Easy Homemade Banana Bread Recipe – Good!

Yum

Everyone loves banana bread!  This easy homemade banana bread recipe makes a sweet, moist, nicely browned loaf of homemade goodness that is always welcome!


Whether as an after-school treat, a gift of loving-kindness to a friend or a special neighbor, or maybe a way to take a moment for yourself and enjoy a break from your daily routine, this recipe will get raves!

We’ve been making banana bread at our house for decades.  Our sons are in their mid-twenties now, but they remember the first time they put on their craft aprons, helped mix the ingredients, fill their special kid-sized loaf pans, and pop them in the oven.

Mashing bananas

They pulled up little stools to watch the loaves bake through the glass window in our old oven.

Watching their loaves bake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We captured the joy and pride they felt when their efforts paid off and they were able to show off their creations!

So happy and proud!

Pride and Joy

Such great memories and you can easily create the same magic for your family and friends with this easy homemade banana bread recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Banana bread falls into the category of ‘batter bread’ or ‘quick bread’, as they are sometimes called.  There is no yeast or time and effort spent kneading or waiting for this bread to rise.  You simply place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them together.  Then you add the shortening, the eggs, and a few mashed, overripe bananas and mix well.  After a short mixing, the batter goes into the pan and then into the oven.  It couldn’t be easier, and the payoff is HUGE!  It smells like pure heaven when it bakes, filling your home with an aroma that your family will never forget.  Once it cools, a slice of this banana bread will bring such joy!  You can eat it by itself, or garnish it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and some fresh berries on the side -either way you will enjoy a delicious, home-baked treat that your family will ask for again and again.

This is the recipe we have baked for many decades.  See my notes below the recipe.  I hope you’ll try it soon!

Easy Homemade Banana Bread

Easy, Delicious and a Family Favorite!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Servings: 1 Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup overripe bananas, mashed well (about 2 medium)
  • ½ cup shortening, cut into pieces; plus 1 tsp for greasing bottom of pan
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, to mix

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350º F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Using the extra teaspoon of shortening, coat the BOTTOM ONLY of a standard loaf pan, 9 x 5 x 3-inch, approximate size. Set aside.
  • Place dry ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix the dry ingredients together until well-mixed, using a whisk or the paddle attachment of the stand mixer. (Start the mixer on low speed so as not to scatter the dry ingredients.)
  • Add the mashed bananas, shortening pieces, and lightly beaten eggs to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Starting on low speed, mix until dry ingredients are moist. Increase to medium speed and mix well for approximately one minute.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth top while gently pushing batter into the corners of the pan.
  • Bake in the center of a rack placed in the middle position of the oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the top-center of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 10 minutes, in the pan, on a wire rack.
  • Run a butter knife or a thin spatula around the edges of the bread and turn out the loaf. Cool completely on a wire rack.

My Notes and Tips for a Great Loaf of Banana Bread:

 

Ingredient notes:

Bananas are obviously the key to flavoring this loaf.  It is incredibly important to use bananas that are overripe.  That means the skins are covered with brown speckles and beginning to turn dark brown.  If you think the fruit is beyond the point of eating ‘out-of-hand’ because it is too ripe, then it is perfect for making this recipe.  Avoid using underripe, green, or plain yellow fruit.  In order to maximize the flavor, overripe bananas are essential!

ripe bananasripe bananas 2

What you don’t want is a banana that when peeled, the flesh of the fruit is turning to liquid or has an “off” smell.  This could mean that the banana is beyond its useful life and should be discarded.

How you MASH the bananas makes a difference as well.  The best way is to peel the banana and drop the fruit into a small mixing bowl with a flat bottom.  Then use a hand-held potato masher (see photo) to mash the bananas until they are mostly of a liquid consistency, with small bits of solid banana left.
    Masher and bowl
DO NOT use a mixer or a food processor to mash the bananas.  The results will be sub-par.  It is far better if the bananas are mashed by hand.

Instruction Notes:

Step 2:  It is important for a well-risen and beautifully ‘crowned’ loaf that you only grease the BOTTOM of the loaf pan and not the sides.  As the bread rises in the oven, the ungreased sides of the loaf pan provide just enough resistance, or ‘drag’, to create the cracked and rounded top that is so pleasing to the eye.  Banana bread closeup

It is necessary to grease the bottom of the pan with shortening, being careful to get the shortening all the way into the corners, so it will easily release from the pan.

A word about choosing bread pans is valuable here.  I prefer light-colored, silver metal loaf pans.  The darker pans work well, but they tend to absorb more heat in the oven and give a darker color and more well-done taste to the sides and bottom of the loaf.  If you like a darker loaf, do not hesitate to use loaf pans with a dark finish.

Non-stick loaf pans are available and do work well at releasing loaves easily.  I have always used traditional pans, without the non-stick coating, but only because that is what I inherited from my Mom!

Steps 3 and 4:  If you are a beginning home baker, you will want to pay careful attention to starting both mixing processes (dry ingredients alone and dry ingredients mixing with wet ingredients) on LOW SPEED so you don’t scatter the entire kitchen with the contents of the mixing bowl!  Does this sound like “the voice of experience”?  It is, yes, because we’ve all done it at least once!  Get in the habit of paying attention to the speed setting and you’ll save yourself a huge mess.

Step 6:  After an hour in the oven, take a clean toothpick or narrow wooden skewer, and stick it into the top-center of the loaf.  Pull it out, and if it comes out wet with batter you will need to continue baking for a bit longer.  If the toothpick comes out wet at the one-hour mark, close the oven and continue baking the loaf for another 10 minutes.  At the 70-minute mark, test again.  If the toothpick or skewer is clean, with maybe only a couple of dry crumbs clinging to it, the loaf is done and can be removed from the oven and cooled.

Step 8:  It is most often necessary to run a knife or a very thin spatula around the sides of the loaf to ensure an easy release when you invert the pan.  A gentle shake of the inverted pan or a light tap on your hand will release the loaf.

TIPS:

1.  Bananas NEVER get thrown away in our house.  If I have some that are getting ripe enough for banana bread but, for whatever reason I cannot bake at that time, I simply peel the banana and wrap the fruit tightly in plastic wrap.  Then I put the wrapped banana in the freezer, in a gallon-storage bag, and wait until baking is convenient.  Allow them to defrost in the refrigerator, and you are good-to-go!

2.  This recipe ‘doubles’ very easily.  If you wish to bake more than one loaf, just double the amount of each ingredient and bake as directed in the recipe.

One way to decide how many loaves to make is to mash all the bananas FIRST.  Then, put the mashed bananas into a measuring cup and see how much you have available to work with.  The recipe calls for one cup of mashed bananas per loaf, so if you have two cups of banana mash, you can make two loaves.  Three cups?  Three loaves.  Just make sure your mixer can handle the amount of ingredients you will be using for multiple loaves.

