Monday, December 12, 2011

Streamline Your Holiday Cookie Baking With Slice And Bake

No, I do not mean go to the frozen aisle of the supermarket and buy someone else's cookie dough.   You can ALWAYS tell the difference.

This really is about technique.  I'm That Guy Who Bakes.  Every Holiday Season I'm making large batches of Cookie Dough and baking cookies at 32 a pound and bringing them along.  In fact, as I have said, they're requested and even demanded at potluck dinners.

One batch of Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Dough made 4 3/4 pounds of Cookie Dough.  That's way too much to do the old Scoop and Place method of baking. You end up with a tired wrist and it takes too long.  Making the dough is simple for me, I have the stand mixer and I have been making these cookies for so long that the ink has faded on the printout for the recipe.

This really isn't about a specific recipe, there are millions of them out there and everyone has their favorite.

After all, I have posted a lot of recipes here, and if you're looking for some challenges, do a search here on my blog for the tag "recipe" or "Cooking" or even "extreme cooking" and have fun.  I'd like to hear how your baking turned out!

No, this is about the WAY you make the cookies.

You see a couple years back, more than 5 years ago because I was doing this when I lived in Philly, I got tired.  That year I needed more than a first batch of cookie dough.  I turned out about 10 pounds of cookies that season for parties and gifts and was wiped out when I had to go to batch 2 in a day.  I got to thinking how people will make those awful "slice and bake" things from the store and call them their own.  Some were smart and got some dough from a professional baker and the results were great, but I just couldn't do that either. 

Had to be my own. It was tradition.

So I had a "lightbulb moment".  I realized that the only thing that stopped me from having my own slice and bake recipe was the tube they came in.   I got out the warm dough that was too warm to scoop and put a pound down on some cling film then got creative.  Shaping it into a rough "snake" or "sausage" shape, I then folded the cling film over on the dough and got it as regular as I could.  A nice clean cylinder.

Then I put it in the refrigerator and waited until tomorrow.

That wait firmed up the dough so it could be sliced once I removed the plastic.  After all, nobody likes to eat plastic. 

That really is it.  Just roll it all up, chill, slice, and bake.

So why was this so earth shattering?  Simple, it gave the cook time to rest.   A fresh cook makes for a more efficient baker.  Today I mix, tomorrow I bake.  It takes about an hour to make one batch of dough, and the cookies take their own time.  Making more dough means another hour and if the oven is running, the dough gets too warm to work so you end up chilling it anyway.  This simply makes it more efficient to shape.

A simple "kitchen hack" but it make it much easier for me to get all those cookies done.

The other wrinkle is that the dough would keep in the freezer, up to a month or three.   When I was ready to make the next batch in January or March, I'd find a log of cookie dough in the freezer, thaw it slightly and slice away.  I learned I could make a batch and not have to eat the whole blasted thing and my belt line liked that.

The deal with the 32 cookies per pound means that I'm making 1/2 ounce cookies.  "Standard" sized, not those monsters you get at the mall.  60 calories per cookie means I can have one each with each of my three mugs of coffee and not feel (too) guilty. 

See it's all thought out.  Nothing earth shattering but that is how I do it.  Anything to make things easier in a busy time of year.

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