As I have been baking these cookies and talking to many of you, I have started to accumulate some tips and suggestions which will help your cookies to turn out great each time. If you have others, please add them in the comments!
- Be Prepared: Always read the recipe at least twice and check your ingredients before you get started. There is nothing worse than getting to the very end and realizing that bag of chocolate chips was not as full as you thought!
- Mis en Place: This is a term used in professional kitchens for getting all of your ingredients prepared and set out ahead of time. In my own kitchen this is an aspirational goal, but when I have taken the time, I have always been grateful.
- Room Temperature Ingredients: Unless the recipe calls for something to be cold (i.e. Butter), always assume it needs to be room temperature (60-70 degrees F). This allows the various ingredients to combine evenly.
- Eggspecially Important: Always add your eggs one at a time and combine fully in-between. Eggs are very hard to fully integrate and if you have a large volume at once it can split the butter and sugar affecting the final results of your cookies.
- Dividing Eggs: I like to divide egg yolk (yellow) from white (clear) using my hands. I crack the egg into my cupped hands and let the white slip through my fingers into a bowl underneath. It is a bit mess, but fun and effective!
- Eggspect the Worst: Always do the dividing egg first so that if the yolk breaks you can use that egg for the full egg and you have another chance.
- Eggspect the Worst Again: I also divide eggs into a separate bowl so that if the yolk breaks or the egg is bad, I do not ruin the whole batch. (This is especially important in other baking like meringues and custards)
- Pack It In: If you are measuring brown sugar by volume (measuring cups), make sure you pack it in to get a full amount. (weighing is still easier!)
- Measuring flour: I am a BIG fan of weighing your ingredients with a scale. I find it easier and leaves less dishes to clean since you can measure directly into the bowl, however, if you do not have a scale measure your flour by fluffing the flour up with the spoon and scooping the flour into the measuring cup until it has piled above the rim. Next take a straight edge (like a knife or chopstick) and scrape the excess flour off so the flour is level with the top of the measuring cup. This is a bit of extra work, but it will go a long way to making sure your cookies are a success!
- Sifting Flour: For cookies, I have never really noticed a benefit from sifting flour ahead of time. But it can help you to combine the dry ingredients effectively.
- Baking Soda/Powder: I always sift baking soda and baking powder into the pre-measured flour. These ingredients clump up very easily and will make your cookies rise unevenly or taste bitter if they are not evenly dispersed into the dough. You can also use your fingers to break up the chunks that form, but I like to use a small strainer or tea mesh scoop.
- Mix It Up: Always mix your dry ingredients together well. You want to make sure they are very evenly combined.
- Pre-Mix: I will often combine my mix-ins together first and then add them to my dough. This way they all are evenly dispersed into the cookie.
- Cookie Tributes: When trying out a new recipe, I always bake a test cookie (or two). Not only does it please my growing cookie craving, but it also checks how your particular oven and temperature will bake the rest of the batch. After that test cookie, you will know if you need to increase the oven temperature, how long to bake them for, as well as how much the cookies will likely spread so you can space them out.
- Cookies Like Their Space. Make sure to not bake them too close together so that the edges are crisp and the air can circulate evenly. (1-2 inches is usually sufficient)
- Size Matters: Having consistently sized cookies helps them to all bake at the same rate.
- When is it Done: While a cookie will continue baking for a couple of minutes on the tray, you don’t want to count on this too much. Most cookies are ready to come out of the oven when the edges are light brown and the center has just set.
- If you are freezing cookies to bake later, freeze the pre-portioned cookies on a sheet pan first an then put the frozen balls in a bag. This way you can just get as many as you want at a time.
- Cookies will last in the freezer for up to several months if they are well sealed.
- Cookies should be eaten within 3-5 days and kept in an airtight bag. If you want to free them already baked, they will also last several months.