Cookie Baking Secrets
Source: Robin Olson--Robin's Cookie Baking Secrets©
Forwarded by Diane S.
Another set of tips passed along by Diane (Publication date: 12-04-99 in
the Cincinnati Post):
- Always use freshest ingredients available. I prefer using real
butter. Buy new baking soda & baking powder. They tend get weak and
ineffective so why waste valuable time & money by having less than perfect
- Follow recipe directions to the T. I often hear: "These cookies didn't
turn out the way I wanted." I ask what they did. They always reply that
they added a little of this and left out a little of that. Be prepared
before you bake. A level tsp. means LEVEL. One extra pinch of salt can make
them too salty. Not enough sugar, bland. Don't run out of ingredients. A
recipe is like a scientific experiment. I encourage you to make up your own
recipes....... just don't do it for my party! :)
- Use "Parchment Baking Paper". It can be hard to find so stock up when
you find it.Williams & Sonoma definitely carries it. Reuse each sheet until
they are slightly browned.
- Bake the cookies 2-4 days before exchange. The most common reason for
not attending the cookie exchange is waiting until last minute to bake and
not having the time! Who has extra time in December? (The cookies should
sit out over night anyway.)
- Allow the cookies to cool on baking sheet for at least one minute
before transferring them to cooling racks to keep them from breaking.
- Some people tend to over bake their cookies. Follow the recipes time
for baking, you can't tell just by looking at them. Sometimes the cookies
look under baked in the center, but they're not. Set the timer for a minute
earlier, it's easy to bake them some more, impossible to undo over baking.
Realize that the oven will be hotter towards the end of your batch. Either
lower the temp or pull them out early. The cookies will continue baking for
one more minute before you transfer them to the cooling rack. The color of
the underside of a cookie should be the same color as the top. A cookie
that is crunchy right after baking is over done. They should be moist &
chewy and then firm up after sitting out over night.
- Stack cookies in groups of 6-8, cool on racks overnight. Lay a sheet of
wax paper loosely over them. Do not seal cookies for at least 8 hours to
let all moisture out. If you seal freshly baked cookies they will crumble.
This method allows cookies to remain fresh for at least 3 weeks. Store in
cookie tins, layered with wax paper. Keep tins in cool, dry place.
- Give away small paper plates (Christmas motif, of course!) of cookies,
wrapped in Saran and topped with a bow to: friends, relatives, coworkers,
bosses, daycare providers, etc.... and remember......... broken cookies
have fewer calories!!
Even more cookie tips passed along by Diane:
- Drop-cookie hints:
- Drop dough into rounded mounds of the same size so they'll bake
- Leave enough space between cookies to keep them from spreading into one
- Drop cookies are done when the dough looks set and the edges and
bottoms of the baked cookies are lightly browned.
- Some cookie recipes suggest that you finish incorporating the flour by
hand with a wooden spoon. Even very good stand mixers have their limits; if
the motor sounds as if it is laboring, stop it immediately or you risk
- Liquid food colors are best for tinting dough in pastel colors. For
deeper colors, use paste colors, available in cake decorating stores and
some cooking shops. The paste also works best for frostings and glazes
since it doesn't thin them. To use paste colors, dip a toothpick into the
paste and add it to the icing. Always use a clean toothpick so dough or
frosting isn't transferred to the color paste, causing it to mold.
- Plain cookies drizzled or partially dipped in chocolate are always a
treat. Melt chocolate for dipping slowly and don't allow a speck of water
to taint it. If using chocolate squares, chop it coarsely and put it in a
heavy-bottomed sauce pan over the lowest heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir
it constantly and remove it from the heat while small lumps remain. Then
stir the chocolate until it finishes melting, returning it briefly to the
stove on low heat, if necessary. In a microwave, melt the chocolate on the
medium or defrost setting only until it is softened, but still holds its
shape, then stir it to complete the melting.
- Fresh cookies are the best cookies, so when baking, make an extra batch
or two. Store cookie dough in a tightly covered container (or roll and wrap
it as directed), and store it in the refrigerator.
