Friday, December 11, 2009

Baking Tips for Dummies

"Do you have a Bundt pan I can borrow?"

Yesterday, I phoned all of my domestically-minded friends in the neighborhood in a desperate attempt to locate a Bundt pan.

Not long ago, I didn't even know what a Bundt pan was.

Luckily, my friend Katherine came to my rescue just in time for me to bake my mother's famous apple coffee cake for Dori's Hanukkah party tonight.

Yes, this is the same apple coffee cake that I spurned in favor of the failed Nanaimo Bars (in case you're keeping track of these things).

Meanwhile, my friend Kathryn (not to be confused with the aforementioned Katherine) is a super-duper cook and baker has invited me and the girls to a holiday cookie baking bonanza tomorrow morning. She is baking Russian Tea Cakes, Gingersnaps, Chocolate crinkles and rolled sugar cookies. I'm impressed (and a bit intimidated!).

When I asked if I could bring anything (maybe some extra butter?), Kathryn replied:

"Oh, here is an idea: find a recipe for spritz cookies, make the dough and bring that. I have the cookie press for them and kids think this is the coolest thing since Playdoh."

So in addition to scrambling to find a Bundt pan yesterday, I was also searching for an easy Spritz cookie recipe. Here's what I found (courtesy of the Food Network):

Butter Spritz Cookies


1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups sifted flour
Sprinkles for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, add the sugar and the butter. Mix until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and mix to incorporate. Sift together the baking powder and the flour. Add the flour mixture. Mix until combined. Using a cookie press, press cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets. Top with the sprinkles of your choice. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until firm, but not yet browning.

When I got to the bit about the paddle attachment, I panicked. But Kathryn assured me I can use my hand mixer as long as the butter is softened first.

"It's the key to cookies: leave the butter out till it reaches room temp and always use non-salted so you can adjust salt accordingly."

My mom e-mailed me another basic baking tip:

"When you measure flour for baking, lightly spoon the flour into a measuring cup, then level off with a knife or spatula. Don't pack it down into the cup as this will make your cake too heavy. That goes for all baking unless they say to firmly pack (which is very often the case with brown sugar)."

Believe it or not, I remember this tip from when I was a kid and I would help my mom bake cookies.

I've got the spritz cookie dough ready to bring to Kathryn's tomorrow for the mega-baking session and today, Ruby and I will tackle the apple coffee cake. Hopefully, it will turn out better than the Nanaimo Bars. Wish us luck! And feel free to share any more baking tips with me (I could use the help).

1 comment:

Kathy N. said...

I love the "stressed" "desserts" reversal! You probably don't watch Top Chef but it might amuse you to know that many of America's "Top Chefs" refuse to learn how to make desserts!

I used to love helping my mom make Spritz cookies. Have fun! Ooohh, and come on over to my site to offer me some advice on how to handle the "religion talk" with my 2 year old.