When the winter winds start whipping down the mountains, in my mind it’s time to start baking. I love the ritual of putting together raw ingredients and transforming them into something new while warming the kitchen and creating special treats for friends and family.
No time is the ritual of baking more magical than during Christmas. I can remember my mother and grandmother baking up a frenzy in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Flour and sugar and butter and eggs were transformed into a wide array of cookies – each seemingly more delicious than the next. All these cookies were traded in cookie exchanges or packaged prettily to share with friends and neighbors. I can recall many frosty dark nights when a loved one would knock on the kitchen door after dinner bearing a plate piled high with cookies to share. It was just another part of the ritual of baking.
It seems as if baking and sharing one’s creations has fallen by the wayside. Why not revive the tradition in your own neighborhood? Surely you could stand to get to know your neighbors better – and what better way to bridge the gap between virtual strangers than a plate of freshly baked homemade cookies?
If you are new to baking, I can offer a few tips to get your moving in the right direction. Invest in an oven thermometer. These simple devices cost under $5 at most stores (check your favorite kitchen store or mega store). Hang it off the rack in your oven and turn on your oven to 350 degrees. It should take about 15 for your oven to thoroughly pre-heat. Open the door and check the reading on the thermometer. If the reading is 350, you’ll know your oven is calibrated correctly. But if for instance, it reads 325, you’ll know your oven runs 25 degrees too cool. To bake at the correct temperature, you’ll have to set the oven to 375. Setting your oven to the right temperature will make baking much less frustrating and will turn out better products.
Next, spend a few dollars on fresh ingredients. Stock up on ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg and ground clove. Also, buy a new bottle of vanilla and fresh baking powder and baking soda. These ingredients can loose their flavor and potency if they sit on your shelf for several months. Fresh ingredients will yield delicious baked goods – all the better to impress your friends and family.
Now you’re ready to get started! Try the recipe below for a tasty seasonal cookie. It offers some real nutrition – a real switch from some other holiday cookies! Happy baking and happy holidays!
Yuletide Oatmeal Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup milled cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oatmeal
1 ½ cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. ightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
3. Using a mixer, combine butter, brown sugar, milled cane sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is fluffy.
4. Add flour, cinnamon, sea salt and baking powder and mix until just combined.
5. Stir in cranberries and pecans by hand.
6. Drop onto prepared baking sheet using 1 ounce scoop or tablespoon.
7. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes before removing from cookie sheet.
8. Finish cooling cookies on wire rack.
9. Repeat with remaining dough.
10. Store cookies in an airtight container.