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- Cookies are a tricky dessert to bake, as any little mistake can lead to a dry, crumbly or undercooked final product.
- Professional pastry chefs recommend using parchment paper to easily get the cookies off the pan.
- Simple tools, such as a bowl scraper, will keep your cookie dough consistent, leading to the perfect taste and texture.
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Whether you want a little mid-week treat for yourself or want to celebrate an occasion, cookies are a no-brainer. But baking is notoriously calculated, and precision is necessary to prevent the delicate desserts from becoming to dry, too dense, or too crunchy.
While techniques vary depending on what type of cookie you are baking, there are a handful of tips and tricks that professional pastry chefs keep on hand to bake every batch to perfection.
We spoke to professional bakers for the inside scoop on how to master the art of cookie baking. Check out our top tips to make delicious cookies below.
Read the recipe thoroughly.
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The entire baking process will be much easier if you read the recipe carefully before grabbing ingredients and preheating the oven, Nicole Garrett, executive head baker of SusieCakes, told INSIDER. Missing an ingredient or a step can mean another trip to the store, another round of mixing new batter, or a disastrous end result that leaves a bad taste in your mouth – literally.
Splurge on high-quality ingredients.
Spending a little extra here and there can result in tastier cookies with minimal extra effort on your end.
“Each recipe differs, but we find that the best treats come from the highest quality ingredients,” Garrett said. “When it comes to the star of the show, you will want to spend the time and money finding high-quality ingredients.
“For example, if you are baking chocolate chip cookies, you will want to find a high-quality chocolate that appeals to your chocolate preferences. If your recipe calls for fruit, we recommend visiting your local farmer’s market for fresh fruit if you have the luxury. It also doesn’t hurt to invest in a pure vanilla or other extracts at a specialty foods store.”
Add surprise ingredients for bolder, richer flavors.
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Cookies are delicious on their own, but their small size is ideal for playing with flavors. Anna McGorman, culinary director at Milk Bar, is a big advocate for hitting the snack aisles at the grocery to see just what kind of fun snacks you can throw into the cookie batter: chips, cereal, pretzels – it is all fair game.
Even if you decide to go a more traditional route in flavor, you can make it easier on yourself to make a flavorful cookie that will really wow the dessert’s recipients.
“Sometimes, you can sneak moments of flavor inside the batter,” McGorman told INSIDER. “A standard secret weapon is nonfat dry milk powder, which is often in ice cream bases. It doesn’t bring a milky flavor, but instead amps the flavor across the board. Just throw a couple of tablespoons in a batch of cookies to add secret flavor.”
Gather, measure out and organize all ingredients beforehand.
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Once you’ve picked (or thought up) the perfect cookie recipe and selected the best ingredients, it’s time to get to baking. But before you start throwing ingredients into the mix, make like a professional pastry chef and get organized.
“Anyone who has watched a cooking show like Martha Stewart knows that all the ingredients are measured into containers or bowls and organized on the countertop,” McGorman told INSIDER.
When you have everything pre-measured neatly into separate containers and lined up in the order you need them, you are less likely to make mistakes or throw out a batch and start over.
Use parchment paper for easy transporting and clean-up.
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Garrett always recommends keeping parchment paper available to line cookie trays. It can take out the step of greasing a pan, and cookies will come off cleanly. You can easily lift out an entire batch of cookies, too; not to mention it makes cleaning up afterward a breeze.
Keep a consistent temperature with an oven thermometer.
Oven thermometers are crucial for baking cookies, according to McGorman. Especially with older models, the number on the screen is often inaccurate.
“Check the oven, check the oven, check the oven!” McGorman advised. “The biggest problem people who are baking at home have is that they set the oven at 350 or 375, but it is not at 350 or 375. Spend $5 or $6 on an oven thermometer and put it inside. Opening the oven door causes the oven to lose heat, but understand the true temperature – not what the oven is telling you – allows you to adjust accordingly and get a more consistent bake.”
Without the ability to adjust bake times to the oven temperature, you can end up with dry, overcooked cookies.
Leave no lumps behind by using a bowl scraper.
It’s never fun to have small balls of cookie dough lined in neat little rows on a baking sheet only to find you left a huge portion of butter or egg yolk stuck to the side of the mixing bowl. By leaving behind these bits, the batter will be unevenly mixed, leaving you with inconsistent and even gross cookies.
To ensure no essential lumps are left behind use a bowl scraper that can scoop up forgotten ingredients with ease, McGorman advises.
“I’m a big fan of a bowl scraper,” she said. “It gives you the ability to get to the bottom of bowl. It is good for incorporating eggs, butter, and sugar for a homogeneous mass. If something is stuck on the paddle or the side, like unmixed butter or sugar, it will lead to inconsistencies in the final product.”
Follow some rules, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
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Following a recipe down to the teaspoon is important for nailing overall taste and texture, but it’s never a bad idea to turn a classic into your own special treat.
“Don’t let rules control you!” McGorman said. “Experiment with different types of sugar – it builds with confidence over time. … If you see something you like, don’t be afraid to jazz it up.”
Get flavor ideas from other people.
One of the greatest joys of baking is the ability to collaborate and create with others. You can learn so much about others just by discussing their favorite cookie recipes, and these anecdotes can inspire you to try new flavors.
“Go to the closest specialty market, and talk to the person behind the counter,” McGorman told INSIDER. “People love to make cookies! Have a dialogue about what their favorite cookie is. Find out where their favorite treats are from. There is limitless potential to explore.”
The more you talk about cookies and flavor profiles with others, the easier the baking process will become. You’ll become skilled at whipping up a fun, flavorful batch of cookies when you have a deeper understanding of a multitude of ingredients.
Bake with friends and family.
You might be baking cookies for an event, or it might be an entertaining weekend activity. Either way, the process will be easier and more fun when you enlist help from the people you love.
“Bake with a friend or family member,” Garrett suggested. “The best memories of my childhood were in the kitchen with my mom, dad and brother. We would bake and decorate cookies during the holidays with music, and if we were lucky, a little dancing would take place. Your end product will taste better knowing love was put into it from the beginning!”
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