3.  This bread is delicious by itself, sliced and eaten.  It can also be toasted and spread with butter!  Toast a slice, butter it, and place it in a small bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a few raspberries and you have a dessert fit for guests!

4.  This loaf freezes well.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then in heavy-duty foil.

When you are ready to use a frozen loaf, let it defrost in the wrapper, either at room temperature (on the counter) or in the refrigerator.

If you like, you can warm the thawed loaf in a 350º F preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Make sure to unwrap it first.  You can set the loaf directly on the oven rack.  No pan necessary, and you will have a nicely warmed loaf with a toasty outer crust.

5.  You can take a loaf of this bread that is wrapped well in plastic wrap and/or foil and give it as a gift.  Dress it up with a colored plastic wrap, tied with a strip of curling ribbon, and you have a beautiful (and delicious!) gift for a friend!

Thank you for your interest in creating great memories for your family, and for wanting to bless your loved ones with delicious homemade baked goods!  I hope you try this easy homemade banana bread recipe and enjoy many years of pleasure with the results.  

Please leave a comment if you have questions, or to let me know how you and your loved ones enjoyed this recipe!  Thanks!

Original – Best Chocolate Crinkle Recipe

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies are SO well-liked because they’re DELICIOUS!

A perennial holiday favorite, because they look so pretty on a cookie plate! There are many recipes out there for this popular cookie, and I’ve baked most of them, but the one I always come back to is adapted from the best Chocolate Crinkle recipe I know. It is from the 1963 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, a landmark cookbook with so many good recipes! (Evidently, in 1963 it was okay to spell the word ‘cookie’ as ‘cooky’. Hmmmmm?)Chocolate Crinkles
This version is faithful to the original
and best Chocolate Crinkle Cookie recipe, with notes that include tips for the best-looking cookies, and ingredient substitutions to boost the chocolate flavor even more.

These cookies have been part of my Christmas holiday since my mom started making them for our family every year, starting in 1964!

I cannot remember celebrating Christmas without a big plate of these on our table. In fact, if they weren’t there, we would have been so disappointed! These cookies are so good, and if you love chocolate, you will get your proper dose of it here!

This cookie is easy to make, but it takes a bit of planning since the dough has to cool in the fridge for several hours to “set” and become stiff enough to form dough balls for baking. This is an important step, and shouldn’t be skipped. My best Chocolate Crinkle Cookie recipe gives detailed instructions on how to form the cookies properly, using a cookie scoop Cookie Scoopfor uniformity and ease of handling. It also gives more details in the notes that follow the recipe that will help in creating the sharp contrast between the dark chocolate cookie and the snowy-white powdered sugar, including photos that show two different ‘looks’ that you can achieve.

Here is my adaptation of the best Chocolate Crinkle recipe:

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

A delicious and truly beautiful chocolate cookie!
Cook Time12 mins
Servings: 6 dozen 2" cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 cups regular granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups standard all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (also known as 'confectioners sugar')

Instructions

  • In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) add oil, melted and cooled chocolate, and granulated sugar. Mix well.
  • Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed. Add vanilla and mix well.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into oil mixture carefully, and blend until no visible streaks of flour remain.
  • Cover; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. (Dough must stiffen in the fridge.)
  • Heat oven to 350°F. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper, or, if not using parchment, grease cookie sheet with shortening.
  • With a 1-1/4 inch cookie scoop (or a teaspoon), roll the dough into a ball and drop into powdered sugar. Coat generously.  Place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in the center (see note on baking times). Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Allow to cool completely.

What follows are my notes on this recipe regarding ingredients, substitutions, equipment, and tips for the best possible results!

Crinkles Cookie Plate
Notes and Tips:

1. Ingredients:

Vegetable Oil: Any neutral-tasting vegetable oil works well here. DO NOT USE strongly-flavored oils like olive oil, walnut oil, or peanut oil. These types of strongly-flavored oils will give an “off” taste to the cookie! Most supermarket oils labeled “Vegetable Oil” are made from soybean oil, and they work just fine.

Also, some recipes substitute shortening for the vegetable oil called for in the original recipe. I do not recommend this substitution! I have tried this version and do not like the results. In my opinion, the cookies taste less chocolaty and have a texture that is not true to the original and best Chocolate Crinkle cookie recipe.

Unsweetened Baking Chocolate: For many decades we used what my mom used, “Baker’s Unsweetened BakingBaker's Choc Chocolate”. At times we used other brands like “Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate”. Both of these will produce delicious cookies and I do recommend them. However…


For even better chocolate flavor
, you can choose to use upgraded baking chocolate like Ghirardelli or Scharffen Berger. Use the same amount by weight (4 ounces) called for in the recipe, and follow the same instructions for melting and cooling. MAKE CERTAIN YOU USE UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE FOR THIS RECIPE! It is sometimes labeled “100% Cacao” since it has no sugar or added sweeteners of any kind.Ghirardelli

DO NOT SUBSTITUTE COCOA POWDER. I recommend always using solid, unsweetened chocolate for this recipe. Again, I have tried recipes calling for cocoa powder and I do not believe the resulting cookie tastes as good as ones made with solid, melted, unsweetened chocolate.

 

Vanilla: The topic of choosing the best tasting vanilla is one that is hotly debated in cooking and baking circles. (See my blog post here, for more detail on this debate). For many years we used typical supermarket vanilla brands (like ‘McCormick’) with perfectly good results. My personal favorite brand of vanilla is quite inexpensive and is a blend of real and synthetic vanillin. It is a Mexican brand known as Molina.Molina vanilla  It tastes like regular vanilla, not the traditional Mexican vanillas. It is commonly available in Mexican markets and many supermarkets in the southwestern United States. You can also order it here.) Blind taste tests have consistently shown brands containing what is technically called ‘synthetic’ vanillin score as high, or higher, than expensive all-natural brands. Bottom line? Use what you like, but do not fear supermarket brands!

Granulated Sugar: This is normal, standard, everyday sugar (in the United States). It is sold in one-to-five pound sizes of boxes and bags (or larger!), and is the common sugar found in markets everywhere. (Do not confuse ‘granulated sugar’ with caster sugar or superfine sugar, as these are more finely ground than typical granulated sugar and, if used, will require a different amount than that called for in this recipe.)

Powdered Sugar: Also known as ‘confectioner’s sugar’, this sugar is sold commonly in boxes and bags of sizes ranging from one-to-five pounds, or larger. It is a sugar that has been ground to a very fine, powdery texture, hence the name, ‘powdered sugar’.

2. Notes Regarding ‘Directions’:

Step One: Mix the oil, sugar, and chocolate quite well. The resulting mix will appear granular, but it is important to give the oil and sugar a chance to combine completely before adding the eggs.

