The ingredients for cookies making can be found in most people's store cupboard and fridge.
Buy good quality chocolate with at least 50% cocoa solids for baking. Plain chocolate gives a distinctive strong, rich flavour while milk chocolate has a sweeter taste. White chocolate often does not contain any cocoa solids, and lacks the flavour of true chocolate. It is the most difficult chocolate to melt and has poor setting qualities.
Today, most dried fruits are dried by artificial heat rather than by the sun, and are treated with sulphur dioxide to help their preservation. Oils are sometimes sprayed on to the fruit to give a shiny appearance and to prevent them sticking together. Try to buy fruit which have been coated with vegetable oils not mineral oils.
Eggs should be at room temperature so, if you keep them in the fridge, move the number you want to room temperature at least 30 minutes before making a recipe.
Butter and Margarine
Butter gives the best flavour to cookies and should be used whenever possible, especially when there is high fat content, as in shortbread. However, it can be used interchangeably with hard block margarine. Butter or margarine to be used for creaming with sugar needs to be at room temperature and softened. For rubbing in, the fat should be at a cool room temperature, not fridge hard, and chopped quite finely.
Soft margarine is really only suitable for making cookies by the all-in-one method and when the fats has to be melted.
Flour provides the structure that makes the cookies. Always sift flour. Not only will this remove any lumps, which are rare nowadays, but it also lightens the flour by incorporating air, and makes it easier to mix in.
- Self-raising flour has raising agents added and is the type of flour most usually used in straightforward cookies that need to rise.
- Plain flour is used when rising considered a fault, as when making shortbread. Rich or heavy mixtures that should be raised also often call for plain flour plus additional raising agents in the specific proportions required for the particular recipe.
- Wholemeal flour adds more flavour than white flour and is the healthier option but does produce denser cookies. When lightness is important extra raising agents should be added. Some recipes work well with a mixture of white and wholemeal flour.
Wash glacé fruits before using them to remove the syrupy coating and dry thoroughly.
Nuts become rancid if stored for too long, in the light or at a too high temperature, so only buy in amounts that you will use within 1-2 months and keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard. Alternatively, freeze them for up to 1 year.
Ground cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice, nutmeg and cloves may be used in cookies. All spices should be as fresh as possible. Buy in small quantities to use within a few months.
Honey adds its own distinctive flavour to cookies. It contains 17% water so you will need to use slightly more honey than sugar, and reduce the amounts of other liquid used. For easy mixing in, use clear honey.
- Caster sugar is the best sweetener to use for creaming method because the crystals dissolve easily and quickly when creamed with the fat.
- Granulated sugar is coarser textured than caster sugar so this is best used for rubbed-in mixtures and when the sugar us geared with the fat or liquid until it dissolves.
- Icing sugar appears in the ingredients for some cookie recipe where it is important that the sugar dissolves very readily.
- Demerara sugar can be used when the sugar is dissolved over heat before being added to the dry ingredients.
- Soft light and dark brown sugars are used when a richer flavour and colour are called for.