This weekend, the ladies in my family attempted to start a tradition of Christmas cookie baking.
Baking Christmas cookies takes a lot of planning and shopping and measuring and mixing and of course, baking (which includes cooling and sometimes rotating, if your oven lacks convection).
My soon-to-be sister-in-law chose to make these Russian Tea Cakes for the first time ever. The recipe calls for a cup of softened butter, but because we were making 6 dozen instead of 4 dozen, we needed a cup and a half of softened butter (that’s a lot). And although I am horrible baker, she asked me a question I could actually answer:
“How do you get butter to soften without melting it?”
Because of our early morning start, the butter I brought to my mom’s was still refrigerator-hard. So we needed to intercede.
Perhaps your experience with softening butter in the microwave involves you — nose pressed up against the glass — nuking the flavorful fat ingredient in short intervals and praying it doesn’t melt.
But that’s not how it’s supposed to be at all.
To soften our cup and a half of butter, we microwaved each stick for a minute a piece at 10% power.
Based on your microwave, you might want to amp up to 20% and adjust the time or even use the defrost setting (which is 30% power).
Later, we also adjusted our microwave power to soften cream cheese for Peanut Butter Balls (which are amazing, by the way).
Microwave power levels can also come in handy for reheating foods, I’ve found. Foods like pizza and French fries revive less soggier when microwaved longer at lower power.
Are you taking full advantage of your convection oven (if you don’t know what that is, read What is convection?)?
You probably already know to decrease your oven temperature 25 degrees and decrease the bake time about 25 percent for convection oven vs. conventional oven.
But if you already know how to use convection cooking — and you probably do if you partake in holiday baking and cookie exchanges — I bet you’ll still learn something from Dacor’s convection oven baking tips (PDF).
Also, if if your convection oven cooking times seem to be longer now than when you first bought your convection oven, perhaps you need to clean your convection filter.
In a convection oven, the fan draws air through the filter. So especially if you do a lot of roasting, grease particles will stick to the filter and could obstruct the airflow. Check your use and care manual for instructions on how to clean your filter. Some, like Dacor convection oven filter, are dishwasher safe.