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Frequently Asked Questions about Cookies

Every day, we receive lots of emails from people asking for answers to general questions. For a glimpse of this dynamic exchange of ideas and tips, and for answers to questions about food that you may have had yourself, please have a look at this FAQ! You can also browse other answers at other FAQs pages or look for answers in articles in the services page.

If you still have questions, post it in the recipe forum where other visitors may respond to your request.


Q. I would like to send a package of cookies to a relative overseas. Can you recommend a few recipes that will keep well? What is the best way to package them?

A. Certain cookies tend to ship better than others do. We recommend that you do not mail cookies with custard or custard-like fillings or toppings, including Cheesecake Bars or Nanaimo bars. The custard could spoil, making a very unwelcome gift.

Cookies that have a crunchy or hard texture such as Biscotti, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Crisps, Springerle, and Shortbreads make excellent choices for mail delivery. They tend to be fairly sturdy, so you don't have to worry too much about breakage. And since they already have a fairly dry texture, drying out isn't much of an issue.

Pack cookies in a sturdy tin or airtight container. On the bottom of the container place a piece of bubble wrap, then line the container with parchment paper or cellophane, leaving enough to tuck over the top once the container is fully packed. Place one layer of cookies in the container. Cover with parchment paper. Arrange another layer of cookies, followed with more parchment paper, and continue this layering until the container is full. Tuck the cellophane or parchment paper over the top, then place another piece of bubble wrap on top, and seal your container. 

Q. Is there anything I can use as a substitute for shortening?

A. In a cookie recipe, you can easily substitute butter or margarine for the shortening. The flavor will be a little bit richer, the cookies will be crispier, and they may spread a little bit more in the baking process.

Q. I would like to get an early start on my Christmas cookies this year. How long can I safely freeze cookies or dough?

A.  Many cookies can be made ahead and stored in a tin for a couple of months. Some of these are Biscotti, Springerle, Lebkuchen, and Fruitcake cookies. Any refrigerator cookies are best frozen as dough and then baked fresh. Drop cookies can be scooped onto a cookie sheet, frozen, and then transferred to resealable freezer bags until time to bake. Cookie dough can be frozen for up to six weeks. This will keep the cookies tasting fresh, and the house smelling like you have worked all day.

Q.  The recipe I've chosen calls for parchment paper to line the cookie sheets. Is there an alternative to using parchment paper?

A.  If you cannot find parchment paper at any stores in your area, simply grease your cookie sheets to prevent sticking. If the cookies are particularly sticky, you can line the cookie sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up and cookie removal.

Q.  What can I use to substitute for cream of tartar?

A.  Normally, when cream of tartar is used in a cookie, it is used together with baking soda. The two of them combined work like double-acting baking powder. When substituting for cream of tartar, you must also substitute for the baking soda at the same time. A teaspoon of baking powder will substitute for 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar. If there is additional baking soda that does not fit into the equation, simply add it to the batter.

When cream of tartar is used in whipping egg whites, it acts as a stabilizer. There is no exact substitute, but you can add a pinch of salt instead. Salt has a lesser stabilizing effect.

Q.  I noticed some of the recipes call for sour milk. Can I make sour milk?

A.  To make your own sour milk, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup measure and fill the remainder of the cup with fresh milk. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using it in a recipe.

Q.  I often find myself adjusting recipes in order to make enough for my family, but it doesn't quite work for some recipes. Do you have any advice for me?

Changing recipes in order to make more or less servings is called "recipe scaling." Whenever you alter the amounts of ingredients for a given recipe, you may also need to adjust the cooking temperature, cooking time, pan size and seasonings. But for food chemistry reasons, recipe scaling simply does not work well for some dishes: delicate foods such as soufflés, baked items requiring yeast such as breads, and recipes for a single large item that is meant to be later divided into smaller portions such as cakes, pies, breads and whole turkey.

Our Recipe Scaling Page will give you a reliable framework for successful recipe scaling: It offers detailed guidelines for recipe scaling.


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