Cookies 101

Today’s “How To” Post offers baking tips specific to Cookies! A cookie tutorial on the basic do’s and don’ts–these cookie tips will ensure your cookies come out of the oven perfect every time.

Cookie Tips and Tricks

Let’s talk cookies.

Even if you consider yourself a cook, rather than a baker, I bet there are times when you try your hand at cookie making.

Say… 10 pm Friday night in your jammies?

Right after that popcorn you popped to go with your movie rental, nothing sounds better than warm cookies and milk.

However, late-night cookie ventures often produce massive cookie fails like:

Cookie Fails

  • The Pancake Cookie: Paper thin, shapeless, and dark, due to too much butter, too much time in the oven, or not chilling your dough.
  • The Mound Cookie: A hard round clump cookie, due to too much flour and/or not enough fat, so the cookie never spreads and softens.
  • The Black Bottomed Cookie: It looks perfect on top, but the bottom is charred to a crisp.

If your cookies often turn out like this, the baking tips I will share in this cookie tutorial should make your baking experiences much more successful.

Cookie Baking Tips

Cookie Tips

Watch the Weather. As mentioned in baking tips from older posts, weather can significantly effect the outcome of your baking endeavors. Try not to bake on rainy days when the air is extremely humid. Your cookies (and other baked goods) won’t rise and form a crisp exterior, as they normally would.

Cookie Tutorial

Read and Follow the Recipe. Even cooking pros make this mistake on occasion. If you don’t read through the entire recipe, BEFORE YOUR START BAKING, it is very easy to miss steps along the way.

A rule to live by: baking is chemistry, not art. Every element matters, from portions, to ingredient temperature (like cold butter or room-temperature eggs,) to oven position.

Every now and again, I hear feedback on a recipe like, “I made this recipe, just as you said, but reduced the butter, added 2 cups of chopped nuts, substituted coconut milk for shredded coconut, and used a gluten free baking mix instead of regular flour AND IT TOTALLY DIDN’T TURN OUT! So disappointing.”

I’m not hating on these readers. In fact, I’m extremely honored they tried the recipe and took the time to comment.

Yet you must remember, ANY adjustments you make will effect the outcome, just like in a science experiment. If you are not an experienced baker, follow the recipe to-a-tee several times, before you try “making it your own.”

Measure

Measure. As mentioned above, every little adjustment, makes a difference in the outcome of your cookies, so measure accurately.

We Americans like to kick it old-school in the measuring department, relying on cups and spoons to give the proper proportions. Yet pastry chefs world-wide measure their ingredients by weight. The reason for this is that a cup of flour can vary greatly in weight depending on the type of flour, and how packed it is.

In a perfect world all home-cooks would use scales and metric measurement to insure exact amounts of wet and dry ingredients. As that’s never going to happen, make sure to always pour ingredients into your measuring cups, never scoop. Scooping packs the ingredient down, meaning you end up with more than you want. Always level the measuring spoons and cups with a knife or spatula.

Creaming

Cream It Like You Mean It. When a recipe asks you to “cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy” don’t cut corners.

Creaming whips air into the butter and breaks down the sugar. This will result in lighter cookies with a better crust. I recommend creaming your butter and sugar for a least 3-5 minutes. Cream for 2 minutes, scrape the bowl, to make sure all the butter is included, and cream again for 1-3 minutes.

Chilled Dough

Chill Your Dough. If a recipe asks you to chill the dough before cutting or portioning,

CHILL. THE. DOUGH.

Chilling the dough, does a couple things. One, for roll-out cookies it firms the dough making it easier to roll, cut, and move the cookies to the baking sheets in perfect form. Two, when cold dough goes into the oven, the exterior has time to bake a little to hold the shape, before the interior warm and melts. This results in cookies with a very uniform shape. For roll-out cookies this is essential.

Cookies 101 - Cookie Tips

Portion Like a Robot. When it’s time to portion out your cookie dough, I want you to think like a robot. Each cookie should be exactly equal.

Artistic portioning, where you have the enormous cookie on one end of the baking sheet and some baby cookies on the other end, leads to irregularly baked cookies. Some will be over-baked and other cookies will come out raw.

Using a cookie scoop or scale will guarantee your cookies bake evenly every time.

Portion Your Dough

Personal Space. Your cookies need some personal space to spread. Don’t crowd so many on a baking sheet that they run together. Two inches apart in all directions is a good rule of thumb.

Parchment Paper. I should own stock in parchment paper. It’s one of my very favorite baking tools.

Lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper help the cookies to:  bake evenly, retain their shape, and have golden bottoms. Plus, it makes them easy to move from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack or counter.

