this shortbread twice leads to a crispier result.
that dashing and dancing in the kitchen adds up to a lot of
time around the holidays. Anything you can do ahead is bound
may be enough motivation to make cookie doughs in advance
and stash them in the refrigerator, ready to bake.
how about this: Your time-saver may be a flavor booster.
Making cookies in advance may improve them.
last few years, cookie recipes have been cropping up that
harness the idea of building flavor and texture by letting
things wait a little.
think you can taste a difference," says Sue Gray,
manager of product development for King Arthur Flour.
"There are changes happening. Exactly what they are is
hard to pin down. Probably a bunch of little things are
idea of letting cookie dough sit in the refrigerator, not
just for a couple of hours but for as long as several days,
came to my attention in 2008, when food writer David Leite
wrote a story for The New York Times on his quest for the
perfect chocolate chip cookie.
discovered that Maury Rubin of City Bakery in New York let
cookie dough rest for 36 hours before baking.
hearing that, Leite went back to the source, a 1953 cookbook
by Ruth Wakefield, the originator of the Toll House cookie,
and noticed that her recipe called for letting the dough
rest overnight. Apparently, the step was dropped when Nestle
put the recipe on bags of semisweet morsels.
trying it, Leite decided it did make a difference. The dough
was drier and firmer, and the cookies developed sweet,
played with the idea a little more last year, when I was
working on a crunchy pecan chocolate chip cookie. Several
baking sites touched on the idea of letting creamed butter,
sugars and egg sit for a few minutes before adding flour.
The sugar melts a little, leading to a crispier cookie.
the holidays, I decided to look further. What I learned is
that there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, but not a lot of
proof of what exactly is happening.
cookie doughs in advance is common in bakeries, says Megan
Lambert, a senior baking instructor at Johnson & Wales
University in Charlotte, N.C. She and her mother used to own
a bakery in Raleigh, N.C., the Flour Shop.
make a huge batch of cookie (doughs) and then you just pull
her classes, cookies usually are baked the same day they’re
mixed. She does notice a little difference, she says,
particularly a sharper flavor from the baking soda, which
hasn’t had a chance to mellow.
though doughs are commonly made in advance in bakeries,
there’s not a lot of research into the difference, says
Sue Gray of King Arthur. Studies usually are paid for by
food companies, which are more interested in techniques that
lead to efficiency, not flavor.
anything I say, I can’t prove," she says. Still, she
does think something is happening with the flavor.
so much happening in doughs," she says. "Anytime
you make something, giving it some time for the flavors to
develop, for water to become evenly absorbed, can’t
science writer Harold McGee definitely agrees. In his new
book, "Keys to Good Cooking," he included this
develop more flavor, refrigerate doughs for days wrapped
airtight. Refrigerated doughs slowly break down some starch
and protein, and make progressively darker and more
Lopez-Alt has worked with doughs made in advance and he
notices differences, too. Chief creative officer for the
food website Seriouseats.com and a former editor with Cook’s
Illustrated, he’s writing a book based on his Serious Eats
column The Food Lab, where he tests cooking theories.
the way the dough handles (changes)," he says.
"Letting it rest, you end up with a drier dough that I
find a little easier to measure and scoop. When you bake it,
it’s a flavor difference. A little sweeter, a little more
difference starts with the liquid in the egg, which hydrates
the starch in flour. Giving the flour more time to absorb
that liquid makes the dough firmer, but it also lets enzymes
in the flour and the egg yolk break down carbohydrates into
the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Separately, they
taste sweeter and they caramelize faster when baked.
some theories claim that long refrigeration lets gluten
relax in cookie doughs, both Gray and Lopez-Alt discount
that. There’s not that much gluten development in cookie
not all cookies can sit, of course. Meringues and macaroons,
based on foamy egg whites, can’t wait.
doughs based on flour, sugars, butter and egg are made for
waiting. Cookies with strong flavors, such as ginger or
peanut butter, can benefit from time to ripen.
are small things, made from simple ingredients using simple
techniques. So small changes, like waiting times, can do big
start with such simple ingredients," says Lopez-Alt.
"It’s really the process and the details of technique
that are going to have the biggest effect."
you measure makes a difference. For dry ingredients, use
dry-cup measures — the flat rim lets you level them
easier. Glass or plastic liquid measuring cups are difficult
to fill accurately with dry ingredients. To measure flour
and sugar, spoon them into the cup until they’re above the
rim, then level off with the flat edge of a knife.
careful about adding fresh dough to a still-hot cookie sheet
— it can melt and spread. The easiest way: Line the cookie
sheet with parchment paper, then slide it off to a cooling
rack and rinse the sheet with cold water. You can portion
out the next batch of dough on parchment paper too, so it’s
ready to slide onto the cooled sheet.
temperature" butter should be soft, but not too soft or
it won’t hold air when you beat it. Let it stand until you
can just press a fingertip into it and leave a mark. To
hurry it, cut the butter into 1-tablespoon slices. Don’t
soften butter in the microwave. The center may melt before
the outside softens.
means to beat fat (usually butter) with sugar. Beat it long
enough to make it light-colored and fluffy, which can take
matters: If you remove cookies from a baking sheet too soon,
they’ll break or bend. If you don’t have a cooling rack,
pull out the second rack of your oven or the rack from
inside the toaster oven. (Cover the rack with paper towels
if it’s stained.) Always cool cookies completely before
decorating or storing them.
