How to deal with sticky cookie dough, cookie presses and more

THE WASHINGTON POST – American Cookie author Anne Byrn and PureWow recipe editor and baking consultant Erin McDowell recently joined The Washington Post Food staff in answering questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I have a problem every year making Linzer cookies. I make the dough, refrigerate it until it’s very firm, take it out to roll, flour the board liberally, roll it to cut and it starts sticking to the board and cutter. Very frustrating. Any suggestions other than buying a marble cutting board that I can refrigerate but can’t afford?

A: Try rolling out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. You can still use flour as needed, but this method is super helpful in preventing the dough from sticking. Place the dough between two pieces, and start to roll. Occasionally, peel the top piece of parchment off, then return it to the surface of the dough, and flip the packet of dough over; peeling the parchment away occasionally helps keep the dough moving and unstuck to the parchment! – Erin McDowell (EM)

A: I love Erin’s reply. I would also add to chill in between rolling in parchment. I lay out the rolled dough onto a sheet pan and chill in fridge until firm. You can chill again after cutting into shapes before baking for perfect shape with a high fat dough. – Anne Byrn (AB)

A: If you’re rolling on the counter, you can chill it by putting a sheet pan full of ice on there for a few minutes. That can help, too. – Becky Krystal

Q: I just moved into a very eco-friendly neighbourhood. I’d like to give my neighbours cookies for the holidays, but I’m stumped on how to deliver them in eco-friendly packaging. I don’t want to give them anything that they’d feel obliged to return. And I don’t want to use plastic. Maybe small cardboard boxes? I’m just not even sure where to look. Glass jars seem great but not very practical for cookies. Any ideas? Thanks!

A: Small cardboard boxes is a good idea! You can grab those at craft stores like Michael’s or AC Moore, and you could tie them with twine. Could also use butcher’s paper (compostable, but not recyclable), to give it a very rustic look. – Kari Sonde

Q: I plan to freeze batches of drop cookies so I can bake as needed this December. Does it affect the texture if I bake from frozen, or should I allow to come up to room temp before baking?

A: It can depend on the recipe, but some cookie varieties (like classic drop cookies, chocolate chip/sugar cookies) can be baked directly from frozen – though this often means they will require a longer bake time. (Sometimes I turn the baking temp down by 25 degrees to compensate for this increased time.) You can also thaw the cookies on trays in the fridge and then bake as the recipe directs. -EM

Q: To me, the holiday season always meant the original Brer Rabbit Molasses Cookie Dolls and those buttery cookie press cookies. I’ve had problems with a press, though. Once I was so frustrated, I threw it across the room. Do you have any tips for cookie press success?

A: The dough has to be stiff enough so it won’t stick in the press. I use an unbleached flour and am careful about how many eggs I use in older cookie recipes because our eggs today are larger than they used to be – two ounces vs one ounce. Keep moisture in mind and try again. – AB

Q: I was hoping you could give me some advice about my cast-iron pan. I got it about a year ago, and to season it I placed it over a burner on high and coated it with olive oil and let it smoke off several times. This seemed to produce a seasoning that was smoother in the centre, but it didn’t worry me until a few weeks ago, when the seasoning around the circumference of the pan started flaking off. I realise I probably should have seasoned the pan in the oven to avoid this, but my question is, as I try to reseason these parts – do I have to scrape off [all the seasoning]? Or can I just try to reseason it as-is and hope for the best?

A: Great question, and it’s one I get often. You can take up the seasons without scraping if you dedicate yourself to some oil and heat cooking – frying chicken or veggies? Searing and cooking fatty steaks on the grill? It’s the combo of heat and oil that create a polymer which is the natural non-stick coating. Give up the olive oil and save it for salads. Use a grape seed, flaxseed, cottonseed (Crisco) oil instead. If you do scrape off the bits and start fresh, use the same regimen. Remember: high heat – 400 degrees or higher – and a light smoke-tolerant oil. Good luck! – AB