Step Two: Mix well between each egg. What happens when you add the eggs is the sugar begins to dissolve. You want the sugar to do exactly that, so make sure you incorporate each egg by beating for at least one minute in between each egg.

Step Three:
Careful when you mix in the dry ingredients! Start your mixer (hand mixer or stand mixer) on “low” so the flour doesn’t scatter!

Step Four: As mentioned in the narrative, do not skip this step. The batter/dough is quite soft when it comes out of the mixer and needs to stiffen in the refrigerator. 4 hours will usually do the trick, but overnight is best. I’ve made the dough up to 3 days in advance and stored it, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator, with good results.

Step Five:
I cannot recommend parchment paper highly enough! The cookies slide off the paper effortlessly and you don’t have to grease and re-grease the cookie sheet each time you reload it!

Step Six:
A cookie scoop is preferred here. Using a scoop is fast, easy and every cookie is the same size.

If you do not have one, you can use a typical spoon and scoop out teaspoon-sized lumps of dough and roll it between the palms of your hands to make a ball before placing it in the powdered sugar.

Step Seven: Depending on the actual temperature of your particular oven, you can use the 10 – 12 minute recommended baking time. It is advisable to bake a couple of test cookies, noting the time in the oven for each. That way you can test for yourself how soft or crunchy you like your version to be. We like them solid and firm on the outside and soft in the center, and in MY oven, that’s about 14 minutes. Experiment a little with your oven and find your preferred level of ‘doneness’.

3.  You can DOUBLE this recipe easily by using twice as much of each ingredient and following the instructions for a single recipe as given above.

When doubling the recipe, put the chilled dough back in the fridge when you are not loading another baking sheet.  It needs to stay cool!

Tips for a better cookie:

1. Do not over-bake. If you go too long, the cookie will be completely hardened when cool.

2. For a cookie with SHARP CONTRAST between the dark body of the cookie and the white powdered sugar, roll the cookie in the powdered sugar and coat it GENEROUSLY. Carefully place the cookie on the baking sheet. You may have some sugar scatter onto the baking sheet, but this is okay! It won’t cause any problems. Your cookies will come out bright and sharp-looking.

Light coating of powdered sugar:

Light coating p sugar

Generous coating of powdered sugar:

Generous p sugar

See the difference?

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for exploring one of my favorite cookie recipes with me. I hope you try them, and if you do, they just might become a favorite for you and your loved ones!

Please leave me a comment below with any questions or anecdotes about this recipe.

Enjoy!

 

Why bake? – Nourish and Bless Loved Ones!

I am ‘a home cook who bakes’.

I’ve established that identity and wholeheartedly embrace it! But it didn’t start out that way.

Finding my identity in the kitchen took many years and was formed more by necessity than by choice. Let me help you discern your purpose in the kitchen and give you a much shorter path to that understanding than I took. Your enjoyment and fulfillment can be maximized right now, TODAY, and you can use that knowledge to craft start providing meals that fit the goals you’ve set.

When my wife and I were dating, I cooked meals especially for her in order to impress her with my “amazing culinary skills”. The simple and easy recipes I prepared were more than sufficient for that purpose since no other guy she had ever known had prepared a meal for her in that way. Pasta with red sauce Pasta Red Sauceand a tossed salad can blow you away when you’re 17!

The choices you make when deciding what to cook will come to define you as a cook and give your kitchen an identity. If you are cooking with a purpose in mind, you can more efficiently set the goals that will help you accomplish that purpose. Sounds easy? It really is! It starts with a few simple questions to ask yourself and with those answers, you can begin to plan your cooking agenda in specific detail.

Question One:  Why Cook and Bake? What is my motivation?

Cooking and baking take effort. Preparing delicious food takes effort and planning! If you decide to cook, you are wise to understand your motivation before expending the time, energy, and funds to create meals. Why are you doing this? What drives you and keeps you energized in the kitchen?

Here are a few common reasons cooks do what they do:

  • Impress your significant other (I’ve seen me do it!)
  • Feed your family home-cooked meals
  • Entertain family and/or friends
  • Holiday traditions and celebratory feasts (Birthdays, graduations, promotions, anniversaries, etc.)

There are also less common, but equally important, reasons to get cooking:

  • Keeping traditional family recipes alive
  • Providing meals for family and friends who are sick, have a new baby in the house, recuperating from surgery, etc.Hot Soup
  • School bake sales and teacher appreciation

Ask yourself what you want to accomplish with the food you prepare and start a priority list of how to spend your valuable time and other resources in the kitchen. You may have reasons that I didn’t list, or you may have more than one reason. That’s when discerning your MAIN purpose is helpful. Set priorities and you are beginning to cook with a purpose!

Question Two:   What is my plan?

Doing what I call “cooking on the fly” is fun. No plan, just use what you have on hand and go for it! Great way to spend a weekend afternoon, and you never know what you’re going to end up with. All good.

It is not, however, a good plan if you have a goal in mind and limited resources to get there. A good plan that properly and thoughtfully addresses your purpose is essential for a consistently satisfying outcome! Identify your intended purpose and put together a plan before you begin and your success becomes much more attainable.

Here are the components of a good plan:

  • Identify WHO you are cooking for. A romantic meal with your love interest requires a different plan than cooking for a week of family meals. Ask yourself who will receive the benefit of your kitchen talents.
  • Decide what the menu (or menus) will be. Some menu plans are simple, like when you plan a simple light dinner for the two of you. Some are far more complex, such as when you are cooking for a holiday dinner. Having a menu written out and finalized is the first step to success.
  • Collect the recipes you will be making.
  • Prepare a shopping list for the ingredients needed in those recipes.
  • Check for any kitchen equipment you may need to prepare the meal.
  • Craft a timeline for what can be done ahead of time, and what needs to be done immediately before serving, making sure you have the oven and stovetop space to get everything prepared, hot and fresh, at mealtime.

Question Three:  Would I enjoy doing this often?

There is an old saying among performers who write their own songs:  “Be careful what you write because you might be singing it the rest of your life!” The same can be true for cooks who prepare food for family and friends.

Cooking with a purpose in mind makes a very strong impression on those who enjoy your creations. They tend to remember how much they loved a certain dish or a collection of dishes. For example, when I was a teenager, I learned how to make a very simple recipe for manicotti. Tubular pasta stuffed with a mixture of cheese and ground beef, and my friends and family loved it. It is now over 40 years later, and I still get requests for that recipe!

