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Cookies 101 - Making & Baking them Perfect!
Enjoy this "How-To" from ASpicyPerspective.com. It's 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.
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:
- 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 shouldmake your baking experiences much more successful.
Watch the Weather. 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 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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