While working with my publisher on cookbook #3’s concept the past few months, I began pulling a bunch of recipe ideas, tips, and tricks together. Side note: the cookbook will be out next year and I’m planning to tell you more later this summer!
All this razzmatazz got me thinking about the core of Sally’s Baking Addiction and I think we can all agree that the core is, well, cookies! And more specifically, how to bake the best batch of cookies. So today I figured I can gather a few of my tips and tricks together so your next batch of cookies can be even tastier than the last. Baking basics series, we’re back!
1) Chill the cookie dough.
I feel like a broken record with this one. But it’s always my #1 tip. Not all cookie dough requires the chilling step– and I normally determine that by how the cookie dough looks and feels. If the cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet, or greasy– chilling is in its best interest. And yours! Chilling cookie dough helps prevent spreading. The colder the dough, the less the cookies are likely to over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. Chilling cookie dough not only ensures less spreading, but a heightened flavor as well. All the flavors in your cookie recipe will get friendly with one another during the chill time. Whenever I make cookies, I try to plan ahead and chill the cookie dough overnight.
After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or more, depending on how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Your cookie dough may be a solid rock, so letting it slightly loosen up helps. The dough will still be much more solid than it was pre-chilling.
While we’re on the subject of chilling, here’s a little tip I shared on Snapchat last week. After I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a paper plate and put the entire plate in the refrigerator. Then I preheat the oven. This firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. The extra 10 minutes or so really helps.
2) Prevent excess spreading.
Did your beautiful balls of cookie dough turn into greasy puddles? We’ve all been there. Here are a few ways to avoid that from happening again:
- Obviously chilling that cookie dough beforehand. See tip #1.
- Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation, causing the cookies to spread. I always recommend a silicone baking mat because they grip onto the bottom of your cookie dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much. These mats also promote even browning. They can get greasy, so make sure you are washing the mats and wiping clean with paper towels between cookie batches.
- Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
- Butter may have been too warm. See tip #3.
- Under-measuring the flour. Less flour means less to absorb all the wet ingredients in your cookie dough. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour.
- Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! But whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse during bake-time. I guarantee that.
3) Temperature is king.
This mainly refers to oven temperature, butter temperature, and egg temperature. Cold cookie dough helps too! See tip #1.
Oven temperature: Unless you have a regularly calibrated oven, your oven’s temperature is probably inaccurate. When you set your oven to 350°F, it might not really be 350°F inside. It could be 325°F or 375°F. While this might not seem like a big deal, it poses a huge problem for your cookies. Over-browning, excess spread, underbaking in the centers, uneven baking. Get an oven thermometer. They’re so cheap, but will save you a million headaches. you chose a particular cookie recipe for a reason, now don’t sabotage yourself (your time, your tastebuds, your money!) by baking at the wrong temperature.
Butter and egg temperature: I wrote an entire post on this one! There I tell you a lot of information, mainly that room temperature ingredients emulsify easier into dough creating a uniform structure and texture throughout your cookies. You can’t cream rock hard butter and you certainly can’t cream butter that’s been melted in the slightest. Same goes for eggs, especially the egg whites. They give so much more volume to the batter at room temperature. I always place my butter and eggs on the counter 1 hour before I begin baking. PS: my trick for bringing both to room temperature QUICKLY is in this post!
4) Specified baking time? Who cares.
I never look at recipe times when I bake cookies. I look at the cookies themselves. This is primarily because all ovens are different. And maybe your oven is a convection oven, while the recipe writer’s is a conventional oven. (I bake with conventional.) Always go with your instincts on this. The cookies are done when the edges are set and lightly browned. The center of the top can look slightly underbaked if you want a softer cookie, or leave the batch in a little longer until the centers appear “set” for crispier cookies. Keep in mind that cookies’ centers will continue to cook for a few minutes while out of the oven cooling.
5) One batch at a time. I know that sounds crazy.
One batch at a time, on the middle rack. That’s how I bake every single cookie recipe. My reason is because you get the best possible results when the oven only concentrates on that 1 batch. If you absolutely need to bake more than one batch at a time (hello Christmas cookies!), rotate the baking sheets from the top rack to bottom rack a couple times through the baking process to encourage even browning. And turn the sheets around as well. Ovens have hot spots!
Q: Share your cookie baking tips!
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