Your cooking will begin to manifest a unique identity for you and your kitchen! This is especially true when you cook for holidays and for sick friends. Putting together your finest effort at Christmas dinner or a special candle-lit St. Valentine’s Day meal will most assuredly put you front-and-center for a repeat performance each year. Think about how special a bowl of shimmering chicken soupChicken Rice Soup is for someone recovering from a bad cold. They will surely remember how good it tasted, how it made them feel better, and how thoughtful and loving you were to prepare it and deliver it to them. Very powerful memories of moments in time when cooking with a purpose truly touched their heart!

Question Four:  What is my ‘cooking and baking identity’?

When our boys were growing up, we were purposeful in crafting what we called “our family identity”. We did so to make sure our children knew ‘who they were’ from a very early age, and we reinforced it quite often as they grew. We wanted them to understand that each family is different, and each family has its own family identity. “What do people think of when they hear our last name?”, we would ask. Our boys knew that the answer to that question was ‘our family identity’.

The same is true for your cooking! What do family and friends think of when they think of your cooking? Is it birthday cakes on their birthday? Soup when they were under the weather? Great holiday meals? That amazing recipe for Snickerdoodles that are so much better than the store-bought version? What comes to their minds? That is YOUR ‘cooking identity’!

You will have a reputation as a good cook, and certain recipes will be mentioned over and over. If you have children, the kitchen aromas and the great home-cooked meals you provide over the years will be deeply etched in their hearts and minds. Cooking with a purpose in mind will create an important part of not only your ‘cooking identity’ but you will also give shape and substance to your ‘family identity’ as well!

The Power is YOURS!

Dedicate time to planning your ‘cooking identity’ and your kitchen adventures will be rich and satisfying. Your family and friends will receive a great and lasting benefit that only you can give them. You will provide nourishment, joy, recovery, and tradition to the people you care for most!  Cooking and baking with a purpose is the most efficient way to accomplish all of these worthy goals. Get started now by asking yourself a few simple questions and you will be well on your way to establishing a reputation for cooking excellence within your circle of loved ones.Tiramisu Cake

Leave a comment and tell me why YOU cook and how it has blessed YOUR family!

Holiday Tradition – Cookie Cutter Cookies

An easy and surprisingly DELICIOUS recipe for creating festive shapes at Christmas, or any other time of the year!

This dough is very easy to work with and has a much better flavor than you get with most roll-out cookies.  My family started using this recipe in 1964, and it truly wouldn’t be Christmas without the fun of baking and decorating these cookies!Cookie Cutter cookies

Best Holiday Cut-out Cookies

Delicious! Family Decorating Fun!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Refrigerate overnight!1 d
Servings: 6 dozen 2 1/2" cookies

Ingredients

  • cup shortening, room temperature
  • cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp lemon flavoring
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp table salt

Instructions

  • Place first five ingredients, through lemon flavoring, in a mixing bowl.  Mix onmedium-high speed until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, measure flour,baking soda, and salt, stir together with a whisk to mix well.
  • Add the dry ingredients to mixing bowland mix together on low speed, increasing speed to medium once the flour isdamp.  Mix well to blend.  A soft dough will form.  Remove the dough from bowl and shape into a flattened disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Place half of the dough onto a lightly-floured surface. (Keep the remaining dough in the refigerator until needed.)
    Roll dough out 1/4" thick. Using cookie cutters of desired shapes, cut dough into individual cookies.
    Place 1" apart on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched lightly.
  • When cool, frost with colored icing and decorate as desired.

Easy Decorator Icing

You can use what is known as “Royal Icing” if you like, but I’ve never really been a big fan.  It dries hard as a rock and can dry out while you are using it.  It is more suited to “construction” projects, like gingerbread houses or stacked-cookie Christmas Trees, where its glue-like properties are useful.

This recipe is simple and dries quickly so finished cookies can be stacked for storage, but it isn’t nearly as rock-hard as Royal Icing.


Easy Decorator Icing 

Ingredients:

4 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons milk
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  (can also use almond extract or rum extract, if you wish)

Place powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Add milk and mix with paddle beater (stand mixer) or with a hand mixer until smooth, and all lumps are gone.

Add corn syrup and extract of your choice and beat well.

If the icing is too stiff, add more corn syrup, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, mixing well, until desired consistency is reached.

Separate icing into several bowls and add concentrated food coloring for each color you desire.

Icing Tips:

  • Let the icing dry for an hour or so and cookies can be easily stacked for storage.
  •  Plastic squirt bottles used for ketchup or mustard can be bought at many supermarkets and nearly all restaurant supply stores.  Put different colored icing in these and turn over into coffee mugs, tip-side-down.  That way, the icing flows to the tip and can be used again and again.

As you can see from the photo above, this recipe is a tradition in our family.  We ALL love the fun of decorating these cookies after cutting them out using festive cookie cutters.  They create an amazing aroma in the house, and taste great!

Please comment below if you have questions or suggestions.

Recipe for Batter Bread – A Good Start!

Batter Bread is an awesome choice for a first-time bread maker, and this recipe is time tested and delicious!  

Kneading bread can be a chore!  The rewards are great, yes, but you can still fill your home with the aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven and give your loved ones a special treat when you slice a loaf of fresh yeast bread at the table without having to knead the dough.  Batter breads are a fine way to begin your bread-baking journey.  This recipe for batter bread will bring you joy such that you will make it again and again.

Most sources report this recipe as being quite old, originating in England in the 1700s.  It is a slightly sweet brioche-type bread.  Very tender when sliced and excellent for sandwiches, or simply toasted with a little butter!

You can bake this bread in a tube pan   Tube Pan

with a removable bottom Tube Pan -Remove Bottom

or you can use a standard rectangular bread loaf pan.

 

 

 

 

Sally Lunn Bread

Great First Batter Bread Recipe
Prep Time3 hrs
Servings: 1 Loaf

Equipment

  • Tube Pan

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast, or just slightly less than one tablespoon of dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° F to 115° F)
  • 1 cup warm whole milk (110° F to 115° F)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, plus 3 tbsp to grease bowl and baking pan
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 5-1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  • Place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir gently, and allow the dry yeast to soften for 5 minutes.
  • Add the warm whole milk, softened butter, sugar, table salt, eggs, and 3 cups of the flour.  Beat until smooth with a large spoon, or with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer.
  • Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, until batter comes together, mixing well between additions.  Do not knead the batter.  You may not use the full amount of flour called for in the ingredients list.
  • Place the dough in a large bowl that has been greased with softened butter, using a small amount of softened butter to grease the top of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
  • While the dough is rising, butter a10-inch tube pan or a rectangular bread pan (standard 9-1/4" x 5-1/4", approximate).  Coat either pan with flour, tapping out any excess.
  • Using a large spoon, give the dough a few stirs until it deflates.
  • Spoon into a greased and floured10-in. tube pan, evenly distributing the dough around the pan.  If using a standard bread pan, spoon the dough into the bread pan and level the dough evenly.  Cover and let the dough rise until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat your oven to 400° F.  Bake bread on the center rack for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Invert and remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Let me know if you have questions, suggestions, or comments regarding this recipe.  It has such a wonderful tradition and is a favorite in our house.   I’d love to hear from you, and I’m always looking for ways to improve this site!

