By Julia Pantoga
Do you remember that I recommended that you break your holiday cutout cookie baking into three steps?
1. Making the dough
2. Rolling and baking
This is Step Two: Rolling and Baking. I assume you have three packages of cookie dough in your freezer, as I advised you back in October in The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part One.
I’m a flour-flying-all-over-the-kitchen kind of baker, so this very neat, no-flour-mess method of rolling out cookie dough was counter-intuitive to me. But it works—really well. And it’s really neat. I did it wearing dress clothes and no apron.
Before I give you the step-by-step, there’s two important notes:
• Many recipes for rolled dough assume that flour will be added to the dough during the rolling process, so this method won’t necessarily for sugar cookie dough recipes other than the one I gave you.
• The proper height for a rolling surface is slightly below your hips. That means that if you are on the short side a table, not a counter, will work best for you. You need the leverage of being able to bend over your project easily.
Here’s the step-by-step for my no-mess method of rolling cookie dough (The parchment paper and tape industries ought to be sending me kickbacks for this!):
1. Put a cookie sheet in the refrigerator.
2. Tape a piece of parchment paper to the rolling surface.
3. Put a small disk of dough on the parchment paper (about ½ of one of the bags you made in October, or, if you didn’t do that, about 1/6 of the recipe I gave you, or, if you’re using a different recipe, about 1/3 pound).
4. Tape a larger piece of parchment paper over the top of the dough.
5. Roll the dough slowly to 1/8” thick. Eliminate any creases in the parchment paper as you go along, as creases in your final dough will cause your cookies to crack and break. I don’t recommend rolling any thinner that 1/8”, because thinner cookies break easily when you decorate them.
6. Carefully lift off the top layer of parchment paper, leaving it taped to the rolling surface for the next rolling.
7. Remove the bottom layer of parchment paper with the rolled dough on it and place it on the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour.
8. Repeat steps 2-7 until all the dough is rolled. When you have finished, put the top piece of parchment paper on top of all the layers.
Well, I sure wish I had learned that trick of refrigerating the rolled dough years ago!
While your rolled dough is chilling, set up for cutting and baking your cookies. Put the cookie cutters and cookie sheets that you want to use right next to where you will be working with the dough. Your cold dough will make it infinitely easier to move raw cookies around, but you still want to minimize how far you move them. The best tool for picking up and moving cookie dough (even cold dough) is and angled (not tapered) spatula used for frosting cakes.
After baking, you want to handle and move the cookies as little as possible before you decorate them (minimize opportunities for breaking cookies), so you may want to set up the area where you will have your cookies cool as well.
Take your rolled dough out of the refrigerator, one piece at a time and work quickly, as cold dough is much, much easier to work with than room temperature dough! Leave the cold cookie sheet in the refrigerator, as you will have enough dough scraps to make a second (maybe even a third, but no more—by then your dough will be terribly worn out) batch of cookies.
After cutting, bake your cookies for 5 minutes at 400°. While they are baking, gather and roll the scraps of dough, using the parchment paper and tape routine I described above. It is at this point that I begin to become irritated with the entire holiday cookie project and mutter to myself, “How on earth could anyone think this is a fun project?” Thrifty as I am, I use the parchment paper over that I used before and tape only the bottom piece down.
OK, in a few days, I’ll show you how to decorate these bad boys.