Cookie Tips and Hints

Welcome to our cookie tips and hints page. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to make the perfect cookie, the way that you like it. Some people like their cookies soft and chewy, while others like them crunchy. Some like their cookies thick; others like them thin.

However you like your cookies, this page will help you to achieve those goals. We will start with the hardware section. Our focus will be on the cookie sheet, which is the foundation to a great cookie. The ingredients section should help you adjust recipes according to what you wish your cookie’s final appearance, texture, and taste will be.

Cookie Sheets

Single layer cookie sheets are still a favorite of many serious bakers, but there are certainly the good and bad out there. Two problems that single layer sheets cause uneven heating and sticking. In part, improvements over the years have made single layer cookie sheets better in both areas. The invention of Teflon brought us non-stick cookware. Although this has made sticking occur less often, it is not guaranteed. Cheaper brands of non-stick baking sheets will usually lose their coating quicker and eventually peel, leaving baked items sticking more often to the sheet. Modern aluminum cookie sheets have also solved the problem of uneven heating. One catch with using an aluminum non-stick cookie sheet is the color. Over baked cookie bottoms is a common occurrence when using darker sheets, because the darker color absorbs more heat than with lighter colored sheets. So if you should decide to go the rout of the single layer cookie sheet, look for a brand name you can trust, and a non-stick sheet that is lighter in color.

Air cushion baking sheets grew in popularity a few years back because they were seen as the cure to the single layer cookie sheet problems. Dual layered sheets allow air to better circulate under the cookie-baking surface, thus reducing hotspots and resulting in evenly baked cookies all across the sheet, not just in the middle. There are some issues to note when using these sheets. Sticking can still be a problem, depending on how well the sheet is made and if it is covered with a non-stick coating. Also, although you get consistent heat throughout the sheet you might not get hot enough heat. This will cause refrigerated cookies to cook a little slower and thus spread out more. As a result, drop cookies might not entirely brown around the edges. After the first batch is baked, adjustments might need to be made to improve the outcome.

Baking Stones have become popular over the last few years for good reasons. These stones heat evenly and absorb moisture at the same time. The result is a cookie that crisps nicely on the underside without over darkening. Baking stones are very forgiving when it comes to over baking, and sticking is usually minimal. If there are any drawbacks to the baking stone, it is that they can be expensive, and because of their weight a bit clumsy in the kitchen.

Parchment Paper is a cheap, convenient, cookie baking aid that every kitchen should have. Parchment paper is coated on each side, usually with silicone, and comes in square sheets or on a roll like wax paper. Parchment paper will allow most baked cookies to lift off the baking surface with ease, and will also help spread out heat more evenly. One additional benefit is that you can reuse a sheet several times when you are making multiple batches of cookies.

Ingredients

The ingredients you use are extremely important in achieving your desired cookie. The basic ingredients of most cookies are fat, flour, baking powder and baking soda, sugar, and eggs or other liquid. The simple mistake of using baking powder instead of baking soda or using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, can have a huge affect on the outcome of your cookie.

Fats most often used in cookies are butter, margarine, shortening and oil. Fats play a major role in the spread of your cookie. In other words, they help to determine if your cookie spreads out on the cookie sheet. When using shortening or margarine, cookies will usually keep their original unbaked shape. Butter on the other hand results in a cookie that tends to spread out. And because oils are already liquids at room temperature, they will produce cookies that keep their shape.

Flour also affects how cookies bake and behave. Flours with a high protein content like bread and all-purpose flour will help to produce cookies that tend to be flatter, darker, and crisper than their counterparts made with cake or pastry flour.

Baking Powder and Baking Soda are the two most common leaveners in cookies. Baking soda is simply bicarbonate of soda, while baking powder is a combination of bicarbonate of soda plus an acidic ingredient (cream of tartar). Baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the dough, allowing the cookies to brown in the oven. Since baking powder already contains its own acid, it will not reduce the acidity in the dough, and the resulting cookies will be puffier and lighter in color.