- To restore moisture to soft cookies that have dried out, wrap a wedge
of apple or a slice of bread in waxed paper and put it in the container
withthe cookies. Remove the apple or bread after 24 hours.
- Freezing tips:
- If you are not going to be serving your cookies in the next three
days, freeze them. Freeze cookies in layers, separated by a sheet
of waxed paper. To thaw, let the cookies stand for 15 minutes in the
container at room temperature.
- Freeze cookies unfrosted so they don't absorb moisture from the
- If you plan to freeze bar cookies, line the baking pan with foil,
leaving two extra inches of foil at each end. Add the batter, bake
and cool. Then you can lift the foil to remove the cookies from the
pan. Wrap the cookies in foil, seal and freeze before cutting. Frost
bars after thawing.
- To freeze dough, pack it in freezer containers. For sliced cookies,
roll and wrap dough as directed in recipe. Cookie dough may be
frozen for up to six months. Thaw dough in the refrigerator before
- More freezing tips
- To freeze, cool the cookies thoroughly before wrapping them
well. Good packaging keeps cookies in prime condition and
prevents dry freezer air from drawing out their moisture.
Wrap the cookies in plastic and then put them in a rigid
closed container to protect them from breaking. Bundle up
just a few cookies in plastic (or even wrap them individually)
so they don't pick up off flavors. Delicate cookies must be
wrapped carefully and layered flat to prevent breakage. Before
wrapping frosted cookies or bars, freeze them unwrapped until
the frosting is firm.
- Defrost cookies while still wrapped so that condensation
forms on the wrapping, not on the cookie. Frosted and filled
cookies will last for a month in the freezer. Most other
cookies, bars, and brownies will last up to three months.
- The only cookies that won't survive freezing very well are
those with fresh fruit fillings (but jam fillings are fine).
- Storage tips:
- Make sure cookies are completely cooled before storing them.
- Store crisp and soft cookies separately. Stored together, they will
all become soft. Tightly covered containers or sealable plastic bags
both make good storage containers.
- Store bar cookies in a tightly covered container or in the baking
pan, tightly covered with foil.
- Any cookies with a filling or frosting containing cream cheese
or yogurt must be stored in the refrigerator.
- Shipping tips:
- Choose sturdy cookies that can travel well. Most bars or soft, moist
cookies are good choices. Frostings and fillings may soften, causing the
cookies to stick together or to wrapping.
- Wrap cookies back to back in pairs or wrap them individually, with
- Choose a heavy box and line it with plastic wrap or foil. Place a
generous layer of filler, such as plastic bubble wrap, foam packing
pieces, crumpled waxed paper (or plastic grocery bags) or paper
towels on the bottom of the box.
- Layer the cookies and filler. Top the last cookie layer with plenty
of filler to prevent the contents from shifting during shipping.
- Use Royal Icing for perfect glazes
- The secret to smoothly glazed and gorgeously decorated cookies is
Royal Icing. It is easy to make, sets up nicely and remains
toothsome. Here, from ''Cookies for Christmas'' by Jennifer
Dorland Darling, is the basic recipe for 2 cups:
Royal Icing: In a medium mixing bowl, combine 2 cups sifted powdered
sugar and 4 teaspoons meringue powder (find it in kitchen, cake-decorating and some craft shops). Add 3 tablespoons cold water and
beat with an electric mixer on low speed until mixture is combined;
then beat on medium to high speed for 5 to 8 minutes or until mixture
forms stiff peaks. (If mixture seems too stiff, add water while
beating, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.)
Icing should be fairly thick for piping.
- When not using icing, tightly cover and refrigerate.
- To use Royal Icing:
- Cool cookies completely.
- Divide icing into portions, one each for each color you are going to
Color each portion. Paste colors give the most vibrant results.
- Fill a pastry bag, or a rolled cone of decorator's paper, fitted with a
plain No. 1 cake decorating tip.
- Pipe on the icing, allowing it to
dry completely between each color.
- For a smooth glaze, pipe an outline in the color of the glaze, or a
contrasting one, around the cookie, about 1/8 inch from the edge. If
are using more than one color, pipe dividing lines between sections
different colors. Set aside until icing dries.
