Saturday, December 17, 2011

'Tis the Season

Every year, I attend an event with friends.  It's a baking tradition that began years ago in college, when we realized that while we didn't have a ton of money for gifts, we could make and give baked goods for relatively cheap; they were yummy and thoughtful gifts.  It also made for a great time hanging out with friends.

Every year I learn something new in my quest to perfect my baked treats.  Here is my collected knowledge so far:

- When they say not to grease the baking sheet, don't grease the sheet.  A greased sheet can lead to cookies spreading at the bottom and developing a crispy fringe instead of a uniform rounded edge.

- Invest in parchment paper.  Cookies will not stick to parchment paper--in my experience it is more effective than greasing or using spray on glass and metal surfaces.

- While parchment paper will prevent your cookies from sticking, it will not keep them from burning on the bottom, especially if you are using a metal baking sheet.

-  Stoneware is more effective at preventing burned bottoms.  It isn't fool proof, but I often find the level of browning on top of the cookie is about the same as the bottom when using stoneware.  A well-seasoned stone is as non-stick effective as parchment paper; an unseasoned stone is not effective as a non-stick surface.

- If your brownies are falling apart when you try to cut and remove them from the pan, thereby ruining your presentation factor, freeze them before cutting.  You don't have to freeze them solid, but getting them under room temperature before cutting will get you cleaner cuts and well-shaped brownies.  Of course, the brownies won't be just-from-the-oven-ooey-gooey-warm, but if you are wrapping them up as a gift, this is a good trick.

-  Silicon bake ware is not inherently non-stick.  Either grease the heck out of it, or use something else.

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