2009-12-17 / Features

’Tis The Season For Holiday Baking

When it comes to whipping up holiday treats, butter is definitely better. You're gearing up for the season and will be spending lots of quality time with the herd. Spend time with your own family in the kitchen this holiday season and bake up special memories.

Found in almost every pantry, butter’s unique flavor, melting and cooking properties make it a great ingredient for cake and cookie recipes, frostings, candies and more.

Butter has been used for cooking for centuries – according to legend, it originated when a traveler somewhere transported a container of fresh milk and unwittingly churned the cream to butter with each step. As you begin to break out the baking sheets and cookie cutters for the holiday season, here are some tips to ensure your goodies look and taste fabulous straight from the oven:

Baking with butter tips from California happy cows Janice and Diane:

Most baking recipes call for unsalted butter (also referred to as sweet butter). However, salted and unsalted butter can be substituted for each other if necessary.

It’s best to use unsalted butter when baking – you will have more control over the flavor since the amount of salt in salted butter varies among brands.

Many recipes call for a greased pan. Rubbing a stick of butter along the sides and bottom of your baking dish or baking sheet will ensure nothing sticks during removal.

Read recipes carefully to know what temperature the butter should be for baking. Some recipes call for softened butter or melted butter, while recipes for dough usually call for cold or hard butter for a flakier texture.

Use only sticks of butter when baking to ensure even measurements. Measuring is easy using the printed measurement on the wrapper: 1/4 pound = 1 stick = 1/2 cup

1 pound = 4 sticks = 2 cups

Some butter packaging is stamped with a “best used by” date, intended to tell how long the product will be at top eating quality. It can be kept at room temperature for short periods of time, but should be refrigerated to maintain peak flavor.

Did you know that California produces more butter than any other state in the U.S. and exported 555 million pounds in 2008? Look for the Real California Milk seal on packages of butter, which certifies it’s made exclusively with milk produced on California dairy farms.

Cupcakes are one of our favorite treats, and a popular baking trend that has inspired both pastry chefs and home bakers alike. Here is a perfect recipe featuring traditional flavors that everyone is sure to love.
Gingerbread Cupcakes
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup very hot water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted
butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
For frosting:
8 ozs. cream cheese, room
temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted
Butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 small gingerbread-man cookies

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour insides of 12 muffin cups or insert paper liners. Mix molasses, hot water and baking soda together in a large bowl. Cool to room temperature. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. In a large bowl, sift together salt, ginger, cinnamon, flour and baking powder. In three additions, alternately add dry ingredients and molasses mixture to butter mixture. Mix thoroughly after each addition to make sure there are no lumps.

Evenly divide batter between cupcake molds. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans. Cool completely before frosting

Frosting: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. If cream cheese is very soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes. With a piping bag, swirl cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake. (You can also frost them with a table knife or small spatula.) Place a gingerbread-man cookie on top of frosting or wedge the cookie into each cupcake.

For more recipes, visit www.realcaliforniamilk.com.

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