Baking Basics – For Beginners – Part 2

Baking basics for beginners continues with techniques and tips every new baker should know!

MIXING – BEATING – CREAMING – WHIPPING

MIXING

Mixing is a process of blending together ingredients to form a batter (loose and wet) or a dough (tight and formed). Proper mixing is definitely a skill to pay attention to.  Your results will change if you over-mix or under-mix the ingredients in your recipe. Beating Batter in Bowl

Most recipes will indicate the proper amount of mixing, especially once wet ingredients like eggs, milk, or vegetable oil are added to the flour and other dry ingredients. Terms like ‘cream butter and sugar’ and ‘beat until incorporated’ are common instructions you will encounter. So what does it mean to “cream” something, versus “beat” or “whip”?

BEATING

Beating the wet and dry ingredients together is how a batter or dough is created.

If using a stand mixer, the paddle attachment is used.Paddle Beater Start on low speed so the ingredients don’t scatter over the edge of the bowl. Once they are combined and more stable, the speed can be gradually increased in order to mix thoroughly, according to the instructions in the recipe you are using.

If using a hand mixer, the standard beaters are used.

Hand Mixer Beaters

Tip:

It is possible to over-beat and under-beat batters and dough. When beating and mixing wet and dry ingredients together you must first look to the recipe for instructions on how long to beat the batter. If the recipe says something non-specific, like “beat until mixed”, it is advisable to mix the ingredients until the batter has no lumps, is smooth, and has no streaks of flour (or dry ingredients) remaining. Stop beating when this has occurred, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, just to make sure there are no dry ingredients sticking to the bowl.Silicon Spatula

CREAMING

Creaming is the process of combing a fat (usually butter, shortening or lard) with sugar and incorporating air into the mixture. Sound complicated? It’s not!

Starting with room-temperature fat (let’s use butter as an example), you place the amount called for in the recipe into a bowl (if mixing with a hand mixer or by hand, with a spoon or whisk) or into the bowl of your stand mixer. Either will work.

Start mixing (or vigorously beating by hand) until the butter is mixed thoroughly and coats the bowl. Slowly add the sugar, usually in three equal additions, and beat for one minute between each addition with your mixer (or spoon or whisk). The sugar will begin to dissolve into the butter and air is automatically mixed in during the process.

Once you reach a point where the butter is a lighter shade of yellow, a yellowish-white, and the mixture looks consistently blended and “creamy”, you are there! The total amount of time to cream butter and sugar properly with a mixer (stand, or hand mixer) is about 3 to 4 minutes of mixing, total. By hand, with a spoon or whisk, it will take longer -perhaps 5 to 7 minutes, total.

WHIPPING

Whipping is a term for mixing air into a liquid (like cream) or a batter. Sometimes you can use the beaters that come with a hand mixer (see above) or you can use the whip attachment of your stand mixer (see photo). Whip Attachment

Tip:

When making whipped cream, make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and cool, having been placed in the refrigerator for a few minutes. This will ensure success and give you a lighter, fuller whipped cream.

 

Baking Basics – For Beginners

The success of your baking projects will be assured…

…once you adopt an organized approach to the process, and these essential skills will help you accomplish your goal. Our recipes for beginners also include highlighted tips for success and techniques that are easily mastered in order to achieve excellent results over and over! Look for links to these tips and techniques within our beginner’s recipes.

Prepping is essential!

Before you start a baking project, it is essential that you prepare (or ‘prep’) for the recipe you have chosen.   Having the tools you need ready and the ingredients prepared for mixing ahead of time will keep you from scrambling around trying to find something while the mixer is running. If this sounds like the ‘voice of experience’, please note that you are right! We’ve all neglected proper prep and as a result, stress levels go UP and success rates go DOWN! Do yourself a huge favor and become an expert on proper prepping!

1. Read the recipe all the way through.
This is the first key to success for any baker, and especially for beginners. Do not skip this step! Do not stop while reading the recipe to check for ingredients or tools. Read the whole recipe all the way through! This helps tremendously as you move forward into your prep. Knowing exactly what you are attempting to accomplish and mentally walking yourself through the recipe will put you on track to becoming a skilled home baker right away. Read the Recipe

2. Check the ingredient list all the way through and begin to gather what you need. Reading the list all the way through and determine if you have everything you need for the recipe you have chosen.

Start at the beginning of the ingredient list and pull what you need from your cupboard, pantry and refrigerator. Once you have everything you need, begin to measure and prep the ingredients as your recipe directs. For example, many recipes call for eggs, butter, and a liquid like milk or buttermilk. If the recipe says “room temperature”, then for the best result, these particular ingredients need to be warmed to room temperature. Bring them out of the refrigerator well ahead of time, measure them to the amount called for in your recipe, and let them sit, covered, on the counter to come to room temperature before mixing.

3. Measuring the ingredients properly is especially important in baking. Too much or too little of any ingredient can negatively affect the end product, so attention to accuracy and proper technique is very, very important. A little extra time spent here will bring a huge payoff!


Liquids:
Use a see-through measuring cup (glass or clear plastic is typical) and Glass Liquid Measuring Cupplace it on a flat surface (your countertop). Fill with the desired liquid while bending down so that you are at eye-level with the lines on the measuring cup. Measure what you need and confirm you are hitting the mark by checking at eye-level while the measuring cup is sitting on a flat surface. TIP: Do not hold the measuring cup in your hand while checking for accurate measures. Keep the cup on a flat surface!

Bulk Dry Ingredients: Flour, sugar and other dry ingredients are often measured by the cup, plus or minus partial cup amounts. A recipe might call for “3 cups flour”, or it may be “3 1/3 cups flour”. In either case, you will use the measuring cups made of metal or plastic, typically. There are several measuring methods or techniques used by home bakers. Here we will highlight the most common methods and their relative accuracy.