Sugars play a big role in the final outcome of a cookie. White sugar is a refined sugar with almost no moisture content. Using this sugar will result in a crisper cookie than using brown sugar or honey will. This is why many common cookie recipes use white sugar. Brown sugars are made and refined in many different ways but the end result is that they contain more cane molasses syrup than white sugar. Because of the rich molasses flavor and less overall refining, brown sugars are growing in popularity and are beginning to replace white sugars in cookie recipes.

Eggs and Liquids can either cause cookies to puff up or spread. Eggs will help to promote puffiness, while just a tablespoon or two of water or other liquid will help your cookies spread into flatter and crisper rounds. One thing to remember is the different effects of egg yolks and egg whites. Egg yolks will help to add moistness whereas egg whites will tend to make cookies drier. To make up for the drying effect of egg whites, extra sugar is added. This is the reason that cookies made with just egg whites tend to be so sweet.

Mixing Technique, although not as important as in cake making, still plays an important role. The most important step in cookie mixing is the creaming step. This is the step where the fat and the sugar are whipped together until light colored, smooth and fluffy. This helps to incorporate air into the batter, which you need if you want your baking soda and/or baking powder to work. Another important factor is not to over mix the dough. Once you combine the dry and wet ingredients, mix until just combined and no longer.

Temperature is of high importance when cookie baking and is often over looked by many. Cookie dough that is chilled before baking will hold its shape and produce a slightly puffier cookie. Cookie dough that is at room temperature before baking will spread and flatten out while baking. So if you happen to have a very warm kitchen, it’s a good idea to refrigerate the dough before you bake it.

Freezing Cookies

One of the most frequently asked questions when baking cookies is: how do you cut down preparation time for parties or special events? The answer is simple; freeze your dough or cookies ahead of time.

Most cookie dough freezes extremely well and can be kept frozen for up to 4 or 6 weeks. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the dough will absorb any odd odors present in your freezer if it’s not properly wrapped and sealed. To prevent odors from creeping into the dough, as well as preventing freezer burn, wrap the dough securely twice. Also make sure that the dough is placed away from fish or any other strong smelling items in the freezer. Oxygen is another leading cause of freezer burn. If you should decide to put the dough into a freezer bag instead of wrapping with plastic wrap then follow this tip: when closing the bag, leave a ¼-inch gap in one corner. Insert a drinking straw, suck out all excess air in the bag, and then close tightly.

When you are ready to bake, simply let the dough defrost in the refrigerator. It will take several hours to thaw the dough, so plan ahead. The types of cookie dough that freeze the best are shortbreads, chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar, and brownies, just to name a few. The types of cookie dough that do not freeze well are those for cake-like cookies and cookies that have a very smooth, runny batter.

Freezing baked cookies is a great way to preserve their freshness. Baked cookies will keep in the freezer for up to 3 or 4 weeks. Follow the same steps as when freezing dough by double-wrapping the cookies. When you are ready to eat your frozen cookies, just let them come to room temperature. Or for you impatient types, pop them in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds. We still haven’t come across a baked cookie that doesn’t freeze well. So when planning your next special event, think about preparing and freezing ahead of time.

Substitution Chart

Even as often as I bake cookies and would like to think that I am well prepared, I can still occasionally come up shorthanded on a key ingredient for a recipe. If the grocery store is close to where you live, and weather and time permits, you can always run and get what you need. But be comforted; all is not lost if neither time nor convenience is on your side. A key ingredient can usually be substituted by simply using a combination of other ingredients in its place. Below is a list of common ingredients and their appropriate substitutions. This chart will help you to successfully finish your recipe when you’re in a pinch.

 

For Use
Baking Powder 1 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Chocolate 1 ounce semi-sweet baking 1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Chocolate 1 ounce unsweetened baking 3 tablespoons baking cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening or margarine
Cornstarch 1 tablespoon 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Flour 1 cup all-purpose 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
Flour 1 cup cake 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose
Flour 1 cup self-rising 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt
Milk 1 cup buttermilk 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup: let stand a few minutes
Sugar 1 cup packed brown 1 cup granulated plus 2 tablespoons molasses or dark corn syrup
Sugar 1 cup granulated 1 cup packed brown sugar or 2 cups powdered sugar
Sugar 1 cup powdered 1/2 cup granulated

 

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