The Washington Post

Chat Leftovers:

Nancy Baggett’s Rosemary-Orange Shortbread Cookies. (James M. Thresher/for The Washington Post)

Are you a millennial? If you’re not sure what that means, then the answer is no, plus you clearly are behind on your reading. This week, Food turns its microscope on Generation Y — those folks roughly between the ages of 13 and 35 — to see how they’ve helped shape the food scene in Washington. Tim Carman tells us how some restaurants have changed to lure these young, savvy diners; Becky Krystal checks out the Farragut Fridays food truck crowds; Bonnie S. Benwick stocks the millennial pantry; wine columnist Dave McIntyre finds a pop-up wine bar run by two enterprising 20-somethings; and we introduce you to nine local millennials making an impact.

You can weigh in on this phenomenon — or on any other culinary topic that tickles your fancy — during today’s live Free Range chat. Bring questions, comments, advice or even your favorite recipe and join the conversation. It’s a lively hour of give-and-take — but it’s only an hour. When we run out of time, it‘s my job to answer a leftover question. So here’s one from last week’s chat:

Most cookie recipes that call for butter specify that it be softened, cold, etc. If a recipe doesn’t specify, what is the best/most neutral option? I’ve gone with out-of-the-fridge-but-not-yet-soft, but is there a better approach?

Thank you for that question, because it gave me a chance to catch up with Nancy Baggett, local cookbook author and cookie baker extraordinaire. I knew she’d have the right answer; we’ve featured more than 50 of her recipes in our Recipe Finder database over the years, and they’re always foolproof.

So: What to do with your cookie butter? “It depends on what the next step is,” Nancy says. “That should clue you in as to what you need to do.”

For example, “If it says to beat the butter with the sugar, right off that’s going to tell you something. That won’t work if the butter is still cold. . . . You need to have the butter softened some. If you’re using a very weak hand mixer, the cold butter could actually bend or break the blades or jam the machine.” Even a sturdy stand mixer, she says, could have difficulty processing chilled butter. You don’t want a heavy machine jumping around on your countertop.

“The other clue is if it says to cut the butter into the sugar or, more likely, into the flour. In that case, the butter should be cold. You can’t cut warm butter successfully into pieces. You’ll just mash it around.”

The bottom line: “Take a clue from the recipe itself. Normally, if it doesn’t say at all what to do, I would go for slightly softened, but that presupposes that you aren’t going to cut the butter in.”

She also says, “Obviously, the recipe writer should tell you!”

Clearly! Here’s a half-dozen of Nancy’s cookie recipes from our database. We promise that they all tell you how cold the butter should be — unless you’re supposed to melt it, in which case it doesn’t matter one bit how it starts out.

Rosemary-Orange Shortbread Cookies

Quick No-Bake S’mores Bars

Orange-Ginger Creams (these are great even without the buttercream filling)

Iced Cranberry-White Drop Cookies

Key Lime Sugar Cookies

Sherill’s Secret Soft Gingerbread Boys



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
From clubfoot to climbing: Double amputee lives life of adventure
Learn to make traditional soup dumplings
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Play Videos
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
The rise and fall of baseball cards
How to keep your child safe in the water
Play Videos
'Did you fall from heaven?': D.C.'s pick-up lines
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
How to get organized for back to school
How to buy a car via e-mail
The signature drink of New Orleans

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.