Ask Allison - Holiday Baking Questions
Q I have all kinds of baking pans and I get confused on which one to use with what I am baking. What is the difference between baking in a glass or metal pan? -Maria H. in Moore
A There are a few variables in baking with glass, dark metal, and light metal pans. Although glass evenly heats, you will need to reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees less than what the recipe calls for. Dark metal pans are typically made from aluminum and tend to absorb heat and, in turn, cook your baked goods much faster than light metal pans. My suggestion is ,again, to reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees and take 20% of the cook time off of the recipe. It is integral to place dark pans in the center rack of the oven and check often until your are comfortable with the process. As for light metal pans, they deflect the heat from the oven and enable your baked goods to properly and consistently bake without adjusting the recipe.
Q I have to make 300 sugar cookies for my church this holiday season. What is the best way to time out the process of such a large order!? -Amanda P. in Edmond
A When dealing with large orders, it's all about proper preparation. I suggest mapping out a few weeks in advance and schedule small pieces of the job broken up over time. Keep in mind that sugar cookie dough can be rolled out and cut into shapes, put on baking sheets that are then well wrapped with plastic wrap, and placed in the freezer for up to three weeks. Once baked, you can also store cookies decorated with royal icing in a freezer bag. I suggest stacking the cookies between layers of paper towels as the paper towels will absorb any additional moisture and keep away that terrible freezer burn taste from the cookies. Lastly, only double the cookie recipe when making your batches of dough. Anything more can cause an imbalance in the leavening agents (i.e. baking soda/ baking powder).
Q How long do spices actually last and what is the best way to store them? -Toney D. in Guthrie
A This is a great question! I am pretty sure that I can go into most home kitchens and find improperly stored, or ridiculously outdated spices. I suggest tossing ground spices if you are unable to use them within one year from the purchase date. Always go for spices that are kept in glass containers as glass is the best defense to protect your investment from moisture. Shy away from containers made from plastic or metal. As for storing spices in your home kitchen, always keep in a cool, dark place away from heat and as far away from the stove as possible. Yes, that actually means that you should find a better place than that odd cabinet above your stovetop! For the freshest flavor from your spices, consider purchasing whole spices instead of pre-ground, and grind them yourself using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder that is only used for spices.
Q What is the difference between baking with oil and baking with butter? - Stephanie P. in OKC
A There are huge differences in baking with both oil and butter and, there are recipes where you can interchange, and some you simply just can't! Don't ever make pie crust with oil. Just don't. You should be fired from all kitchen duties if you do. Using shortening, lard, or butter is the key to flaky pie crusts that we all crave for the holidays. You can combine the butter with either shortening or lard but my suggestion is to not leave out the butter!
The best way to understand the difference between oil and butter is mixing them separately with sugar. Butter becomes light and fluffy as it allows aeration to incorporate within the two ingredients. This makes it perfect for items like chewy cookies, Oil and sugar turn to greasy looking sand which is best for moist breads and cakes. For each 1/4 cup of butter, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of oil.