Chris enjoys sharing his experiences and thoughts with others in the hopes that by sharing, they will help someone else.
Make the Best Cookies
If you look at recipes for any cookie, most of them are fairly close to another recipe for the same type of cookie. The difference in ingredient amounts is usually small or simply a specific brand. This is because a large portion of a cookie being good is in how the cookie is actually baked and/or prepared.
We will take a look at ways to change how a cookie turns out. This is good when you know who you are baking for. If baking for the general public then you don't want an overly doughy cookie or a burnt cookie. But if you're baking for aunt Glenda who likes slightly burnt cookies, you will probably bake them differently than you do for a classroom of kids. Most things that are baked for the general public are middle of the road, not too crispy but not too soft, and so on and so forth.
Easy Things to Adjust
There are things that are easy to adjust to bake cookies differently. Many of the factors that change how a cookie turns out, a lot of people don't consider too much. This is because they are small matters that we take for granted. Let's dig into a few of these things and put a little more focus on them in order to understand them a little better. We will look at mixing, chilling, consistency, freshness, and coloration.
Mixing Your Dough
Mixing dough is obviously important for the ingredients to be mixed and not have pockets of flour, sugar, etc. inside the cookie. This would not taste good at all. But mixing is also important for cookies to keep their shape.
There is a range of mixing cookies from just until all the ingredients are combined to well after and making the dough tougher. With this range of mixing is also the plumpness in cookies. If you mix very little the cookie will spread out easier and flatten while baking, and sometimes the cookie will also be a little softer.
By mixing more, you are actually breaking the gluten down and making it tougher. This helps the dough keep its shape better so that it doesn't flatten as much during baking. This also makes the tough tougher in many cases as well. This is why pie crusts often say how many times to stir or how long to mix, so they are flakier or crumble easier.
There are additives that can be added to replace this holding power of gluten, but we won't worry about putting additives into our cookies.
Chilling The Dough
If you mix your cookies up and bake them right away, it is a nice immediate reward. But if you chill the dough afterward, the cookie will hold its shape slightly better. I also like to let it chill so that the flavors combine a little better and make a smoother tasting cookie.
If you do chill your dough, make sure to wrap it. I make the dough into a ball and put it back into the mixing bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. It should be cool throughout and firm.
Measuring and not guessing gives you the same results and when it comes to baking anything consistency is essential to producing the same dish every time or changing the things you want to adjust with a recipe. This is easy enough and doesn't need too much explanation in regards to measuring.
Another aspect of consistency is using the same equipment. Each oven is slightly different and pans heat differently. Know your equipment or use the same equipment for the same results. One of the things I have noticed many home bakers do not think about is measuring dough. They use a spoon and guess at the amount or just eyeball it.
Finding a scoop to use makes forming your dough and laying cookies out much easier and quicker with more consistent results. There are different size scoops, I would recommend a #40 for most cookies. This makes the results more standard and instead of some cookies on a tray being cooked differently, you have control of how the cookie turns out by using temperature and bake time. A scoop gives you more control over what you are baking and how it turns out.
This is in regards to ingredients. Fresh ingredients generally have better flavoring as well as leaven better. Most of the time people have old ingredients that may not be as effective. Baking soda is one such example of this, most people purchase a baking soda and it sits in the cupboard for a long time and expires. With sugar, it dries out over time, and unless sifted your cookies may have sugar lumps that do not dissolve and you have hard sugar bits in your cookies.
Some of the results do come with knowledge though. As a side note, if you look at "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe" you will notice that the recipe uses hot water and baking soda. This is to help leaven the cookies because baking soda needs liquid and acid to activate and leaven. The molasses in brown sugar is the acid and most recipes depend on the butter to be the liquid. Having fresh ingredients makes sure that they function how they are supposed to as well.
This term could be used in two different ways. If I say a burnt cookie, images come to mind and the most prominent part of that may be the color of the cookie as well as the smell. So the color of a cookie is important and this will be a personal taste for how baked you want your cookies to be.
One thing that helps with this is the coloration of your pans though. A light pan reflects heat more and a dark pan absorbs heat more. If you want a cookie to be darker on the bottom, then use a darker pan. The color of the pan you use may also change the baking time you need. A darker pan will be hotter, so sometimes you can actually turn the heat down and lower the temperature compared to a light pan.
This is one reason that I use a baking mat with cookies. It acts as a small buffer against the pan. I also appreciate that it is less clean-up than using a pan directly and is less expensive than buying parchment paper and throwing it away.
I hope that these tips help you make a better cookie. For all those that say baking is an art, there is definitely creativity to it and a lot of science. I would love to hear tips that you have, please put them in the comments.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Chris Samhain