Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tips to Making Fantastic Cookies

My little man "baking." His accuracy is not so good.

My boss at UK always told me that he wouldn't hire a lab tech who couldn't cook. I remember being like. "What?" Of course it made perfect sense,,,, cooking is simply following instructions. A recipe is like a protocol. It's all about measuring, temperature, timing, and doing things in a certain order. Maybe that's why I like to cook so much now. It reminds me of all the lab work I used to do. Ha ha. No really, while I don't miss my job, I did really enjoy the lab experiments. There was something about going through all those steps and then finding out an answer to a question at the end. Of course there were also the times that I would follow about 500 steps for an analysis that would take 2 days to complete and it wouldn't work. Now that was maddening. But my lab has become a kitchen and my experiments have become cookies.

Really dang good cookies.

 I wouldn't say that my cookies are perfect but I've worked pretty hard over the past couple of years at making them pretty close to perfect. I've always been told that baking cookies is hard. I wouldn't say it's hard. Cookies can be a bit...well...kooky, but you just have to know how to work with them. I've compiled my tips to making your cookies be the best cookies they can be.

- Start with the best ingredients. It doesn't have the be the most expensive, but if you don't like the way store brand chocolate chips taste alone, nothing magical is going to happen in the oven to make them taste better. I personally have no problem with store brand chips, but I like the more expensive brands better and will use them if I'm making cookies for some sort of special occasion. Crappy ingredients in = crappy cookies out.

- Kind of along the same lines...invest in some good vanilla extract. I like Spice Islands.

- Get your ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Everything mixes better and your dough will be better.

-I can't say this enough when it comes to anything baked....measure, measure, measure. Don't just willy nilly scoop ingredients out and throw them in the bowl. Crappy measuring = crappy cookies. Use a knife to level off dry ingredients. If the recipe calls for packed brown sugar, be sure to pack it down into that measuring cup.

- Cream the heck out of the butter and sugar. It could take 5 minutes or more. You will get better results if your butter is room temperature. This is when it's handy to have a stand mixer. I usually get it creaming and then start mixing my dry ingredients.

- Even if the recipe doesn't state for you to do so, mix your dry ingredients separately. This would be your flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt. etc. I use a whisk to stir it. This both combines the ingredients and sifts at the same time.

- Don't overbeat your dough once the dry ingredients are added.

- OK, this one is a biggie. Get some parchment paper. I won't bake a cookie without it. Using parchment has made the most improvement in my cookies.

- Invest in a cookie scoop. It allows you to make uniform cookies and it also cuts down the time and mess.

- I always bake my cookies on the middle rack of the oven.

- Unless you are really familiar with a cookie recipe, do no walk away from the oven and leave the cookies at the mercy of a timer. Check cookies often...starting a couple of minutes before the recipe recommends. Once they look a little brown around the edges take them out. Leave them on the hot pan for a few minutes to cool and then put them on a wire rack. If the cookies are already brown all over, go ahead and get them off the pan to a rack. You will want to put some cooking spray on a metal spatula to do this.

I hope this helps ya'll make some awesome cookies. Now, you know I would rather eat the dough, but there is something so nice about a soft, thick cookie.

I have about 500 cookie recipes to post coming up. And I'm picking the worst time to get them ready.....after Christmas no one will be wanting any cookies. We will all be sick of them!

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