  • Dip and Sweep Method: With this method of measuring, you dip the measuring cup into the dry ingredient (flour, sugar, etc.) and then you use a flat-edged tool (spatula, spoon handle, etc.) to sweep the top of the cup to level the ingredient with the top edge. This method is not very accurate, but you will find many bakers do use it.
  • Spoon and Sweep Method: This technique is somewhat more accurate than the previous method. Instead of dipping the measuring cup into the dry ingredient, a spoon is used to load the measuring cup until it is full, and then a flat-edged tool is used to sweet the top of the cup and level the ingredient with the top edge. With this method, the ingredient isn’t compacted (or packed down) as heavily as it would be with the Dip and Sweep Method, so it is a better way to consistently achieve an accurate measure.
  • Measuring by Weight: By FAR the most accurate way to measure dry ingredients is by using a kitchen scale and weighing the ingredients in a bowl set atop the scale. For example, a cup of dry, all-purpose flour weighs 5 ounces. If you weigh the flour and add 5 ounces each time you bake, your consistency and accuracy level go way up! Success in home baking is in the DETAILS, and as we’ve mentioned, accurate measurements are essential to a proper outcome. Digital kitchen scales are not expensive and we’ve included them in our Baking Tools and Equipment and Their Uses page. For ultimate accuracy, there is no better tool! It is how successful home bakers and professionals get consistent results time and again! Once you begin using a scale to weigh ingredients, you will not want to bake any other way.
  • Measuring by “Packing”:  This is typically done when measuring brown sugar using a measuring cup.  Spoon the brown sugar into the cup and press it down with the back of the spoon until it is “firmly packed” in the cup.  Level the cup with a straight-edged spatula, as usual.  (See photos, below).

Br. Sugar Fill Cup             Sweep Top        Swept and Level

Using Measuring Spoons:  When using measuring spoons, it is important to fill them to the brim of the spoon.  If measuring liquids (like vanilla extract or fresh lemon juice) do not fill the measuring spoon over the mixing bowl you will add the ingredient to.  If you do this, you risk adding too much to the recipe, should you over-flow the spoon.  Measure over a separate bowl or the sink and then add to your recipe, or better yet, to a small ingredient cup for later addition to the batter or dough.

When measuring dry ingredients like baking powder or corn starch, simply dip the measuring spoon into the ingredient container and level the spoon with a flat-edged spatula, like when using measuring cups or use the handy-dandy leveling “lip” on the ingredient container as you remove the measuring spoon.  (See photos, below).

Measuring Spoons & Container                Sweep On Container

To measure liquids like vanilla extract or lemon juice, fill the measuring spoon over the sink or a small bowl.  That way, if you over-fill the spoon, the excess will be caught and not end up in the mixing bowl.

 

Click here to continue to Baking Basics – For Beginners – Page 2

Baking Tools And Equipment And Their Uses – The Basics – Part 2

The List – Part 2

Mixing Bowls

A good quality set of mixing bowls of various sizes are essential to a baker’s tools, and they need not be expensive. Rimmed, stainless steel mixing bowls are commonly found in department stores and restaurant supply houses.

Look for 18-10 stainless steel. Stainless steel is an ‘alloy’, or a mix of different metals. 18/10 stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 10% nickel, the ideal mix for rust resistance and polished appearance. If cared for properly, they will last a lifetime.

Metal Mixing Bowls, Nesting

Sizes vary, and we recommend when starting out to acquire a set of bowls that nest in 3qt., 5qt., and 8qt. sizes, as seen above.

The 3qt. size is perfect for mixing dry or wet ingredients before they are added to the main mixing bowl The 5qt. and 8qt. sizes are excellent for most mixing tasks, where wet and dry ingredients are mixed together, or dough is kneaded.

Measuring Cups

There are two types that are considered ‘must-haves’ in a baker’s kitchen. Known as Liquid Measure and Dry Measure, they are specialized for measuring liquid and dry ingredients, respectively.

 

Liquid measuring cups are usually made of clear plastic or glass and come in sizes ranging from 1 cup to 8 cups (or more). A good beginning can be a 1 cup and a 2 cup measure. Glass Liquid Measuring Cup The smaller measuring cup allows accurate measurements for as little as 1/4 cup. The 2 cup measure can be used for 2 cups measurements or less, and it can be used to measure larger amounts in 2-cup increments. There is a pouring spout at the rim for easy pouring and tidy dispensing.

Dry measuring cups
are usually made of plastic or metal. The tops are flat so dry ingredients like flour can be dipped and the top leveled with a straight-edge spatula. This ensures accurate measuring. NOTE: We prefer and highly recommend dry measuring cups with handles that are attached to the cup so as not to interfere with the sweeping of a spatula. Some have a handle that is attached a bit too high, rising up above the edge of the cup. This is not ideal. Purchase measuring cups with handles that are attached slightly below the rim of the cup. See the photo below.

Good Handles, attached below the rim:
Flour in Measuring Cup

Measuring Spoons

The best quality measuring spoons are made of metal and have clear size marking etched into the handle. Avoid size markings that are printed, as they tend to wear off with use and washing.

As with dry measuring cups, it is important to have handles that are level with, or below, the spoon. This will allow proper sweeping when leveling off the ingredient in the spoon. See the photo below.

A set should include these measures at a minimum:

1/4 teaspoon

1/2 teaspoon

1 teaspoon

1 tablespoon

Optional, but definitely useful, these measurements are included in some sets:
1/8 teaspoon and 1-1/2 tablespoon

Flat handles with etched size markings:Metal Measuring Spoons

Mixers

Three main options: By hand; the hand-held electric mixer, and the stand mixer. A mixer is a main-stay in a baker’s kitchen, and it can take several forms. Before electric mixers (hand-held and stand mixers) were invented our grandmothers had only their hands and a big, thick-handled wooden spoon. Old Wooden Spoons Hard to imagine in this automated age, but it is still possible to bake without using electric mixers, but it is obviously advantageous if you can acquire these tools!

 

 

Hand Mixers

This is the entry-level, basic tool for mixing batter and dough. There are many models and they range in price from around $20 to over $100. Some are very basic in function and attachments, while the more expensive models have stronger motors and can mix stiff cookie dough without over-heating. If you choose to go this route and purchase a hand mixer, try to get one that is rated for stiff dough, as it will last longer and be more versatile in the kitchen.

The hand mixers typically come with two removable beaters and a variable-speed switch or button that allows for beating at different speeds. You can easily beat egg whites or whip cream with even the most basic model. If you plan to use your new hand mixer for more strenuous tasks like stiff cookie dough or thick cake batters, a higher-priced model rated for those uses is recommended. See our list of preferred models and their uses here.Typical Hand Mixer

Hand Mixer in Use

 

Stand Mixer

 Stand mixers are the ultimate kitchen workhorse! If you wish to bake cookies, cakes, bars, or bread, this mixer can handle any-and-all mixing and kneading tasks. Buying one of these is clearly a commitment to excellence, long-term. They come in various sizes for the home kitchen, as well as large machines used in commercial bakeries.

The industry standard in the United States is made by KitchenAid. There are other brands available, but KitchenAid dominates the market. I’ve owned several of their products, and at present, I have a standard, 5-quart mixer that I’ve owned since 1992. It is still going strong, after almost 3 decades of use. I also own a second stand mixer, a larger 6-quart that I purchased about 10 years ago. It is especially useful for larger batches of batter and dough, and can knead bread dough for a double batch without difficulty. Both units have been used regularly and have performed well.