Cookie Tips: Space your Cookies

Oven Position. Make sure your oven racks are in the center of the oven. If you are baking more than one sheet of cookies in the oven at once, rotate positions halfway through baking.

Cookies that bake too close to the top or bottom of the oven will result in black-bottomed cookies or dark-topped cookies.

Cookie Tutorial

Learn to Distinguish “Just Right” Remove the cookies from the oven when the edges are golden but centers look about 1-2 minutes under cooked. Then LET THE COOKIES COOL ON THE COOKIE SHEETS for at least 3-5 minutes, before sliding the parchment paper onto the rack or counter.

This allows the cookies to bake a few minutes longer from the decreased heat of the cookie sheet, without over baking, producing lightly golden edges, and soft just-barely-baked-through centers.

Cool the cookies to room temperature before moving, if you want them to retain their perfect shape.

Baking Tips

Air-Tight. Once you’ve finished baking your perfect cookies, you don’t want them to dry out into hard little disks. So make sure to store them in an air-tight container, not wrapped loosely under foil.

If the cookies need to keep for a few days, I always add a slice of sandwich bread (or two) to the container. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread, making sure they stay soft.

Now get your cookie baking on!

Baking tips for cookies

Related Posts

51 Responses to “Cookies 101”

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    1
    Belinda @zomppa — February 27, 2013 @ 5:22 am

    You are a true pro!! Haha…love the nicknames you give to cookies….we’ve all seen those before!

    Reply

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    Marian (Sweetopia) — February 27, 2013 @ 7:10 am

    I LOVE this post! Bang on tips to help cookies come out perfectly every time! Brilliant!

    Reply

    • Dorothy — December 4th, 2013 @ 6:53 am

      Hi, Marian!
      In reading your post, I don’t know what you mean by “bang on tips”… I can’t find this mentioned in the “A Spicy Perspective” article (or am I overlooking it)?
      Can you share with me please?

      Thank you!
      Dorothy

      Reply

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    shelly (cookies and cups) — February 27, 2013 @ 7:13 am

    Great tips Sommer! Such a good resource to have :)

    Reply

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    marla — February 27, 2013 @ 7:19 am

    Excellent tutorial ~ now I crave cookies ;)

    Reply

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    Maria — February 27, 2013 @ 7:25 am

    Great tips!

    Reply

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    Marly — February 27, 2013 @ 7:31 am

    Great tips, Sommer! It’s so tempting to want to skip steps here and there, but when you want the cookies to look and taste their best, each of these steps are really important. But I must confess…rainy days are our favorite times for cookies!

    Reply

    • Sommer — February 27th, 2013 @ 7:42 am

      I know Marly, secretly I do it too. I just don’t expect perfection those days. :)

      Reply

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    Jenny Flake — February 27, 2013 @ 7:48 am

    What great cookie tips! Loved scrolling through all of your lovely photos :)

    Reply

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    Cassie — February 27, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    “portion like a robot” – I love that. I’m terrible at doing it on my own so I have to have tools to help me. And I have found that measuring by weight is the way to go so often with cookies!

    Reply

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    Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies — February 27, 2013 @ 8:12 am

    …and the fact that baking is chemistry, not art is why I will never be a good baker. :) I can pull off the occasional muffin or cookie, but anything more is pushing it. Great post, Sommer!

    Reply

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    Julia @ A Cedar Spoon — February 27, 2013 @ 8:23 am

    These are great tips. I must admit I am not much of a baker but cookies is something I make on occasion. I am going to start using parchment paper–which is something I haven’t done with cookies. I love your how to series by the way. :)

    Reply

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    Kevin @ Closet Cooking — February 27, 2013 @ 8:24 am

    Great tips! I can feel the sugar rush coming just looking at all of those amazing cookies! Lately I have been experimenting with a silicon baking sheet rather than the parchment papper to compare.

    Reply

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    Lauren — February 27, 2013 @ 9:03 am

    These are AWESOME tips! Thanks so much. I feel inspired to bake some cookies now…husband will be happy. :)

    Reply

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    S. @ The Captivating Life — February 27, 2013 @ 9:13 am

    What a helpful post! I’m definitely not as good a baker as I am a cook, precisely because baking is such an art. Can’t really freestyle cookies the way you can a pasta dish. I only learned that the proper way to measure flour was to pour and level, not scoop, like a week ago. :) Never knew about baking on a rainy day though! Thanks for the tips!

    Reply

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    Helene — February 27, 2013 @ 9:54 am

    Awesome post and tips. Great pictures also :)

    Reply

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    Amanda — February 27, 2013 @ 10:55 am

    Great tips Sommer!

