Hi. It’s me again. The laziest holiday cookie baker ever.
Well, not really lazy. I prefer to think of myself as LEAN. Not in physique, surely; I fight the daily battle, like so many of you out there. Eat, exercise, eat, exercise, a fulcrum in the center of a see-saw that seems always to be tipping, ever so slightly, towards “eat” and away from “exercise.” Especially during the holidays.
LEAN is actually a business/manufacturing concept that King Arthur Flour adopted a couple of years ago. It gently guides us towards making every step count: whether it’s packing a box with mixes and bags of flour, placing a purchase order, or baking muffins.
Think time-and–motion studies, efficiency experts, “Cheaper by the Dozen” (ring a bell?). But not in a crack-the-whip, assembly-line sort of way. More like organize your workspace so you can find what you want without plowing through piles of paper…
This qualifies as a “clean” desk, for me.
Label your file cabinet drawers so you don’t waste time searching for what you want…
Important stuff on top, right? I happen to like Christmas very much.
Or, in the case of us test bakers, organize your containers of chocolate chips and flour and sugar and nuts and…
This may not LOOK organized, but I know exactly what's in each of these jars and canisters. That's King Arthur Flour with the green lid, next to the bread machine.
Now, LEAN works better with some of us here at King Arthur than others. It’s perfect for fulfillment, the folks who pack and ship your orders; you saw that in Susan’s post last week. They’re cranking on all cylinders, everything happening like clockwork. I admire them.
Me? I’m not so successful at LEAN. It seems every path I follow in the kitchen is a meandering one. I mean, I start out saying “I’m going to bake sugar cookies using this recipe,” but my well-laid plan quickly deteriorates to “What if I add cinnamon chips, and just a touch of almond extract, and then flatten them REALLY flat…” In the kitchen, I seldom draw a straight line between two points.
Nonetheless, I manage to find shortcuts when the project involves something I don’t like doing. Like fussing over cutout cookies. And maybe I can count myself LEAN because I discovered it’s easy to make pretty cutout cookies just by making normal round drop cookies, then cutting out their centers with a cutter once they’re baked. HA! Cutout cookies without rolling dough, cutting, re-rolling, transferring one by one to the cookie sheet… LEAN. And tasty.
Here’s one of my favorite spice cookie recipes: Soft Ginger-Molasses Cookies. Let’s make them into cutouts—the LEAN way.
We'll start by beating butter and sugar till they're nicely combined. Notice I'm using one of the new Beater Blades, which we finally have available on our Web site. They're flexible, spatula-like blades on a polycarbonate base, good for cookie dough, cake and muffin batter, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, or anything else where you want to scrape the bowl as you beat.
Next come the molasses (or molasses and ginger syrup), baking soda, salt, and spices—cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
It's beginning to look like molasses cookie dough, huh?
Beat in 2 eggs. The dough will start to gain body.
Finally, beating in the flour gives it some real substance.
Drop balls of dough into sugar. Regular granulated sugar will disappear, leaving the merest hint of crunch.
Coarse (sparkling) sugar will give a subtle, slightly glittery crunch.
Swedish pearl sugar adds mild crunch and a pretty, “frosty” look to the cookies.
An alternate method of coating dough balls with sugar is to shake them gently in a zip-top plastic bag.
Space the cookies on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. You can space them this way...
...or, to make extra-sure they don't run into one another, stagger the dough balls, like this.
Bake the cookies till they're barely beginning to brown around the edges, and they puff up in the center.
See the puff in the center? They'll settle as they cool.
Let the cookies cool to lukewarm, then take your mini cookie cutters, and carefully cut out the centers. I was able to cut these cookies easily even after they'd cooled completely, as they were soft. However, if you bake them a bit longer and they become crunchier, it'll be harder to make a clean cut out of the center. Thus, best to cut while they're warm (not hot; warm).
Use a bunch of different shaped cutters, for variety.
If you do all of this right on the baking sheet, you'll contain the crumbs.
Different; cute; and, considering the steps I saved, LEAN!
Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Soft Ginger-Molasses Cookies.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Nabisco Old-Fashioned Gingersnaps, 30¢/ounce
Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Cookies, 68¢/ounce
Bake at home: Soft Ginger-Molasses Cookies, 16¢/ounce