Chewy, Soft, Crispy, Flat, Cakey, Thick, Mound, Moist, Buttery, Crumbly—— Tell me how do you like your cookies and I am sure we all have a different opinion. But do we really get the desired result ?; when we bake cookies at home. Here is my little List of do’s and don’ts when baking cookies at home. Little science and experience of my cookie land.
Every small variation in the quantity of ingredients or in the temperature of baking will make a difference in the outcome of your cookies. The mixing technique, equipment and the baking time has an equal role to play in cookie baking. The conundrum lies in getting the cookies you bake to have the texture you want. The exact same cookie recipe can bake up into two completely different cookies, leaving you all confused and puzzled about what went wrong. This happens with everyone, so chill and read the points below:
1. A good baking sheet for cookies is a must. I mostly use heavy-gauge aluminum baking sheets. Super thin baking sheets will cause the cookie bottoms to cook faster,or can burn underneath. Do not grease your cookie sheets before baking, it will cause the cookies to spread out more but if you don’t grease the sheets you run the risk of the cookies sticking to the baking sheet. The solution – parchment paper for stick-free baking and easy clean-up. Lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper help the cookies to: bake evenly, retain their shape, and have golden bottoms. Plus, it makes them easy to move from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack or counter.
Temperature I mostly bake my cookies at 350* F (175*C). But remember every oven is different, Adjust baking times to achieve the cookie texture you crave. A little less time produces chewier cookies; a little more time makes them crispy. And also the bigger cookie will require a bit long time in the oven.
Oven position Bake a single sheet of cookies on the center rack. If baking more than one sheet, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and rotate sheets from top to bottom and back to front once during baking. This advice applies to convection baking as well.
2. Flour, Fat and Sugar makes cookies chewy or crisp or crumbly. I mostly go by this ratio 3:2:1, flour to fat to sugar. But as we are talking about the desired results here are the variations.
To make the cookies flatter use butter and all-purpose flour, increase the sugar content slightly, add a bit of liquid to your dough, and bring the dough to room temperature before baking.
To make the cookies puffier use shortening or margarine and cut back on the amount of fat; add an egg, cut back on the sugar, use cake flour, use baking powder instead of baking soda, and refrigerate your dough before baking.
To make chewy texture It depends on moisture and density. Use Vegetable oils or melt the butter before adding it to the sugars when mixing. Remove cookies from the oven a few minutes before they are done, just cooked through with a bit soft center. The edges should be golden. Use brown sugar,corn syrup, honey.Powdered sugar, with its fine texture, also makes for a dense texture. Let cookies cool on the cookie tray for several minutes after baking before transferring to cooling rack.
To make the cookies crispier use butter and a proportion of white sugar. Use egg yolks in place of a whole egg. Cookies should be baked completely. Let cool on the baking sheet for one minute before transferring to a cooling rack.
3. Baking Powder and Baking Soda are the two most common Leaveners in cookies. Baking soda is simply bicarbonate of soda, while baking powder is a combination of bicarbonate of soda plus cream of tartar, an acidic ingredient. Baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the dough, allowing the cookies to brown in the oven. Since baking powder already contains its own acid, it will not reduce the acidity in the dough, and the resulting cookies will be puffier and lighter in color.
4. Recipes that use more Eggs, are apt to spread less and rise more. Egg whites have a drying effect that further promotes a light and airy interior. Finally, baking powder increases acidity, which quickens coagulate. One thing to remember is the different effects of egg yolks and egg whites. Egg yolks will help to add moistness whereas egg whites tend to make cookies drier. To make up for the drying effect of the egg whites extra sugar is added. This is the reason that cookies made with just egg whites tend to be so sweet.
Now I know that most of you will think
Cornstarch (1 tablespoon of Cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons of Water = 1 egg) Tdhaaaaa.
Or Ener-G Egg Replacer – please follow package instructions while using. It works in most of the recipes. I have also used flax seeds as a substitute. Almond meal work fantastic in eggless cookies as well.
5. Salt Without this flavor enhancer, the secondary flavors in a cookie fall flat as the sweetness takes over. Salt also strengthens the protein in a dough, making cookies chewier. I specially love kosher salt on my cookies.
6. Mixing develops gluten in the dough, giving cookies a chewy consistency. Beware of over mixing, which can turn chewy into tough, especially in dough that contains less than 50 percent fat by weight. Fat inhibits gluten development, so high-fat dough doesn’t have the same toughening problem.
7. Shaping Round dough balls take longer to bake, resulting in softer, thicker cookies. Flattening the balls yields thinner, crisper cookies.
Personal Space Your cookies need some personal space to spread. Don’t crowd so many on a baking sheet that they run together. Two inches apart in all directions is a good rule of thumb.
8. Chilling the dough, does a couple things – roll-out cookies it firms the dough making it easier to roll and cut. When cold dough goes into the oven, the exterior has time to bake a little to hold the shape, before the interior warm and melts. This results in cookies with a very uniform shape. For roll-out cookies this is essential.
9. Cooling Cool cookies completely before storing, or trapped steam can turn them from crisp to soggy.