Chef MJ Feeke, of Benjamins Gourment Foods in Selkirk, welcomed us into her kitchen, shared her recipes and empowered us to bake up a veritable Christmas cookie storm. Baking advice was offered as she demonstrated proper techniques for rolling, piping, handling dough, assembling and decorating eight different cookies.
Top Ten Holiday Baking Tips:
1. To ensure the right amount of flour for rolling out dough, ‘dust’ the counter by throwing the flour with a flick of the wrist.
2. Roll dough with the palm of your hand, not your fingers.
3. When a recipe calls for sticky ingredients coat your measuring cup with a bit of canola oil first – molasses or honey will slide out easily.
4. Make your sugar cookies sparkle by lightly spritzing them with water before sprinkling with sugar.
5. Canola oil can be used in place of butter for most cake and muffin recipes.
6. Decorating doesn’t have to be complicated – a simple drizzle of chocolate can add an elegant touch.
7. Before melting chocolate, add 1 – 2 tsp of canola oil; this keeps it shiny, smooth and easy to drizzle or dip.
8. When piping dough, hold one hand near the piping tip and work with small amounts in the bag.
9. After cutting out cookies, always add fresh dough to what is left-over before you re-roll for optimal results.
10. If a recipe calls for vegetable oil, use canola oil – it is Canadian AND it is ‘heart-healthy’, providing more of the good fats than any other popular oil.
Under Chef MJ’s guidance, hundreds of festive cookies were created. Laughter reverberated around the room as we worked together – holiday baking has never been so much fun!
The evening made me re-think the usual ‘baking exchange’ we often take part in at Christmas. Instead getting together with pre-baked goods, why not have our friends gather in one kitchen and bake together? Many hands make light work, and undoubtedly adding the love and laughter bound to come with the experience, will make the tradition better than ever.