Stand Mixer Hanging Bowl

Stand mixers come in two basic designs. The hanging-bowl mixer (pictured above) and the tilt-head mixer, pictured here:

 

 

 

The hanging-bowl (or suspended-bowl) style tends to come with more powerful motors and are suited to heavier use than tilt-head mixers. Available in several sizes, the most common being the 5-quart and 6-quart, these mixers come standard with three attachments: a beater (for general mixing), wire whip (for whipping heavy cream and other liquids) and a dough hook (for kneading heavier dough, bread dough, etc.). Other attachments can be purchased separately, but these three standard attachments are the baking tools and equipment used most often for home baking.

The hanging-bowl mixers are usually large enough to handle even double batches of cookies or the volume of batter needed for multiple-layer cakes at one time. If you are baking for a family with kids, or plan to bake for extended family or friends, then a hanging-bowl mixer is the way to go.


The tilt-head style
is a bit more convenient. You can tilt the head of the mixer back and remove the bowl without having to take the beater, whip or dough hook off first. Plus, these mixers tend to have a slightly smaller “footprint” on your counter, so if counter space is in short supply, you may benefit from this style. They come standard with the same three attachments as the hanging-bowl mixers, above.

They come in sizes ranging from 4-quart to 5-quart, so they are a bit smaller than the hanging-bowl mixers, and they also tend to have smaller motors with less power. They are great for basic mixing, especially if you will only be cooking single batches of cookies or single loaves of bread. They are not made to handle the volume or the stiffness of multiple batches of baked goods at one time.


Prices vary
, but these mixers can cost anywhere from $150 to over $300. They are clearly an investment, but to my experience, they are worth every penny! You will find the ‘ease of use’ to be a true GAME CHANGER, and never will you hesitate to begin a baking project when you own one of these incredibly powerful kitchen tools. You will be rewarded with a reliable, versatile, and powerful kitchen tool for years, and even decades, to come.  I speak from experience.  Acquiring one of these fantastic mixers changed how I bake, and for the better!

Kitchen Scale
A kitchen scale allow for accuracy in measuring ingredients when baking.  
This allows you to attain consistent results each and every time you prepare a recipe.  Many experienced bakers rely on a kitchen scale when measuring ingredients like flour and sugar.Kitchen Scale

Good quality kitchen scales are reasonably priced and should last for many years if properly stored.

 

 

Baking Tools and Equipment and Their Uses – The Basics

The better the tools, the better the results. 

This is true in baking, and just about anything else in life. Choose wisely and your success rate will go up and you will build a kitchen inventory of highly useful tools that will last recipe after recipe, season after season.  On this page, you will learn about baking tools and equipment, and their uses -the result of many decades of experience.  I have always tried to be frugal when choosing to purchase kitchen equipment.  I try hard to buy good quality products that last and don’t have to be replaced time and again.  I want my kitchen tools to do more than ‘one thing’!  There’s nothing smart or wise about buying something that takes up valuable space and is only used on rare occasions because it is only useful for one task!  Do your best to avoid this situation.

The Do’s:Thumbs Up

Buy the best quality you can afford.
A good example of why this is important would be your choice of non-stick cookware.  We’ve all purchased non-stick skillets and bakeware, only to have it lose its non-stick quality after a few uses.  The coating scratches easily and peels away, which necessitates throwing it in the trash and buying a new one.  How many low-end, cheap pans have I thrown away before I realized the wisdom in doing my homework, looking at reviews, and investing in top-quality pans that last for many years?  if I added up the cost of the cheap pans, the total would be frightening, and it would be far more than the cost of the good pan!

Check reviews and if the ‘winner’ is too pricey for your budget, go for the “Best Buy” in that category.  A good example is in an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.  There are high-end Dutch ovens that are of extremely high quality, but they can run in the $300 to $400 range for a single pan.  There are brands available with good reputations that sell for literally one-tenth of that price.  That would be a wise ‘second choice’ and would fall into the “Best Buy” category.

Buy equipment that accomplishes multiple tasks. 

Try to avoid buying items or appliances that only do one special thing.  For example, a stand mixer with the proper attachments is a great investment.  It can make the batter for cookies and cakes, along with kneading bread dough.  It can whip egg whites and heavy cream along with grinding meat and making homemade sausage.  It has a multitude of value in that you will use it often for a wide variety of things.  The money spent here, on this one item, will keep you happily baking and cooking for many years, and keep you from having to buy and store several other appliances.

The Don’ts:Thumbs Down

Don’t buy kitchen equipment or appliances on a whim.    Purchase with a purpose! 
Only buy products you need because you have a PURPOSE for them or a project in mind that will bring the item into use again and again.  This way your kitchen will be well-equipped for the tasks you engage in on a regular basis, and not what is called “kitchen furniture”.  The term “kitchen furniture” describes that big, huge appliance you bought because it has a lot of ‘bells and whistles’ or was purchased at 1:30 in the morning from a TV infomercial that repeatedly told you, “Wait! There’s more!”, and sits on your counter or in your pantry, taking up valuable space, and never getting used.  (Don’t feel bad!  We’ve all done it.  I’m just trying to save you the money and frustration that I went through!).

Don’t buy on price alone!
This goes hand-in-hand with the advice above.  In most cases, when it comes to baking tools and equipment, you definitely ‘get what you pay for’.   Don’t let a low price entice you to purchase a poorly crafted tool.  Often times they do not perform properly, leading to sub-par results, so you end up replacing it rather quickly.  Invest in quality upfront and you will be rewarded with many years of success in the kitchen!

The List – Part 1


The beginning home baker benefits from the following items:

Oven Thermometer
Why is this little piece of equipment listed first?  Because knowing if your oven is calibrated properly is essential to baking success.  When I first started baking, I couldn’t figure out why my baked goods always took longer than the baking time called for in any given recipe.  I saw this happening again and again.  An experienced baker told me to check my oven for calibration.  I put an oven thermometer on the middle rack and set the temperature for 350º F.  I let the empty oven heat up for 15 minutes (per my friend’s recommendation) before checking the thermometer.  When it read 335º F, I knew I had found the problem!  I raised the temperature to 365º F and left it alone for another 15 minutes.  When I checked, the thermometer read “350º F”.   Don’t rely on your oven, assuming the temperature is going to be correct. Check it for proper calibration and adjust accordingly.

Baking Sheets
Good quality baking sheets are a must for any baker.  Not only are they used for cookies, but you will also find they are useful for many other tasks as well.  They are perfect for free-form bread, rolls, and biscuits.  They are useful for roasting nuts and for freezing loose berries before bagging so they can be frozen without sticking together.  Pizzas, quesadillas, and free-form fruit tarts will find their way onto a cookie sheet.  They are true ‘workhorses’ in a home baker’s kitchen.  

