Tip: Cookie Dough
The key is to first find a cookie dough you like. From there you can tweak it just how you prefer them. I like to use real butter in my cookies, but my sister, Aimee, always prefers to use half margarine and half butter. She likes the way the margarine helps them to stand up a little taller. Also, I always analyze my dough before I use it to see if it is too runny. When I am making chocolate chip cookies, I check out my dough before adding the chips. If I think the dough is too sticky, I will add more flour to get to the right texture. And, some recipes really should be refrigerated before you bake them, that way the butter, or margarine, has a chance to get cold again, to help you not have flat pancakes in that hot oven. So, my point is, find what you like and don't be afraid to tweak it or assess it if it doesn't seem right. No need to bake a batch of bad cookie dough.
Tip: Save Some Cookie Dough
Sometimes, you might not feel like making a batch of cookies because you only want or need a few. Why not whip up some cookie dough, bake a pan or two and then refrigerate or freeze the rest of the dough? If you choose to freeze it, you can scoop the dough into balls, freeze on the pan and when frozen hard, throw them into a ZipLock bag. Now you can quickly make cookies anytime you want!
Refrigerated cookie dough.
Tip: Baker's Half Sheets
I bake most everything on bakers half sheets. I think they are also known as jelly roll pans. You would laugh to know how many I actually own. But, when I am making cookies I like to use at least 3 pans. That way I have one in the oven, one ready to go and one that is cooling off. I am impatient and don't like running my oven any longer than I need to. Last year, I just found a set of non-stick bakers half sheets from Costco. I use those a lot now, but, when I am using my regular pans, I spray them first with non-stick spray or line them with parchment.
Tip: Purple Scoop
Since, my mom had a small catering business while I was growing up, we learned to bake with restaurant grade things. Don't worry, that doesn't necessarily mean expensive. For one thing, in the food industry, there are different colored scoops, or dishers for different serving sizes. The purple scoop (#40 disher - purple 7/8 oz) is the perfect size for most any cookie. If you use a scoop, you can fine tune your cookies so you know exactly how long you like to bake them and every cookie on your pan will be uniform and done at the same time. If you don't have a scoop, you really should try it out. You can find one here. Even if you decide to not go the scoop route, the most important thing uniform size and equal spacing on your pan.
The purple scoop - #40 disher 7/8 oz.
Scoop dough uniformly.
Lay on pan uniformly.
Tip: Oven Time
Always preheat your oven and make sure it is up to temperature before you start baking. You don't want to have a funky first pan of cookies. Only bake one pan of cookies at a time and place them on a rack that is in the middle of your oven. That way they will have the best chance for even baking. When you are making a recipe for the first time, set the timer for a minute less. You will have better luck getting the perfect cookie if you peek on them through the window instead of opening the oven, repeatedly. When you open the oven the temperature inside drops. Once you figure out the perfect baking time for your size cookies in your oven, write it down! Next time you won't even have to think about it.
Place in the middle of the oven.
I always cool my cookies on the pan. I don't even own a cooling rack. I just elevate my pan on something so it doesn't sweat. I use my stove because it is a gas range, but you could use something else and still get the job done. In my opinion, cookies are best when they are soft, but have a tiny crisp on the bottom. When you cool on the pan, you can finish baking them in the oven a touch sooner because the cookie bottoms will still have heat on them as they cool.
Cool cookies on the pan.
Perfectly done cookie.
Golden brown on the bottom.
Soft on top, gooey middles, crisp bottom.
Tip: Store in Air Tight Containers
If you are going to go through the trouble of making cookies, you want the last one you eat to be as good as the first. Well, at least almost as good... it is hard to beat a cookie that is right out of the oven. Just remember to put them into an air tight container or ZipLock bag once they have cooled completely. At my house, all cookies that are not eaten in the first day go into a ZipLock and then into the freezer. My husband, Steve, actually prefers his cookies frozen and that is a little way for me to show my love. But the rest of us, just get one out and wait a few minutes before eating it and you can't tell it wasn't freshly baked. This is a great way to have a little treat to bring to a friend at a moment's notice.
Find corresponding recipes: Cookie Recipes