‘Tis the season for holiday baking

The holidays are a busy season. From cooking and baking for family and friends to holiday shopping and preparing for time-honored traditions, the season will pass in a blur. Regardless, it’s also the time of year when everyone has holiday cookies and extra-special meals on their minds.

While dreaming of countless delectable treats, like homemade eggnog and royal icing, there is also a risk that at-home cooks and bakers strive to avoid: salmonella. Renowned baker and author of The Cake Bible and Rose’s Christmas Cookies, Rose Levy Beranbaum, uses pasteurized eggs instead of worrying about the risk of salmonella when baking her holiday treats.

Beranbaum offers tips for baking this holiday season and her favorite iced sugar cookie recipe.

* Prep the kitchen. Put away unnecessary items, clean off the counter or table top and make sure that all of the tools and ingredients are available to make for a smoother baking process.

* Measurement is key. Unlike cooking, baking requires exact measurement. One important technique is the spoon-and-sweep method for measuring flour, which can settle. Scoop the flour into the measuring cup, ensure it is full and sweep off the excess with a knife.

* Be patient. Allow the cookie sheets to cool completely before using for the next batch to avoid flat cookies.

* Think through baking times. Looking for a slightly softer, chewier cookie? Roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness and reduce the baking time slightly

* Use high quality ingredients. Products like Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs eliminate the risk of salmonella – and they add a little fun and excitement back into the kitchen for anyone who enjoys a quick taste of cookie batter or using eggs in raw preparations like Beranbaum’s royal icing recipe.

Traditional Rolled Christmas Sugar Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen 3-inch cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups (11.25 ounces) bleached all-purposed flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large Safest Choice Pasteurized Egg
1 tablespoon (finely grated) lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Royal Icing (recipe follows)

Directions:
Soften the butter. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla extract and beat until blended. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. On low speed, gradually add them to the butter mixture and mix until incorporated. Add water, a few drops at a time, only until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap, not your fingers, to press the dough together to form a thick flat disc. Wrap it well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably no longer than 3. Place 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough, covered with plastic wrap to prevent cracking, to a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut shapes using your favorite cookie cutters or freehand with a knife. With a small spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown around the edges. For even baking, rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period. Use a small spatula to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool before decorating with Royal Icing, dragees, sprinkles and glittering holiday edibles. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:
3 large Safest Choice pasteurized egg whites
4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, place the egg whites and powdered sugar and beat, preferably with the whisk beater, at low speed, until the sugar is moistened. Beat at high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form when the beater is lifted (5 to 7 minutes). The tips of the peaks should curve slightly. If necessary, more powdered sugar may be added. Keeps for 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

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