"The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion"
(Countryman Press, 2004). Sugar cookies, with their simple
flavors, can benefit from refrigerating. If you’re baking
with kids, it also helps to have the dough ready and waiting
in the refrigerator.
(2 sticks) unsalted butter
teaspoons baking powder
teaspoons vanilla extract
teaspoon almond extract (optional)
heavy cream or sour cream
unbleached all-purpose flour
cups confectioners’ sugar
tablespoons light corn syrup
to 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk or heavy cream
the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla and almond
extract with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat
in the egg. Add half the cream, all of the cornstarch and
half the flour; beat well. Add the remaining cream and
flour, mixing just until incorporated.
the dough in half. Flatten into rounds and wrap well.
Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to several days.
grease two baking sheets or line with parchment. Transfer
one section of chilled dough to a lightly floured surface.
Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough to 1/8 to
¼ inch thick. Using cookie cutters dipped in flour, cut out
shapes and transfer to the baking sheets.
10 to 12 minutes, until cookies are set but not browned.
Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before removing from the
baking sheets. Cool completely before decorating.
Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup and 1
½ tablespoons milk or cream. Spread a little on one cookie.
If it doesn’t smooth out after a minute, dribble in a
little extra milk. Divide into small bowls and stir in food
coloring if desired.
About 4 dozen, depending on cutter sizes.
"The Baker’s Manual," by Joseph Amendola and
Nicole Rees (Wiley, 2003).
tablespoons dark molasses
tablespoon ground ginger
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground cloves
the butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium
speed until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and
in the egg and molasses until smooth. Add the dry
ingredients and beat on low just until dough forms.
the dough from the mixer and place in an airtight container.
Refrigerate up to 1 week.
dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place
balls on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with the bottom of
a glass, dipped in sugar to prevent sticking if necessary.
at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until centers are
puffed and almost set (bake up to 14 minutes for crunchier
cookies). Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then
transfer to wire racks to cool.
"Pure Dessert," by Alice Medrich, and the blog
Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman. The second baking makes
exceptionally crisp shortbread, while letting the dough sit
overnight fully hydrates the flour and increases the buttery
tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
tablespoons granulated sugar
teaspoon vanilla extract
cups all-purpose flour
sugar, for topping
an 8-inch baking pan with foil, letting it hang over two
sides. Or grease an 8-inch springform pan with a removable
the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add to
a mixing bowl with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix until
combined. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated.
and spread the dough evenly into the pan. Cover and let
stand at least 2 hours and up to overnight. (It can just sit
on the counter, unrefrigerated.)
a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to
300 degrees. Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Remove from
oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface with
sugar, then let stand for 10 minutes.
the shortbread from the pan and gently cut it in wedges,
rectangles or squares. Place the pieces slightly apart on a
nonstick baking sheet and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
Cool on a rack. Yield: 16 wedges or about 2 dozen squares.
from Cook’s Country magazine.
finely ground peppermint candies (see note)
teaspoon baking powder
(2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
teaspoon vanilla extract
teaspoon peppermint extract
drops red food coloring
the peppermints and set aside. Whisk together the flour,
baking powder and salt and set aside.
butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and
fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg. Add flour and beat on
low just until a dough forms, about 1 minute.
half the dough from the bowl and reserve. Add the extracts,
candy and food coloring to remaining dough and beat until
the reserved (plain) dough between 2 sheets of parchment
paper and roll into a 14-by-8-inch rectangle. Repeat with
the peppermint dough. Remove paper from one side of each
dough and place them together, pressing gently. Roll up from
the long side, forming a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and
refrigerate, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
oven racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions
and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with
parchment. Slice chilled dough into ¼-inch rounds and place
1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake until edges are just
golden, switching and rotating sheets halfway through
baking. Cool 10 minutes on sheets, then transfer to a rack.
Store cookies in an airtight container up to 1 week.
To grind peppermint, unwrap about 20 disc-type hard
peppermints and place in a resealable freezer bag, beating
with a mallet to crush them. Or put them in a food processor
and pulse until ground. You also can use about 30 small
candy canes to create the crushed peppermint.
About 4 ½ dozen.