Thursday, February 2, 2012

Baking cookies

I'm a pretty good cook, and a darn fine baker. This wasn't always the case, but I think that cooking is one of those things that anyone can be good at with enough practice.

There was certainly a time when my husband and my cooking skills were on par, but these days, when he cooks dinner it's nice to have the break but taste-wise...let's just say my skills have far exceeded his in this area.  And that's okay because his grass-cutting skills are like hand over fist better than my own. Ahem.

I enjoy cooking.  And I really enjoy baking. My three favorite things to bake are cookies, brownies, and breads. I make a mean cookie, as many of my readers can attest. I'm going to tell you a few of my secrets right here, right now, to baking a mean chocolate chip.

So, I'm not going to give you a specific recipe here because, well, I make lots of different recipes. Some with nuts, some without; some double chocolate; some with oatmeal and peanut butter; some with dried fruit; some with whole wheat flour. It just depends on what you're in the mood for. We love chocolate chip cookies of all kinds in our home.  We do not discriminate.

Today, I made these.  They're a pretty classic flat, chewy cookies, if that's your thing. They do not disappoint.

Tips, okay. Let's start with butter.  Any chocolate chip cookie recipe worth it's salt (heh) has butter, and probably a lot of it. The most important thing here, is that you follow the instructions regarding the butter.  Different recipes will call for different temperatures of butter. If the instructions say to use cold butter, you should use cold butter. If they tell you to melt the butter, melt it.  If they tell you to you room temperature butter, use room temperature. If they tell you to use softened butter, use softened butter. This matters. A lot. It will affect the amount your cookies spread on the sheet, and the texture, and the puffiness.

TAKE CARE WITH THE BUTTER.  This is all I'm saying.

My next tip would be to always use parchment paper.  Never again should you grease a cookie sheet.  No. Do not do that. Parchment paper. You cookies will cook perfectly on the bottom and they won't spread too much on the pan, and the parchment will lift a little of the excess grease from the three sticks of butter you just used to bake your cookies.

Try to make your cookies as uniform in size as possible.  I'm not being OCD here - it really helps to make sure they cook at the same rate and you don't wind up with some burnt tiny ones and doughy large ones. I have been known to weigh my balls of dough (tee hee), I will admit that, but it is not necessary. You can just eyeball it.

And on that same vein, you should rotate the cookie sheets half way through baking. This important for two reasons. 1) It ensures that your cookies will cook evenly. Most ovens have "hot spots" or are slightly uneven, so rotating the sheets can be really important. 2) It also lets you have a look at how quickly your cookies are cooking. A recipe will tell you how long to bake your cookies, but depending on the size of your cookies, they make take longer, or they may need less time. A burnt cookie is a sad cookie.

Do not over bake your cookies.  Please. When the edges begin to brown, TAKE THEM OUT. Seriously. They are done. This goes for pretty much every cookie ever.

Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes, and then cool completely on a rack, or eat them warm. You should put them away eventually though, or your kids will eat like a dozen of them and proceed to act like sugar-crazed lunatics. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Now, off with you! Go bake some cookies.


VandyJ said...

I'm still feeling out the whole chocolate chip cookie thing here. Being at high altitude (+7000 ft) changes things.
I'm working on it. Getting better each time.

Sprite's Keeper said...

I can't even tell you how long it's been since I've had an actual cookie. :-/

Andrea said...

I used to love my chocolate chip cookies...they were thick and more, now I get crisp flatties! Oh well! After reading your tips, I wonder if I over soften the butter in my often hurried state, via microwave...only one way to know...bake a batch...yay!

nutella said...

Have you got a spring loaded ice cream scoop? Seriously, it has CHANGED MY LIFE with regards to cookie and cupcake/ muffin uniformity. I have the OXO medium one...

gretchen said...

Excellent tips, all. I noticed, while I got temporarily lost on the Smitten Kitchen page you linked to, that she seems to use some kind of a scoop which makes all her cookies the same size. Hmmm. I wonder if it's just a melon baller? Or some kind of special cookie dough scooper from the Pampered Chef? What think you? Oh wait, I just read Nutella's comment. Do they make ice cream scoops that small?