Keep your butter soft, soft, soft
Make sure butter is at room temperature when you are making the batter. Incorporating hard butter will result in overworking the batter; which will detract from the cookies melt-in-the-mouth quality. However do not use melted butter, it will also make your cookies tough. If you have a baking day planned, leave the butter on the counter overnight to softened and you will be ready to go first thing in the morning
Cream butter and sugar together
Cream the butter well with sugar before adding other ingredients. This will allow the ingredients to be added with just a little mixing, which will keep the cookies tender.
Make sure you scrape down the bottom of the bowl so the butter that sticks to the bottom gets evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Chill your dough for cookie shapes
Chilling the dough before and after shaping will help to retain the shape of the cookie. Well-chilled cookies will reduce spreading in the oven, which contributes to cookies losing their shape during baking. Butter cookies are also excellent varieties to freeze unbaked. Lye them flat on cookie sheets and package in airtight freezer bags when frozen. Bake them off in quantities you need right from the freezer, no defrosting is necessary, for fresh baked cookies anytime.
To keep shortbread type cookies uncoloured but still thoroughly baked through; bake at a low temperature, around 200 F (100 C). Again, make sure your cookies are well chilled when baking at a low temperature or the cookies will start to melt before the starch in the cookies are set and will result in misshapen cookies.
Unsalted butter for best results
Use unsalted butter for balanced flavour. Unsalted butter was traditionally used in baking because it was a superior product to salted - salt is used as a preservative so unsalted butter was thought to be fresher. These days salted butter is of equal quality to unsalted, however using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in the cookies which enhances the flavour but can be overpowering in a delicately flavoured cookie.
Don't skimp on ingredients
Christmas baking is a lot of work - to get the best results use the best ingredients. If your budget allows, try using high quality specialty butters available in specialty food stores. Goat butter is becoming a popular specialty item and has a delicious mellow flavour that will bake your old standby recipes really special.
Butter can be used instead of shortening or margarine in most recipes. Butter adds delicious flavour and reduces trans-fats. But remember - butter is still a saturated fat so go easy on the treats!
Discover our best Christmas cookies in time for the holidays.
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