Baking cookies is a rewarding experience for the baker as well as the ones who get to share the cookies. Cookies come in so many shapes, textures, flavors, and styles, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Everybody bakes cookies every now and then, even kids! People have built fame and fortune by baking cookies. Famous Amos started by Wally Amos, Mrs. Fields started by Debbi Fields, both were bakers with a dream!
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OK, OK, maybe you aren’t looking to build a cookie empire, but I can definitely share some cookie wisdom that will have you rivaling the best. Who knows what fame and fortune may come your way?
These tips for baking cookies have been developed over the years running my bakery business, trial & error, and picked up along the way from all of the amazing cookbooks and others who share their baking knowledge. Baking is like storytelling, we pass it down and share it to build community so it’s never lost.
Just like the age-old wisdom for houses and relationships. The foundation of the cookie is what you build your cookie upon.
The right tools and equipment for the job
As with all trades, baking does require proper equipment and tools. However, don’t feel like you can’t bake great cookies if don’t have a gourmet kitchen. We can always make do with what we have. Make a wish list for the things you don’t have and watch for great deals on high-quality items.
Here are a few things I find valuable when baking cookies from scratch:
- Heavy-duty, aluminum baking sheets with a rim: A good baking sheet will create evenly baked cookies and consistent results. The rim keeps the cookies from sliding off of the sheet when you are moving the cookies.
- Parchment paper: This keeps the cookies from spreading too fast, sticking to the pan, and can help the cookies bake evenly. I use parchment paper for everything!
- Cookie scoops: These help you portion your dough and make uniform cookies. A good scoop can make short work of drop cookies, plus scooping makes your cookies look very well made.
- Spatula: A good cookie spatula has a thin, wide blade that can lift the dough or baked cookie and support it while moving the cookie to the baking sheet or cooling rack
- Guided rolling pin: When rolling cookie dough, it’s important to have a uniform thickness. A guided rolling pin keeps us from making thin and thick spots in the dough, which helps the cookies bake more consistently and look better.
- Cooling racks: Cooling racks are invaluable for helping the cookies cool, moving cookies off of your baking sheets so you can use them again and for keeping the workflow organized.
Use quality ingredients
Second most important in the foundation of your homemade cookies is quality ingredients. Use pure vanilla, real cane sugar, pure butter, etc. This doesn’t mean use expensive or a certain name brand.
Read the label, it should be pretty easy to tell if you are getting real chocolate or a creative imitation made to save the brand money. The same goes for every ingredient. I know it’s a pain, but it pays off in cookie bliss.
The recipe rules
This may seem obvious, but speaking from experience, if I skim through a new recipe and don’t focus, I make mistakes. Read the recipe twice, start to finish. The only thing you can start doing when you read the recipe is gathering ingredients.
Another big part of successful cookie baking is following the recipe as it is written. Don’t substitute the working ingredients until you have experience with the recipe. Recipes are a science and the least little thing can make it go whacky.
If you are unsure about reading recipes, I have a good little article here.
A lot of time recipes fail because of human error. We get in a rush or we misread. Measuring accurately can be a cookie baking game changer.
This little video will teach you everything you need to know about using measuring cups and spoons. The video also covers the best practices for measuring common baking ingredients.
Basics of baking cookies
These basics apply to every cookie you’ll ever bake with very few exceptions.
Don’t overmix the dough. That’s where baking cookies from scratch goes wrong. Hard cookies, crumbling cookies, tough cookies, you name it, overmixing probably did it. After the eggs and flavoring, only mix the flour mixture until it is just incorporated. When you are adding in things like nuts and chocolate chips, mix those in by hand.
Only use a cool baking sheet. If you don’t have enough pans to keep up a rotation, patience is a virtue. If you put cookie dough on a warm cookie sheet the butter will start melting and the cookies could get way to thin or even run together, not pretty.
Give cookies plenty of space. I would say 2 inches apart the first time you bake a recipe. This will help you to see how far the cookies spread and figure out how many will fit on a sheet.
My personal tricks of the trade for baking cookies
Here are my personal tips for making the best cookies ever. Are you ready?
I never use shortening. I find recipes that only use butter or I experiment with the recipe until it works with only butter. Not margarine, B-U-T-T-E-R, that’s how I spell love.
Soften the butter all the way. Softening the butter is so important, I wrote a whole article about it here. If you don’t soften the butter properly, you can’t get to the real secret, which is next.
Cream the butter and sugar longer. Most cookie recipes have butter and sugar and they start with the phrase, “cream the butter and sugars.” I cream them with my stand mixer for 3-5 minutes until it almost looks like frosting! Really. You want to get that butter and sugar mixed up right!
After I make my cookie dough, I wrap it in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. Even 2-3 nights! Almost all traditional cookie dough improves if you wait to bake it.
If I’m making drop style cookies, I always use a cookie scoop, also called a disher, to portion my cookies. Then, I gently flatten them into hockey puck shape with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar. (Prevent breaking your scoop by letting the dough come to near room temperature before trying to scoop, scoops are not made to endure cold cookie dough.)
When I’m making roll-out cookies, I make use of a guided rolling pin to so they are all 1/4″ thick.
Finally, after placing all of the formed cookies my parchment lined baking sheet, I let the cookies chill in the refrigerator again for at least 10 minutes. Doing this makes sure the cookies keep their shape and don’t spread too thin.
Don’t overbake the cookies
Overbaking a cookie can make even the best cookie recipe seem like a flop. Bake them until they are just starting to brown and don’t look wet in the center. The cookies will continue to cook a little when they come out of the oven.
All ovens aren’t the same. If your recipe said 350 for 10 minutes, but your cookies are still not done, try 2 more minutes. If they are getting over brown and it’s only been 8 minutes, take them out early.
The cookies are done baking when they are done. The timer is just a guide and sometimes it’s way off.
Don’t forget to take notes
If you had to make changes or adjust the baking time, write yourself a note. The notes in the margins of my old family recipes are some of my most cherished things! Not to mention, you can save yourself the trouble of repeating the same mistakes.
Ready for baking cookies?
I know I am!
Go check out my Pinterest Cookie Board! I’ve been collecting the best made from scratch cookie recipes I find and pinning them for when I’m ready to bake, bake, bake. I’d love to share them with you!
Questions or comment?
If you have any questions or comments about baking cookies, I’d love to hear them! Drop me a line or leave a comment below! I’ll get some cookie recipes up soon, I promise!