can hang that thermometer in your oven and open

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