    Reply

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    naomi — February 27, 2013 @ 10:56 am

    Great tips!

    Reply

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    Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet — February 27, 2013 @ 11:09 am

    Great tips and I’ll have one of each! p.s. – I have the same cookbook stand. I knew I loved you for a reason. ;)

    Happy Hump Day!
    xo
    H

    Reply

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    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — February 27, 2013 @ 11:30 am

    Great tips, Sommer! There’s nothing worse than a bad cookie!

    Reply

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    Julie @ Table for Two — February 27, 2013 @ 11:33 am

    wow, this is such a knowledgeable post. most of this i didn’t know, especially why sometimes i get mound cookies when i test my own recipes. thank you for this informative post! there’s so much to learn :)

    Reply

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    Sandy @ RE — February 27, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    Great post, friend. Parchment paper really makes a difference, doesn’t it? Thanks for all the great tips!

    Reply

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    Heather Christo — February 27, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    Great tips Sommer- this will help remind even experienced bakers all the best ways to do it and show the ropes to people just learning how to bake the best version of their favorite cookies!

    Reply

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    Renee' B — February 27, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

    I’ve been baking for a while, but did not know a few of these tips. Thanks so much for the info!

    Reply

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    Colette — February 27, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    Exactly right, baking is a science and you’ve got to

    follow
    the
    rules,

    which is a challenge for squirrels like me!

    Reply

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    Barbara | Creative Culinary — February 27, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

    I’ve been making cookies since the Stone Age but the last 27 years have been the toughest. I have one ingredient i struggle with that you did not mention and it’s called Altitude. I always say you have to give Attitude to Altitude!

    If you have other readers dealing with the same thing, I’ve found that what works best for me is to raise the oven temp 25 degrees and cut back on cooking time; usually only a minute or two. This will cook the dough a bit quicker and help to offset the chance that the dough will rise too quickly and then just as quickly fall because the dough has not cooked enough to provide the required structure.

    I also have made a practice of rolling dough into balls and then freezing them. Keeps us from eating all of them in one sitting (oh yes we have!) and having a stash for later.

    Great informative post!

    Reply

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    Stephanie H — February 27, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

    Do you reuse your parchment paper? I truly do love using it and have found I can use a piece several times, on both sides and get good results. Would love to hear your opinion on this! Love your blog!

    Reply

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    Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen — February 27, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

    Sommer, such an excellent ‘Cookies 101’ baking tips tutorial! Great minds think alike as I’ve been working on a drop cookie tutorial (for chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies) this week which includes instructions on portioning dough with a cookie scoop and weighing using a kitchen scale as well as shaping, proper spacing on baking sheets and oven rack positioning for even baking, LOL!

    However, I must say, the way to measure flour by volume (using measuring cups) depends on how the recipe author developed the recipe and suggests within the recipe. This should be followed first, of course. Outstanding baking recipe authors (such as Rose Levy Beranbaum) will state “lightly spooned into cup & leveled off” (as in her Rose’s Christmas Cookies cookbook) or instruct to use the “dip and sweep” method for best results (such as stated in Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book). Otherwise, one would never know the best way to measure flour by volume for a given recipe.

    Flour manufacturers state 1 cup of regular all-purpose wheat flour (bleached or unbleached), and even bread flour, weighs 120 grams (such as by King Arthur Flour). Even the ancient einkorn wheat flour, by Jovial Foods, I am working with this week weighs 120 grams per cup. Given one (1) US customary cup of AP flour equals 120 grams, this would translate to 4.2 ounces despite the fact that my Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library cookbooks (from the 1990s) states 1 cup of flour weighs 5 ounces (such as Cookies & Biscotti with recipes by Kristine Kidd). So confusing for new bakers!

    What all of this suggests is that earlier cookbooks simply relied on the “dip and sweep” method of measuring AP wheat flour. When I use the “dip and sweep” method, invariably the results are between 4.9 and 5 ounces of AP flour—just as my W-S cookbooks state. Other baking experts state regular AP wheat flour weighs 125 grams after carefully weighing many times (such as Dr. Jean McFadden Layton author of Gluten-Free Baking for Dummies). As you stated, the dip and sweep method (which packs flour tighter into the measuring cup), before leveling off, yields more flour when results are weighed with a kitchen scale vs. the pour method. In fact, the “dip and sweep” method can vary greatly from 130 to 140 grams or more depending on whether the flour was aerated (stirred) first or not before measuring thus greatly impacting a given recipe—especially when several cups are called for.