There are two main types, Rimmed Baking Sheets and Cookie Sheets, and both come in sizes that accommodate most ovens.

Rimmed Baking SheetsSheet Pans
Also known as “sheet pans”, these are solidly built with rims approximately one inch tall all around.  They are quite rigid, due in part to the rolled edge.  They come in several common sizes.

Full Sheet Pan
18″ x 26″ x1″

Three-quarter Sheet Pan
15″ x 21″ x 1″

Half Sheet Pan (the most common in the home kitchen)
13″ x 18″  1″

Quarter Sheet Pan
9 1/2″ x 13″ x 1″


Cookie SheetsCookie Sheet
Cookie sheets are flat baking sheets with no rim or a small rim on one or two sides used for secure handling.  They can be made of solid metal or a double bottom with a narrow air space between them for insulation.  I prefer the latter, but as long as the metal is thick enough, a solid metal cookie sheet works extremely well.  Avoid thin gauge metal solid cookie sheets as they tend to scorch the bottom of baked goods.

Choose the size that best fits your oven, allowing for at least two inches of empty space surrounding the sheet when placed in the center of your oven rack.  This is necessary for proper heat circulation and promotes even cooking.

Baking Pans
Baking Pans come in various sizes, shapes, and depths. 
For the beginning baker, I recommend three sizes of pans, starting with the most-often used size, 9″ x 13″.  The next size I find most helpful is slightly larger at 15″ x 10″.  An 8″ x 8″ pan is great for smaller batches of brownies and bars.

Glass pans are readily available and are widely used.  They have slightly sloping sides and rounded corners, whereas metal pans of the same size usually have similar dimensions.  Either type will work well, although I favor the metal variety for their sturdiness, non-stick capabilities, and they don’t shatter into a million pieces if dropped on a hard surface.Metal Baking Pan
Glass Baking Pan

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading – The List – Part 2

Easy Christmas Baking Recipes – Maximize Time and Effort!

Cookie Platter

Christmas season is a busy time, so wouldn’t you like to get the most out of your time creating wonderful baked goods in the kitchen? The cookies, bars, cakes and breads you create will establish a lifetime of fond memories for you and your loved ones, and also for your extended circle of friends. But who has time during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to spend day after day in the kitchen baking?

You can accomplish great things AND stay on schedule with a bit of planning, a few wise choices regarding recipes, and a commitment to creating a delicious tradition for family and friends! Follow our guidelines and begin creating lifelong memories and traditions that will continue to be passed down generation after generation! Keep stress to a minimum with these easy Christmas baking recipes, all-the-while blessing your family and friends with delicious home-baked holiday treats!

Plan ahead!Make A Plan

There’s an old saying that goes like this: People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan! The key to low-stress in the kitchen is to start planning your baking projects well ahead of time. Here are the basics of putting together your holiday baking schedule -one that will allow you to create a nice variety of baked goods for your family and friends.

Decide how much time you have for the project. Can you devote one day in late November and one day in early-to-mid December? Do you only have a single day? Are you preparing for a party and have a deadline to meet? Are you giving away a few plates of goodies to neighbors, or do you have to consider a larger circle of friends, teachers, mail carrier, co-workers, etc.? All of these elements should be considered and adjusted to fit the time you have for baking.

Print out our Gift List Organizer and begin filling in the blanks with the names of those family members and friends to whom you plan to give the gift of goodies. It will help you formulate your planned expenditure of time and keep you focused on the task at hand.

Choose recipes wisely! When choosing recipes to make, keep an eye toward the ‘yield’ of each recipe. How many cookies, etc., does one recipe make? Make sure the yield of any chosen recipe fits the time you have allotted, especially if you have a limited amount of time.

For example, if you choose to make Chocolate Crinkle cookies and the recipe can be doubled to yield 120 cookies, that gives you quite a good yield for time spent. Blondie Bars are delicious as well, but a double recipe might only yield 48 bars. If you have the time, make both! If your time is limited, go with the high yield recipe and you’ll be fine.

A good practice is to consider is the SIZE of the gifts you are giving to those outside of your close family. You can include more people on your list if you tier the sizes of the gifts. Keep in mind you are most-often NOT trying to provide all the treats a family might want during the holidays, but simply a gesture of kindness, a way to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and remember someone special with a little sampling of your individual baking palette.

Write out a simple time schedule for shopping, ordering supplies online, baking, and assembling your goodies. It doesn’t have to be too complex. You aren’t planning a wedding or a work conference, but you do want to make sure you set aside time for preparing your overall plan, shopping for ingredients, baking, and assembling your gifts. Doing this will give you peace of mind, lower stress levels, and ensure you accomplish your holiday baking goals.

One Dough – Many Different Cookies!Variety of Cookies

A great way to maximize time and effort is to use a versatile “base” dough recipe and create several distinct variations using the base. You can use these cookies to make up the bulk of your cookie gifts, and then add some special cookies to bring spectacular diversity to your offerings. This is the ultimate example of easy Christmas baking recipes, and fits our purpose perfectly!

The recipe I use is for this is one I’ve developed over the years. It is called Dad’s Better Sugar Cookies. Check the variations listed at the end of the recipe and choose as many as you need for a beautiful presentation!

Special Cookies – The ‘WOW’ Factor

Christmas cookies can be quite elaborate, but they don’t have to be hard to make! They can be more labor-intensive, so IDecorated Cut Outs suggest choosing only one or two from this category if you are limited time wise. They will definitely dress up any gift and make your presentation highly memorable, so if you are able to spend a bit more time and effort, do include some from this category!

Cookies that fall into this category are Honey-Lemon Cutouts, Gingerbread Cookies, and Stained-Glass Cookies. Each are quite delicious and create an impression that is highly personalized and hand-crafted.

 

One Batter – Many Different Festive Breads!

 

Batter bread may be the ultimate easy Christmas baking recipe! It is so easy to make, doesn’t require yeast or kneading, and comes out of the oven with an aroma and taste that begs to be enjoyed. Consider adding these easy-to-make breads to your Christmas baking list and customize them to suit your taste.

Check out Mr. Mike’s Better Batter Bread recipe and all the variations that are listed to choose from. You won’t be disappointed. These recipes are good year-round!

 

EXPECT SUCCESS!

Use our planning method and recipes with confidence that your goals will be accomplished and success is clearly within reach! We’ve assembled over 50 years of recipes, tips and techniques, planning guides, and equipment recommendations so you can concentrate on creating the special memories and traditions that become an important part of your family’s joy during the Christmas season.

You can successfully bring the beauty, aromas, and delicious tastes of baked goods to family and friends this holiday season! Start your plan today!