How To Bake Perfect Cookies
By: Jodie Shield, RD
The holidays are all about making memories with your family. How about starting an edible tradition? Grab your rolling pin and kids, along with my sugar cookie recipe, and celebrate Bake Cookies Day. It’s officially suppose to take place on December 18th but really any day will do – just do it! Baking cookies may sound easy, but there are so many ways for a batch to go wrong. You know what I ‘m talking about if you’ve ever seen those little balls of dough spread into one giant cookie or chiseled the bottoms of gingerbread men off a cookie sheet. Here are my top 10 all-time favorite tips to help you bite into the perfect cookie: slightly crunchy, oozing with warmth, buttery, sweet and salty at the same time! Preheat your oven and let the baking begin. Oh, and if you have a tip for baking perfect cookies, do share!
- Ingredients are key. For best results, use high quality ingredients; follow the recipe closely and measure everything carefully. Baking is both a science and an art.
- Fats play a major role in the spread of a cookie. Whether a cookie keeps it’s shape or flattens in the oven depends on the fat. In general, more fat equals flat, crispy cookies; less fat equals puffier, cake-like cookies. Also, cookies made with butter tend to spread out where as cookies made with shortening or margarine tend to keep their original unbaked shapes.
- Use the right mix of flour. Most cookie recipes call for using all-purpose or pastry flour. Both will help the cookie batter thicken and bake to the optimum consistency. Bread flour has a high protein content and cake flour is high in starch both produce cookies that tend to spread less.
- Chill the dough. Cookie dough meant for shaping often needs to be chilled first. To chill the dough, place it in the refrigerator for the time recommended in the recipe or quick-chill it in the freezer for about one-third of the refrigerator chilling time. Do not quick-chill dough made with butter; it will become too firm to work with.
- Start with room temperature ingredients. Unless otherwise specified, all ingredients should be at room temperature before mixing. This will allow the butter to cream properly with the sugar and the eggs to combine and bind with other ingredients.
- Fire up your oven. Preheat the oven 10 to 15 minutes before you begin baking cookies. This will allow the oven to reach the correct temperature so that your cookies bake evenly.
- Invest in bakeware that works. Special insulated baking sheets without sides allow air movement and help cookies bake evenly. Thin baking sheets will cause the bottoms to brown too fast. Also, it’s fine to use semi-thick rimmed baking sheets known as jelly roll pans, but be aware that your cookies may take a little longer to bake due to the slightly restricted air flow.
- Grease cookie sheets wisely. Make sure you coat the cookie sheets with vegetable shortening or unsalted butter rather than vegetable oil. The oil tends to burn during baking and this may impact your cookies’ flavor, plus it will make the pans extremely difficult to clean. For easier clean up, use parchment paper or the reusable silicon baking mats. Your cookies will lift right off and your pans will look brand new.
- Portion cookies evenly. Cookies should be a uniform thickness and size so they will bake evenly and at the same time. Using a cookie scoop will provide picture-perfect portions. For medium-size cookies use a 1-ounce scoop; for smaller cookies use a ½-ounce scoop. And I know it’s hard to resist, but try not to eat the raw cookie dough.
- Bake to perfection. Place cookies on the sheet, about two inches between cookies. Follow the recipe’s baking instructions but as a rule of thumb: cookies are baked in a moderate oven –350 degrees F — for about 8 to 12 minutes. For chewy cookies, allow them to cool on the pan for 3 to 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. For crispier cookies, let them cool for one minute on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.