Many families have favorite cookie recipes passed down from generation to generation. During the holiday season, the old standards are brought out and new recipes are often added to the mix. Be familiar with the basic rules of cookie baking before baking this holiday season or any day of the year.
The Basics of Cookie Making
A good cook does not necessarily translate to a good baker. Baking requires more precision than cooking. Ingredients for baking need to be measured precisely. Instructions related to baking temperatures and the order of mixing ingredients together must be followed thoughtfully. Many good cooks get into the habit of “adding a little of this” or substituting ingredients as they go along. These habits do not translate well when baking and can result in poor quality cookies. Follow these basic rules when baking cookies for perfect cookies each time.
Before Baking Cookies
Read through the entire recipe before starting the baking process. Assemble all the ingredients and necessary tools such as mixing bowls, spoons, spatulas and measuring containers. Pay close attention to specific instructions like whether the butter needs to be softened first (plan for an hour to soften) or if the mixing bowl needs to be chilled in advance.
Be certain to check expiration dates of ingredients such as eggs, baking soda and baking powder. Fresh ingredients are necessary for great tasting cookies.
Follow the recipe exactly the first time making it. Later attempts may lead to experimenting with substitutions or other variations. The first time through should be exactly as written.
Use the proper form of flour called for in the recipe. There are vast differences between all-purpose, cake, bread and other types of flour. The recipe will be negatively affected with the wrong flour.
If the recipe calls for sifting, sift. A metal strainer can be substituted. Sift first and then measure.
How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients
Be sure to measure ingredients precisely in the proper measuring containers. Dry ingredients should be measured in stacked measuring cups or spoons set for the exact measurement. The ingredients should be lightly scooped into the measuring container until the dry ingredient is level with the top of the cup or spoon. Level with a straight knife or spatula. The only exception to this rule is brown sugar, which should be packed into the measuring container. If done correctly, the brown sugar will retain its shape when released into the larger mixing bowl.
Liquid ingredients should be measured in liquid measuring cups. A glass measuring container placed on a flat surface is the best way to measure a liquid. The top of the liquid should meet the measuring line when viewed from eye level
Baking Tips for Cookies
Preheat the oven as called for in the recipe. It usually takes 10-15 minutes for the oven to preheat. Some cookie recipes call for a cold oven. This would have been noted in the initial reading of the entire recipe.
It is best to only bake one sheet at a time and to use a cooled cookie sheet for each subsequent batch. Baking on a hot cookie sheet will cause the dough to melt and spread too quickly. Grease the cookie sheet if called for in the recipe. Most cookie recipes do not call for greasing the sheets as the dough tends to already have a lot of butter or shortening in them.
For even baking, aim for a uniform size and thickness when measuring the dough and placing it on the cookie sheet. A special tool called a cookie scoop may be helpful to ensure consistency.
Use a timer and set it for the minimum time called for in the recipe. Check the cookies for doneness using the clues usually given in the recipe,such as browning on top, edges getting crispy, etc. If the cookies do not appear to be done, check again in one minute. Every minute counts in cookie baking. Keep checking until cookies appear done.
Remove cookies from sheets to a cooling rack immediately, unless instructed otherwise in the recipe. This prevents the cookies from continuing to bake.
When storing cookies, store each variety separately so flavors do not mix. Soft cookies should be stored in a tightly covered container. Crisp cookies should be stored in a loosely covered container so they maintain their crispness.
Seasoned cookie bakers and novices alike should review the basic rules of cookie baking from time to time. From fresh ingredients to precise measuring to proper baking, each step in cookie making adds to the quality of the finished product. Achieve great results every time by following the basics.
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