Cookie season is fast approaching. I want you to be armed with all of the tools in my arsenal as we head into the winter months. Cooking a soup or stew is hard to mess up, but cookies and other baked goods… those are an art. It takes finesse to create the perfect cookie. I’m still mastering cookie perfection, but I’ve learned some tricks on my baking journey that might help you along your way.
#1 Don’t Grease Unnecessarily
That may seem like a given, but I see people greasing cookie sheets when the instructions specifically say not to. I think it’s due to fear that the cookies will stick. They wont, I promise. Keep the shortening away.
If you are worried about your cookies sticking, try using a Silpat or parchment paper.
#2 Grease Properly
When the directions do instruct you to grease the sheet, don’t go hog-wild with the PAM (you can get my thoughts on cooking sprays here). Instead, use a cloth to rub a thin layer of shortening to the pan.
Greasing the cookie sheet too heavily or when not necessary causes the cookies to spread and burn on the edges.
#3 Don’t Trust the Beep
If your oven beeps when it’s preheated, that’s great, but don’t put too much trust in it. Allow your oven to preheat for 10-15 minutes before putting the first sheet of cookies into the oven. To assure you’ve reached the right temperature, I suggest getting an oven thermometer. They are cheap and will save many a batch of cookies.
#4 Patience is a Virtue
Although you can cook a couple of sheets at a time, having more than one sheet of cookies baking at a time can cause unevenness in heat distribution. The heat of the oven moves and the additional sheets mess up the flow. Also, be sure to allow the pan to cool completely before putting another batch on it.
#5 This Is Not a Cookie Sheet
Okay, so this isn’t a trick. It’s more of a fact. This is not a cookie sheet:
What is photographed above is actually a jelly roll pan. It’s commonly used for a variety of baking jobs, but jelly roll pans have 1/2″ sides that reduce air flow between cookies.
This is a cookie sheet:
This is the exact sheet I use for all my cookies. It’s the Chicago Metallic Commercial II Uncoated Cookie Sheet. What I love is that although it cooks more evenly than any other pan I’ve used, it isn’t very expensive. It’s not a $5.99 Walmart special, but some sheets are over $30 each. This one costs about $14.
#6 Don’t Crowd the Cookies
In general, cookies should be spaced 1 1/2-2″ apart unless more space is indicated in the recipe. This goes with patience being a virtue. Yes, you can squish a whole bunch together on the sheet and be done faster, but they wont cook as well.
#7 Size Matters
When a recipe gives you a cookie size, it actually means it. Baking times and temperatures are contingent on the size of the intended cookie. If you make them smaller than instructed, they will burn and/or dry out. If you make them larger, they may end up gummy and under cooked. Use a measuring spoon or cup to assure that the cookies are uniform in size.
#8 Please Don’t Squish Me!
Why do we feel the need to assault our cookies? Unless you are making peanut butter cookies with the cute cross-hatch pattern or another cookie that is supposed to be squished, please stop squishing the poor things. It creates a dense interior and it just doesn’t look as pretty. Drop the cookies on the sheet and leave them be.
Now you are armed with plenty of cookie know-how for this year’s holiday baking.