During Eid, I always get a lot of guests asking me as to how I get the nice crunch on my cookies. There is always a debate going on in my mind as to what are the actual steps that I take to ensure that my cookies are crisp and remain crisp. This is the reason as to why I have decided to actually sit down and write an article on Tips for Baking Cookies not just to share with others but also as a reminder to myself as to what steps I normally practice while baking cookies.
I have read so much about bakers saying that we should cool our bakes on a cooling rack. It is indeed a good practice and the theory itself is perfect but then again when you are baking hundreds of cookies (in my case, many thousands) for Eid, at times you tend to skip this step. So I thought I would just share a couple of cookie making tips that I normally practice. This is my way of doing things and it may not necessarily be the right technical way but it has been working for me and whoever that I taught.
1) It is important to check the expiry date of your baking powder, baking soda and spices. For those of you who rarely bake, a bottle of baking soda might last you for more than a year, thus it is important to make sure that these ingredients should be fresh to get optimum results.
2)Flat, shiny aluminum baking sheets are good for baking cookies. Dark sheets absorb more heat, thus causing cookies to brown too much on the bottom.
3) If the recipe tells you to chill dough properly, do not skip this step. Chilling the dough gives it the optimum time for easy rolling and shaping.
4) Preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes. The baking rack should be adjusted to the oven’s middle position.
5) To get the best results use the best ingredients. If you can afford better quality ingredients, by all means go for it! Whenever I wanna make chocolate cookies that are to die for, I make my own chocolate chips by chopping a block of good quality chocolate. Good quality of chocolate really make a difference to that chocolate chip cookies!
6) Other ingredients that makes a noticeable difference to your cookies would be:
- Cocoa powder: Premium cocoa powder is 22% to 24% fat, twice the amount of regular cocoa powder.
- Good quality chocolate : High cocoa solids content: less than 50% will have little real chocolate taste and one with more than 70% will have a much more complex and fine chocolate taste.
- Good butter : Butter is graded by letter code, and sometimes a numerical number, according to flavor, color, texture, aroma and body. AA (93 score), A (92 score), and B (90 score) are the letter codes and numerical scores used. To put it in simple words, just use high quality butter.
- Real vanilla: The cheaper synthetic vanillas on the market today do not come close to competing with pure vanilla.
- Fresh nuts: Crisp, plump, and meaty nutmeats indicate high quality. Limp, rubbery or shriveled nutmeats indicate poor quality.
7) Work with a small portion of the cookie dough at a time when rolling and cutting cookies. Too much handling of the dough makes cookies tough. While working on a portion of the dough, keep the remaining portion in a covered container or have it covered with a plastic wrap.
8) Feel free to tweak the recipe. If you notice that after adding all the flour, the dough is still very sticky and it is impossible to handle, add more flour.
9) If you notice that your cookies on one corner or side bake faster than in another, make sure you turn the pan half way through the baking process. It is important to know your oven behavior because just like us humans, every oven behaves differently too!
10) Even though you can bake two sheets of cookies at a time, it is better not to overload the oven. If you really need to bake more than one at a time, rotate the sheets from the top rack to the bottom rack halfway through baking to encourage even browning.
11) Wipe the surface of the baking sheet with a paper towel to remove excess grease in between bakes.
12) Once the cookies are out of the oven, using a flat palette knife, loosen the cookies from the baking sheet. This ensures crispier cookies plus it would be easier for you to remove the cookies from the baking sheet.
13) Most cookies remain fresh for up to a week or more. Make sure that the cookies have been cooled down completely before storing in an air-tight container.