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Holiday Baking – Food Safety

Keep food safety in mind as you bake this holiday season.  Many people think about the raw eggs in cookies and cake batter. So, they know it is not a good idea to eat raw or undercooked dough. But many do not think about the concerns related to flour and other grain products.  (Product labels are in the photo only for product recognition. No endorsement or defamation implied)

Flour recall in 2019

In 2019 there was an outbreak and recall from a major grain provider in the United States. Previous to that, there were cases outside the U.S. but rarely heard of here. Since that outbreak, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has added  “say no to raw dough”  to their public outreach programs. It is important for people to remember that even though the grains may be highly processed they are not cooked or heated to destroy disease causing bacteria. Many people will make social media posts and suggestions for making their flour safe at home, but these practices have not been proven to successful. These grains grow outdoors in large fields where wildlife roam and birds fly overhead. Some of the wildlife may even feed off the grain before it is harvested.

Cook all foods that contain grains or eggs

Even though the grains are sorted and tested it is impossible to test each grain for safety. That is why it is important to cook all foods that contain grain and all your baked goods with eggs in them. If you have any recipes that call for uncooked grains or eggs, think twice. If you have a recipe for old fashioned mayonnaise (sometimes used as an ingredient in baking), use pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes  that have been pasteurized. Typically the biggest concern with raw eggs is salmonella. E-coli is the bacteria that has been found in uncooked grains.

So even though it is not a holiday baked good, think about the overnight oatmeal recipes that add yogurt or milk to raw oats for a quick breakfast. But there are also overnight oatmeal cookie recipes. Oatmeal cookies are generally more nutritious and a good choice, but any time the you add liquid ingredients and allow the grains to sit, they may grow harmful bacteria. (think raw cookie dough kept on the counter during baking or stored in the refrigerator for more than a few hours) If you know you cannot bake the entire batch of dough in the same day, freeze the dough for later.


Check the temperature and doneness

The Home Baking Organization recommends checking the temperature of baked goods. Just like we test the temperature of our holiday meats, here is the chart they recommend for safe temperatures in baked goods. Check out their info graphic on all the things you need to remember when baking, Baking Food Safety . Find the graph with the temperatures for different types of baked goods. For brownies and cookies, many people like them soft and “fudgy” but taking them out of the oven before they are completely baked can be a problem.  It is difficult to take the temperature of a cookie. But if you see raw dough when you break a freshly baked cookie, it probably needs more time.  Warm chocolate will be soft so be careful when you check for doneness. In the photo below the chocolate is soft but so is the white batter around the chocolate.

Handwashing continues to matter

When you handle raw dough, like rolling into balls before baking or kneading bread dough, wash your hands between steps.  Clean and sanitize all areas that may have been in contact with the raw dough.  Keep yourself and your family safe by treating baking ingredients with care!

2 Comments on “Holiday Baking – Food Safety

  1. I’m a fan of overnight oats that contain the oats as well as almond milk a bit of cinnamon and berries. I usually just heat it a bit in the microwave about 2 minutes the next morning. Is that enough heat or just stop with the overnight oats?

    • If you use overnight oats, be sure to heat them to steaming before eating them. Technically, it is most safe to cook them before putting them in the refrigerator, but cooked oats get very thick and may need extra liquid.