Bake your best cookies

With tips from Incredibly Delicious

click to enlarge Bake your best cookies
Molasses spice cookies

Tis the season for cookies! Whether you like them crispy or chewy, spicy or frosted, we have tips to help you bake your best. Pastry chef Melanie Dineen works overtime during the holidays creating gorgeous cakes and cookies at Incredibly Delicious Bakery, a downtown Springfield culinary staple since it opened in 1995. No matter what style or quantity of cookies you're planning, Dineen shares some of her strategies for baking up festive treats that are as fun to make as they are delicious. 

•Take an inventory of your pantry and get your mise en place ready: measure out all ingredients at the beginning so you don't discover halfway through preparing a recipe that you're short on a critical ingredient. Set out ingredients like butter and eggs to come to room temperature (adding cold eggs to soft butter will chill the butter and prevent the eggs from properly emulsifying with the butter). 

•Read the recipe more than once before getting started, to make sure you comprehend the process. Every recipe is written differently. Pay close attention to the order of ingredients. This will save you from catastrophes. 

•The internet is full of cookie recipes. Asking friends for their favorite recipes is a great place to connect and share family traditions, and you can usually trust that it's tried and tested.

•Use a toothpick in your tip while you are not using the icing so it doesn't crust over and get clogged.

Make sure you have fun! Cookies always taste better when you have fun in the process. If you run out of time or don't want a mess in the kitchen, Incredibly Delicious is taking holiday cookie and dessert orders through Dec. 18. They even sell DIY kits, complete with scratch-baked cookies, icing and decorations. 

Noel Nutballs

1 cup unsalted butter 

2 tablespoons honey 

2 ½ cups powdered sugar, divided

Zest of one orange

¼ teaspoon salt 

1 tablespoon bourbon

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

Cream together the butter, honey, ½ cup powdered sugar, orange zest, salt and bourbon until light and fluffy. Add the flour and pecans and mix gently to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough with your hands or a cookie scoop and place them on a greased or parchment-lined tray. You can place them fairly close but not touching – they will retain their spherical shape when baked. For best texture, transfer the dough balls to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes before baking. When the preheated oven is ready, bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes (time will depend on how chilled they are – room temperature dough will bake in closer to 12 minutes, while frozen dough will take closer to 18).

Remove the cookies from the oven when they are golden brown and they spring back when pressed lightly with a fingertip. Remove from the oven and let cook for 5 minutes. Toss the cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Place them on a tray to cool and dust them generously with more powdered sugar. Once completely cool, package in an airtight tin where they keep well for about two weeks. 

Molasses Spice Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter 

1 ½ cups sugar 

1 egg 

2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses 

3 cups flour 

1 teaspoon baking soda 

2 teaspoons each, ground cinnamon, ginger, and cloves 

½ cup finely chopped candied ginger 

Demerara sugar for rolling, optional 

Cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and molasses. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices and chopped candied ginger. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Chill at least four hours or overnight. Scoop out balls with a cookie scoop and roll them in sugar before flattening with the base of a glass. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 10-12 minutes until the cookies spring back lightly when gently pressed with a finger. This recipe works great for cutouts also; omit the chopped ginger for easier cutting.

Crisp Butter Cookies

1 1/3 cup powdered sugar 

9 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks, plus 2 tablespoons), at room temperature 

1 egg yolk, at room temperature 

Zest of one lemon, optional 

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional

Other optional flavors include a tablespoon of bourbon, rum or vanilla, or ½ teaspoon almond extract) 

1 teaspoon salt 

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour 

Cream together the butter, powdered sugar, egg yolk, zest and nutmeg or other flavoring and salt. Gently mix in the flour. Wrap the dough well and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and preferably overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes prior to rolling. Generously dust a clean, dry surface with flour. Pat out the dough into a half-inch-thick circle, then use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to a thickness of approximately - to ¼-inch thick. Use floured cookie cutters to cut out shapes and arrange them on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet about a half-inch apart – these cookies will not spread much. For cookies with clean, sharp edges, transfer the cut cookies to the freezer for approximately 20 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, depending on size. 

Let cool completely before decorating. To decorate the cookies with sugar before baking, brush the raw cutouts with beaten egg white then sprinkle with colored sanding sugar before baking as directed. 

Royal Icing

1 egg white

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon white corn syrup 

1 teaspoon vanilla, bourbon or rum

A pinch of salt

Beat the egg white until just foamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well until the icing is the consistency of Elmer's glue. Spread or pipe using a pastry bag or squeeze bottle and allow to set completely before packaging.  

About The Author

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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