It’s that time of the year when everyone’s baking cookies and making a mess in the kitchen. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to making shortbread cookies and keeping the kitchen and the baking area and pans nice and clean in the process.

PREPARE THE KITCHEN: Tidy the kitchen first. Remove any packaging, paper, pens, equipment, etc. that are on the counter surfaces. Clean the counter top before starting and always wash your hands. Keep a clean, damp towel nearby to wipe sticky fingers or messy counters as you work.  Then, gather the ingredients for your cookies.

MAKE THE COOKIES:

Shortbread Cookies (from the Joy of Cooking)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioners or icing)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least an hour, or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly-floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) thickness.  Cut into circles, or other shapes of your choice, using a lightly floured cookie cutter.  Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes (this will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked). Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

BETWEEN BATCHES: Each batch of cookies that go into the oven should have a clean and cooled cookie sheet. After removing baked cookies, let the cookie sheets cool to room temperature. To cool a cookie sheet quickly, run it under cool water and then dry it thoroughly before using. If you don’t use a cool pan, the dough starts to soften and the cookies start spreading before they are placed in the oven.

CLEAN KITCHEN: Be sure to have the kitchen tidy by cleaning as you go. Put away all the cookie ingredients, put dishes in the dishwasher or wash by hand and wipe all the counters. The only way others should know you’ve been baking is by the amazingly delicious cookie aroma in the air!

FORGOTTEN COOKIE SHEET: If cookie crumbs have burned onto the cookie sheet, here’s a quick way to clean them; sprinkle baking soda on the sheet, follow it up with some hydrogen peroxide and then sprinkle more baking soda on top. Let it sit for up to two hours, then wipe it all away with a rag or coarse sponge and then rinse clean.