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Today’s “How To” offers Baking Tips Specific to Cookies! A cookie on the basic do’s and don’ts of cookie baking. These cookie tips will ensure your cookies come out of the oven perfect every time!
Cookie Baking Tips
Let’s talk cookies…
You might consider yourself a cook, rather than a baker. Yet, 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:
- 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.
How To Bake Cookies
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.
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 in the first place, 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 to “make it your own.”
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 (especially) 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:
- Stir the flour in the bag to lighten it up.
- Spoon the flour into the measuring cup.
- And level the measuring spoons and cups with a knife or spatula.
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 crystals. This will result in lighter cookies with a better crust.
I recommend creaming your butter and sugar on high speed 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Your cookies need some personal space to spread. Don’t crowd so many cookies on a baking sheet that they run together. Two inches apart in all directions is a good rule of thumb.
I should own stock in parchment paper. It’s one of my very favorite baking tools!
Lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper help cookies to:
- Bake evenly
- Retain their shape
- Have golden bottoms
- Move easily from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack or counter.
Believe it or not, it’s very common for oven thermostats to run up to 30 degrees F too hot or too cool.
Just images what that can do to your cookies!
This happens over time when your oven has had a lot of use. Yet thermostats (and oven thermometers) also go haywire on new ovens when you use your broiler ot self-cleaning function.
In order to insure an exact oven temperature reading, every baking season I buy a brand new hanging oven thermometer to hang off my center baking rack.
This acts as a referrence point, so I can adjust my oven temperarure, for perfect cookies every time!
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.
Learn to Distinguish “Just Right”
Remove the cookies from the oven when the edges are golden, but the 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.
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 airtight 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!