Food Tips

The basics of cookie making

The basics of cookie making Author: Style At Home

Food Tips

The basics of cookie making

A great cookie is made from fresh, quality ingredients, if you think of the little rounds and bars as just compact carriers of flavor, you'll see how important every stick of butter, ounce of chocolate, teaspoon of spice, and cup of nuts is to the end result. What you mix in is what you'll taste, so keep the phrase "quality in quality out" foremost in your mind as you shop for ingredients.

Making cookies also requires a heaping spoonful of patience. Chocolate must be melted slowly so it doesn't burn, butter and sugar must be beaten sufficiently until creamy, and, in many recipes, the dough must be chilled to provide the best rolling and baking results. It's important not to take shortcuts or else the taste and texture of the cookies will suffer.

There are two shortcuts, however, that you're free to take. Both of these, in a small but significant way, forever changed my cookie-baking routine for the better, allowing me to be more spontaneous and efficient.

1 Butter must be soft and pliable and properly creamed, but how often do we forget to take the sticks out of the refrigerator ahead of time? If you're very careful, butter can be softened in the microwave without affecting its usability. Here's how: Place one stick, still in its paper wrapping (or unwrap it and place it on a microwave-safe plate or a sheet of wax paper), in the microwave. Turn the machine on high for ten or eleven seconds. No more! You don't want to melt the butter, which would change the consistency of the dough and the cookies. When you lightly squeeze a stick of softened butter it should leave impressions of your fingers, but it shouldn't feel mushy. With this little trick, there's no more waiting for butter to soften before you can bake.

2 Try to be one step ahead of your oven. Have the next batch of cookies ready to go on a clean sheet of parchment paper. When a cookie sheet comes out of the oven, slide the parchment with the baked cookies onto a rack, and then slide the parchment with the formed dough onto the sheet and immediately place it in the oven. (Do this quickly because dough should never sit on a hot sheet for more than a few seconds.) Now there's no more waiting for hot cookie sheets to cool before they can be used again.

Otherwise, a cookie recipe, like all baking recipes, is a formula. Yes, that bowl full of yummy ingredients is bound up in the science of chemistry. So read through the recipe carefully, follow it precisely, and measure accurately; your cookie baking will not only be loads of fun but successful!

 

BUY THIS BOOK

christmas-cookies.jpg From Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.  Copyright © 2008 by Lisa B. Zwirn. All rights reserved.  Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

 
 

A quick word on how this book is organized: The recipes are grouped by the type of cookie, or more specifically, by how the cookie is made. Drop cookies are formed by dropping the dough onto a cookie sheet with a spoon. Rolled cookies are stamped into various shapes from dough that is rolled out. Bar cookies are baked in baking pans and cut into bars. And so on. A few treats at the end of the book don't even require an oven. The book is organized this way because it allows you to easily locate the recipes you feel most comfortable trying or have the appropriate equipment for. There are helpful tips for making each type of cookie in their respective chapters. For those bakers, however, who care less about cookie type and more about what's inside—say, chocolate or lemon or no nuts—there's a listing of cookies by flavor at the back of the book on pages 130 to 131. Use this list for inspiration and to satisfy your cravings!

Cookie-baking guidelines
Here are the key steps and rules for successful cookie baking. Read them over a few times, then embed them in your cookie-baking routine.

  • Before you start, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and enough time for pre- and post-baking tasks. Many recipes require prep work, such as toasting nuts, grating citrus zest, and chopping chocolate, before you can actually start assembling the dough. Some doughs need to be chilled for an hour or more before baking. And a few bar cookies shouldn't be left to cool for too long after they come out of the oven; they must be cut while still warm or else they become too hard or crumbly to slice.

  • Preheat the oven for at least fifteen minutes before baking.

  • You'll achieve the most consistent results when you bake one cookie sheet at a time on a rack in the middle of the oven. If you want to use two sheets to move the job along (after first checking to make sure the recipe suggests it), place the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven with at least four inches between them so heat can circulate. Ideally, the bottom rack should be at the top of the lower third of the oven and the top rack at the bottom of the top third. When using two sheets, it's important to rotate them from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking to allow the cookies to bake evenly. Do it carefully, yet quickly, because the oven temperature will drop the longer the oven door is open. If one sheet of cookies is done before the other, pull it from the oven.

BUY THIS BOOK

christmas-cookies.jpg From Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.  Copyright © 2008 by Lisa B. Zwirn. All rights reserved.  Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

 
 

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Food Tips

The basics of cookie making