- To your colored icing, stir in water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until
the icing is thinned. Fill another pastry bag, fitted with a larger
plain tip, with the thinned icing.
- Begin adding icing within the piped-on lines, spreading it a bit with the
end of the tip, until it fills in the empty space. If adding more colors,
again, set the cookies aside until the glaze is dried.
- You may add dragees, candy decorations, colored sugars and
the icing is moist.
- This process of icing and drying may take a bit of time, but the
results will be wonderful. You can spread the process over a couple
of evenings, covering the cookies, once the icing has dried, with
foil in between decorating sessions. Be sure to tightly cover and
refrigerate the icing.
Cookies From Scratch
Cookie Tips posted by Susan:
- To make the best cookies possible, use quality ingredients, read
recipes thoroughly and assemble all ingredients and utensils before you
- All fats are not equal. Butter adds a rich flavor to cookies and
produces either a crisp or tender texture, depending on the recipe. Cookies
made with margarine will have a texture similar to butter cookies but not
the same flavor. Vegetable shortening adds no flavor of its own but
primarily affects the texture - crumbly, crunchy or soft, depending on the
- Measure ingredients accurately, using the scoop and level method for
dry ingredients such as flour and liquid measuring cups - the glass or
plastic kind with a spout - for liquid ingredients.
- Cookies made with baking soda tend to spread more, while those made
with baking powder puff up and are more cake-like.
- Use large eggs, unless a recipe specifies otherwise.
- Let eggs and fats come to room temperature before beginning a recipe.
- For quick softening, microwave sticks of butter or margarine 15 to 30
seconds until softened. When creaming butter and sugar - blending the two
together, that is - beat by hand or with a mixer until the sugar has
dissolved and the butter looks smooth and light-colored.
- When adding flour to the egg and butter mixture, mix just until
blended. Vigorous beating or excessive mixing produces tough cookies.
- When spooning cookie dough onto baking pans, leave 1 to 2 inches of
space between cookies to accommodate spreading.
- Use an oven thermometer to make sure that oven temperature is correct.
- For more even baking, position oven rack in the center of the oven and
bake one cookie sheet at a time. If baking two pans at a time, space racks
so that oven is divided into thirds and switch cookie sheets halfway
- Use a timer, and check cookies after the minimum time suggested in the
recipe. For softer, chewier cookies, underbake slightly. For crisper
cookies, bake toward the maximum time.
- Use a wide spatula to remove cookies immediately from cookie sheets to
a cooling rack, unless recipe directs otherwise. Cool in a single layer on
the rack. Cool completely before decorating or storing.
- Store crisp and soft cookies in separate containers or the crisp
cookies will become soft. Sometimes flavors may transfer if different kinds
of cookies are stored in the same tin.
- Separate layers of cookies with waxed paper. Most cookies can be
refrigerated or frozen for longer storage.
By Kristin Eddy
Tribune Staff Writer
December 1, 1999
September 98 Recipes
- Rolling and cutting dough:
- Make sure the dough is chilled; if it is warm, it will be too soft to
- Roll our dough on a lightly floured cutting board.
- Run the rolling pin gently over the dough, beginning i the center and
sweeping outward. Turn the dough after every few strokes before rolling
- Most cookie recipes will direct you to roll the dough to a thickness of
1/4 inch or 1/8 inch. To help measure correctly, buy two long wooden
dowels, in 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch diameters, and place one on each side
of the dough. Then roll the rolling pin over the dowels until the dough
has flattened to the same thickness.
- Cookies can be brushed with an edible gold glitter. A brush can also be
used to paint feathery strokes of colored frosting over the cookie.
- Put some finer details on your design by using a toothpick or wooden
- A standard pastry bag, with tips of different shapes and widths, is the
best way to have control over the piped frosting.
- Frosting the cookie:
- Decorations may be piped directly o the cookie or painted over a
single-color frosted background. Either way, you need a good icing
- Royal icing, made by mixing confectioners' sugar with egg whites or
meringue powder, is the classic frosting mixture.
- Flood icing is the thicker version of royal icing; the mixture is then
thinned with a little water to make royal icing.