Want to Take Baking to a Whole New Level?

Want to create a sugar cookie with real zing? Then get courageous and play with flavors. Look for ways to enhance flavor and even break from tradition.

For instance, the typical sugar cookie is vanilla-based. To enhance its flavor, add some scrapings of vanilla bean to the extract when mixing the dough. The tiny black specks add visual interest as well as flavor punch. Or before rolling your dough balls in sugar prior to baking, infuse the sugar with vanilla. And do consider using vanilla paste rather than extract as a way to create a more intense vanilla experience.

But breaking from tradition (the vanilla-based cookie) is where it really gets fun. How about a lemon sugar cookie? When mixing the dough, add a couple drops of lemon essential oil and a teaspoon of lemon emulsion rather than lemon extract. And add some lemon zest to the sugar in which you’ll be rolling your dough balls.

For more tradition-breaking, how about a coconut-flavored sugar cookie? Again, rather than vanilla, flavor the dough with coconut emulsion. Then grind some unsweetened coconut in sugar (I use a mortar and pestle) and use this for rolling your dough balls.

I took this idea a step further by creating a “stuffed” coconut sugar cookie. I simply put a teaspoon of unsweetened coconut between to slightly flattened coconut-sugar-cookie balls, pinched the edges, then sprinkled them with the coconut sugar mentioned about. These were truly divine. I named them “Coconut Oooh-Aaahs.”

Sugar cookies also do well flavored with orange. When mixing the dough, add a couple drops of sweet orange essential oil and a teaspoon of orange emulsion. Then, zest a fresh orange, mix it with a teaspoon of orange juice concentrate and some sugar, and roll your dough balls in this mixture.

You’ll find these extra steps will result in sugar cookies that are good enough to sell, and so unique you’ll feel comfortable bringing them to any potluck.

Now a word about emulsions. Have you heard of them? Do you already use them? Professional bakers prefer them to extracts. Emulsions are water based and not alcohol based. Emulsions are superior to extracts because when they are subjected to high heat, the flavor will not bake out. Thus, you end up with a truer, more intense flavor in anything you bake by using emulsions.

You’ll find baking emulsions at any kitchen specialty store, or they can be ordered online. The most popular and most common brand is LorAnn®. They can average around $7 for a 4-ounce bottle, depending on where you look. Seems expensive up front, but a little goes a long way. Amazon.com always seems to have the best price.

If you’re an avid baker, you’ll want to look in to using emulsions. While sugar cookies have been the focus here, emulsions enhance every baked good—muffins, quick breads, cinnamon rolls, and especially cakes. They really do take your baking to a whole new level!

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  •     Alice Osborne
        Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
        Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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