Basics of Baking: Cookies

Hello friends, and thanks for coming back. I want to drop some knowledge, you’ll see me doing a lot of these types of posts. Mainly because I want to break things down for you so you understand HOW baking works. Plus my entire life revolves around this stuff and I’m a complete baking nerd. So let’s talk about cookies, and ensure you know how to always make a great cookie dough. I want to start off by saying that you always have to remember that you are in control of your dough! It’s something that the Chef’s at CIA used to say allllll the time, and although its kinda of a funny saying, its compltely true!

So, let’s start with our base : butter and sugar. These are the two most important components of your cookie. The way you cream these together is going to say everything about your final product, and trust me, it’ll speak for itself. Butter is actually a leavening ingredient, just like eggs or baking powder. The more air you force into the butter by creaming, the lighter and more airy the texture is going to be, and that’s what we are aiming for. I always make a rule of thumb that for any cookie recipe I make sure I am creaming my butter and sugar for AT LEAST 5 minutes, while continuously scraping down the sides of my bowl. You don’t have to use a timer, but you’ll notice the longer you do it, the lighter and fluffier your mixture becomes. If you wanna bake perfect cookies, you have to put in the work and have patience! Plus, baking is supposed to be RELAXING (ha, try telling that to a professional chef swamped with prep).

The additive ingredients play a big role as well; eggs, salt, baking soda, and extracts. While they all add flavor and texture, they also help with the rising, spreading and browning of your cookies. I always like to ensure that my eggs aren’t old, because honestly, they just make the dough weird. This may have happened to you before. You follow the recipe exactly as it says and for some reason they don’t rise or they spread out like a giant pancake. Well, your eggs could be old! It’s a thing and it happens way more often than you think. So just be aware that you are conscious of the date of which you purchased your eggs and how often you’re using them. Be sure to keep tabs on your baking soda as well, it too can expire and produce weird doughs. No worries though, it’s a really cheap ingredient and you can always use the older box to extract odors from your fridge, or use in homemade laundry detergent if that’s your thing.

I love to splurge and buy high quality extracts and powders. Although the initial cost is high, they typically last a while depending on how much you bake. A pure extract flavor is unmatched compared to an imitation flavor. Of course if your budget doesn’t allow for pure extracts, imitation flavoring is better than omitting it completely. If you are a big vanilla fan, check out vanilla bean powder. A lot of online stores or even grocery stores will carry it in bulk. It’s not only a flavor punch, but beautifully presents some little vanilla bean specks in all of your goodies!

Onto the structure, the flour. There are two options: all purpose or gluten free. Now, if you’re using all purpose, let’s talk gluten. What is gluten? Gluten is literally the bond of molecules of protein in flour that are bonded together when liquid is added. The more you mix, the more developed the gluten will become. WE DO NOT WANT TO DEVELOP A LOT OF GLUTEN IN COOKIES. I know the all caps is aggressive, but I cringe every time I see people over mixing the flour into the batter. Overdeveloped gluten causes the cookies to be tough and they won’t quite melt in your mouth the way they should. So don’t go crazy mixing in your flour, mix it in gently and slowly just until you see there is no visible raw flour in the batter. This being said on the complete opposite side, if you are using a gluten free flour, you are going to want to mix it for longer to ensure that all of the bonding agents are mixed together well. Still, you will start off mixing slow so you don’t get flour everywhere, then gradually increase your speed to high and mix on high for about 30 seconds. You’re not trying to hurt anything, just simply mix some dough.

Last but not least, let’s talk flavorings. This includes, dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, whatever you can dream up. As far as chocolate goes, I can’t discriminate against any chocolate, but I prefer dark chocolate always. I figure, if I am going to be eating a sugar packed treat, I like the acidic & earthy flavor balance dark chocolate provides. So, I will always suggest a dark chocolate in any cookie. If dark isn’t your thing, semi-sweet, milk, or white chocolate will work fine as well. I prefer anywhere between 70%-80% cacao. Semi-sweet falls around 60%, still considered dark chocolate but not quite as intense.

Dried fruits are awesome in cookies, and I love the texture they add. Whatever you might want to add, just take into account if it will add moisture- you may want to add a minute or two to your baking to ensure the cookie doesn’t stay raw. If you are adding nuts, always lightly toast them beforehand, that way they can finish baking in your cookie, and they’ll add a great crunchy texture.

Chilling the dough before baking. This is a very important step. If you don’t chill your dough, and your butter is already at room temperature and perhaps even a bit warmer from all the mixing, chances are your cookies will melt instead of rise, and you’ll have a pancake cookie. So, although this step kinda stinks, (we all want our cookies quickly) it’ll be worth your waiting.

Lastly, get creative! These are ultimately your treats, have some fun with it! And please, don’t be intimidated by baking. I always highly suggest putting on some of your favorite tunes with your favorite beverage and letting the creativity flow. I hope this was helpful for you guys! Let me know some things you would like to learn about. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

5 thoughts on “Basics of Baking: Cookies

  1. Just finished making the chocolate chip cookies… delicious!! Added a pinch of pink salt to a few of them. Cookies came out perfect! They didn’t flatten like pancakes. Hence the chilling of the dough…thanks for the tips…keep them coming!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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