    Measuring gluten-free flours is even more challenging for home bakers because the flours have varying densities. For example, with starch flours, 1 cup of potato starch weighs 165 grams and 1 cup of arrowroot starch weighs 128 grams. When it comes to nut flours, like blanched almond flour for instance, the flour must be packed into the cup to yield the manufacturers weight of 112 grams per cup. If one were to spoon or pour almond flour into a measuring cup, this method would never yield 112 grams for baking success. All of this must be taken into account, as well as the properties of gluten-free flours (for instance, coconut flour is a super thirsty flour and requires much more liquid in recipes), when substituting or converting traditional recipes to gluten-free.

    No matter the type of flour called for, when using a kitchen scale one should make certain it is calibrated properly with set (known) weights before using. This is a must to ensure accuracy in measuring and recipe success.

    Meanwhile, Sommer, you have provided many great “rules of thumb” to go by for successful traditional baking (when measuring in US measurements as cup measurements vary throughout the world) using regular all-purpose wheat flour for cookies. You were “spot on” on all counts. Swell job! xoxo

    P.S. I have an older Classic white KitchenAid stand mixer, too. Love her and feel like a traitor getting a new one!

    Reply

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    Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen — February 27, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

    Great tips Sommer! Your cookies always make me hungry!

    Reply

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    Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers — February 27, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

    Great post! I love the idea of adding bread to the container! You make an excellent point on everything! I’m using your guidelines to make my next batch of cookies, which will be tonight! Thank you!

    Reply

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    Jocelyn @BruCrew Life — February 27, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

    Great tips!!! I always have to laugh at the comments when someone didn’t follow the recipe exactly and then blast the recipe.

    Reply

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    Aimee @ Simple Bites — February 27, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

    GREAT tips! Love ‘Cream it like you mean it.’ My Kitchen Aid changed my cookie baking ten years ago. I’d be lost with out it!

    Reply

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    Kirsten@ My Kitchen in the Rockies — February 27, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

    One more thing to watch out for is ALTITUDE. You can follow all the steps above and still have a failing end result, if you live in the mountains. Like Barb mentioned before, increase liquids and flour, cut down on baking powder/soda and increase oven temp..
    I have some great tips on my blog dedicated to High Altitude Baking: http://www.mykitchenintherockies.com/high-altitude-baking/
    Great tips Sommer!

    Reply

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    Jennifer @ Mother Thyme — February 28, 2013 @ 9:54 am

    Great tips Sommer! Now I want to bake a big batch of cookies! :)

    Reply

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    Tara @ Unsophisticook — February 28, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

    Great batch of tips, Sommer! I totally agree about being careful when making any adjustments.

    Reply

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    Laura Dembowski — February 28, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

    Love the tutorial. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said I should own stock in parchment paper too :)

    Reply

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    RavieNomNoms — February 28, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

    Great post and tips, thank you!

    Reply

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    sweetsugarbelle — February 28, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

    Super tips!!!!!! Sharing this ASAP!

    Reply

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    a farmer in the dell — February 28, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    lady, I wish I was a baker. Even with these awesome tips I cannot pull off the most basic cookie recipe. It’s always a disaster! I will stick to cooking and drooling over your photos!

    Reply

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    Jeanette — February 28, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    Great tutorial Sommer! I’m not a baker by any means so I can use all the help I can get. Thanks for putting this together.

    Reply

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    Nicole @ youngbrokeandhungry — February 28, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    As soon as I saw this post, I put some of your tips to use. And guess what? I developed my own cookie recipe and they turned out fantastic! Thank you.

    Reply

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    Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles — February 28, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

    Excellent post, Sommer. I don’t have the patience to weigh my cookie dough, but truly understand why it’s a good idea. So many beautiful cookie photos!!!

    Reply

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    Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen — February 28, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

    Haha! I’m guilty of falling short on a lot of these, but my cookies usually turn out (phew!). I guess that comes with experience…

    My worst habit is not reading through the recipe ahead of time!

    Reply

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    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — March 1, 2013 @ 12:48 am

    I love love love this post!! Thanks for sharing all of your baking insights and secrets, Sommer. I still need to sharpen my skills in this department :)

    Reply

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    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — March 1, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

    It’s not 10 o’clock but it is Friday and I’m itching to make some cookies now!

    Reply

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    Shaina — March 5, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    Great collection of cookie wisdom, Sommer!

    Reply

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    Angie @ Big Bear's Wife — March 18, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    Love the cookie tips!

    Reply

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    addie | culicurious — June 4, 2013 @ 8:42 am

    Great info! Pinned :)

    Reply

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    Dorothy — December 4, 2013 @ 6:59 am

    Thanks for such helpful tips, Sommer!
    In my experience of making Christmas Tollhouse cookies for decades, I cannot understate the impact that rainy days have on my results.

    Reply

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