Cooking with Alison

Tips for Baking Cookies

In Cookies on January 21, 2010 at pm

For the longest time, I was horribly defeated every time I tried to bake cookies.  But through batch after batch (to the power of an insanely large number) of trial and error, I figured out the following basics for baking cookies.  It took me a Very long time, Much work and even more butter, but I can finally say that I think I’ve got it.  🙂  Hopefully you’ll find these tips helpful.  Keep in mind they’re more geared towards baking cookies that are chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside because that’s how I like my cookies.

Tips for Baking Cookies

Tips on Ingredients:

1.  For a chewy textured cookie, I found that recipes that use both baking soda and baking powder worked better.  Always check the expiration date of these ingredients.

2.  If you’re using butter, only use (try to at least) really high quality butters.  I prefer the outcome of using salted butter and omitting any added salt.

3.  I prefer butter or a 1:1 ratio of butter and home rendered lard (recipe here) or vegetable shortening (preferred brand:  Crisco).  I do not like using margarine.  Using half butter and half lard or shortening gives you a good balance of the desired texture and flavour.  Some recipes claim that margarine gives you a chewier texture but I didn’t like the taste of it.  If you prefer to use margarine, do Not use the olive oil margarine.

4.  Some recipes claim that using melted butter gives you a chewier texture but when I tried this, I preferred the texture of cookies that used softened butter.  I do, however, like the texture and taste of using browned butter.

5.  It’s important to use ingredients that are all at room temperature, so don’t forget to take the eggs and the butter out of the fridge well ahead of time.  However, if you have a stand mixer, you could beat cold butter until it’s creamy.

6.  It’s better to weigh the flour than to measure it.

7.  It’s important to sift the flour.  I think it helps to sift all of the dry ingredients together, especially cocoa.

8.  In my experience, recipes that say you don’t need flour do Not work well.

9.  If you want to use whole wheat flour, you can only substitute a portion of the all purpose flour for whole wheat.

10.  For chewy textured cookies, Alton Brown suggests using bread flour.  I tried his recipe but I personally preferred using all purpose flour.

Tips on Dough:

1.  Creaming/beating the butter and sugar first for a few minutes helps give you a nice texture.  Do not overbeat the dry ingredients or else your cookies will be dense.

2.  The temperature of the dough prior to baking is very important.  For chewy peanut butter cookies that you’re going to flatten prior to baking, chill the dough first.  Also chill the dough if you’re going to be cutting out shapes (ie. when making sugar cookies).  Otherwise, use dough that’s at room temperature and your cookies will spread out nicely during baking.  Don’t set your dough next to a window.  For thinner cookies, I add a little bit of water or I increase the butter and sugar content in the dough.

3.  When rolling balls of dough, pack the dough loosely.  For this step, I love using a #40 cookie dough scoop.  Fill the scoop and press it against the side of your mixing bowl as you pull up, to level off the top and even out the dough in your scoop.  Or you could form balls that are golf ball sized using approximately 2 tbsp of dough.

4.  I also use the #40 cookie dough scoop for drop cookies.  The equivalent is approximately 2 tbsp of dough.

5.  If using a rolling pin to roll out cookie dough, I use icing sugar instead of flour to dust the pin.  I roll everything out on my silpat mat so I don’t have to dust my board.

6.  When I’m cutting out shapes, I roll the chilled dough out on my silpat mat, press the cookie cutters into the dough, and then peel away the excess dough.  Then I put the silpat mat onto a cookie sheet and it goes into the oven.  I find the conventional way of cutting shapes out of the dough and then transferring them to the cookie sheet always warps my cut outs.

7.  Cookie dough freezes very well but I’ve personally never tried it.  I much prefer to freeze cookies after they’ve been baked.  Baked cookies freeze perfectly.  I usually freeze the cookies immediately after they’ve cooled even if I’m taking them somewhere the next day because I find the taste and texture change 8 hours after they’ve been baked.  Defrost the cookies at room temperature or heat them up in the microwave directly from frozen.

Tips on Baking:

1.  Always preheat your oven.   You may have to adjust your oven temperature by a few degrees lower or higher than the recipe suggests depending on your oven.  My oven is quite hot so I usually lower the suggested temperature by 2 degrees.

2.  I Never bake cookies without my silpat (silicone) mat.  It prevents early burning of the cookie bottoms and it allows you to very easily remove your cookies from the sheet.  I’ve heard that parchment paper helps too.

3.  Turn your cookie sheet around half way through the baking time for even baking.

4.  Always check on your cookies at least 3 minutes before the recipe tells you to and adjust baking times based on your oven.  My oven is very hot so I always shorten my baking times.  Keep in mind that cookies continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven so you want them to be almost done when you take them out.  Cookies should stay on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before being transferred to a wire rack to cool.

5.  Remember to shorten your baking time by about a minute if your cookie sheet is slightly warm from the previous batch that went into the oven.

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