What could possibly be more amazing than eating raw cookie dough? Hmmm…maybe actually baking the dough and eating warm, gooey cookies straight from the oven! Making perfect cookies is simple, but not always easy. You just have to be very exact when measuring ingredients. I use a food scale to measure ingredients whenever possible. I have a battery powered one by Salter and I love it. The scale has a button that allows you to ‘zero’ it out whenever you want so you can weigh a new ingredient. So, you can put a bowl on the scale, then zero it out and measure exactly 4 ounces of flour. Press the zero button again, and you can add the 3.5 ounces of sugar without having to do math in your head. ( A food scale is also an excellent way of measuring all of those little chunks of butter you end up left with after measuring for several recipes that call for 1/3 cup.)
Now that you know how to measure ingredients perfectly, you also need to make sure that all ingredients are the correct temperature. All of the ingredients will mix together better if they are at room temperature, so let your eggs rest on the counter before mixing them in. Butter needs to be at the correct consistency. If the recipe calls for melted, then it should be melted until runny. If the recipe calls for softened butter, the cookies may be flat and lifeless if you melt it. As a result, the bust way to soften butter is to let it sit at room temperature for several hours – microwaving makes it too easy to overheat butter you just want to soften. If you do need a shortcut though, make sure you microwave the butter at 50% power or less and watch it carefully. Immediately stop the microwave if you notice the butter getting runny at all.
You will probably notice that a lot of recipes call for wildly different sizes for the scoops of cookie dough you put on the sheet. Some say “rounded teaspoons” all the way to 1/4 cup (that’s a huge cookie!) You can generally make them the size that you want (I often press all the dough into a greased 9×13 or jelly roll pan and make a pan of bar cookies when I’m short on time.) Just know that changing the prescribed size of the cookie will change the cooking time.
Your cookie sheet can make a big difference in how your treats turn out. The ‘air’ cookie sheets have been around for several years now, and you can find them anywhere from Walmart to department stores. They are not solid metal, but have a layer of air between sheets of metal that is supposed to help the cookies bake evenly and not burn on the bottom. I have had several of these over the years, but the one that performs best is the one from Williams-Sonoma. Make sure your oven is preheated, and use an insulated cookie sheet and you can be sure that at the least your cookies will not burn.
I always set my timer on the lowest recommended baking time to avoid overbaking cookies. Avoid opening the oven to check on them – keeping it closed keeps the temperature regulated inside. Use your oven light instead. Many recipes will tell you to bake chocolate chip cookies “until edges are just set and tops are golden brown” or something like that. The bottom line is, unless you like your cookies hard, take them out when the edges are set and the tops look very light golden. The center might look like it isn’t done, but after sitting on the cookie sheet for a few minutes out of the oven they will be sit and the result will be a cookie that is perfectly crispy around the edges and baked, but soft and gooey in the middle. Feel free to go with your personal preference. Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack once they are set enough to be transferred from the cookie sheet.
Since cookies are best out of the oven, I like to make them one small pan at a time and keep the rest of the batch in the fridge. (Freezer if you plan to take more than 3 days to eat them.) Let the dough come to room temperature to bake cookies again, if it is cooler it may need to bake a little longer and the consistency of the cookie might be different. Store baked cookies in ziploc bags or other airtight containers and avoid eating all of them for breakfast the next morning.
And now for my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Brown-Eyed Baker…this recipe has everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a chocolate chip cookie. Check out the other recipes on her blog as well, because everything I have tried of hers has been absolutely incredible.
Note that all of this info works great for any “drop cookie” – any cookie that spreads while baking and you don’t shape, like a sugar cookie.
Try these additional tips:
-Use sea salt instead of regular salt in recipes if you like a little added salty crunch in some of the bites.
-Make individual size cookies in ceramic ramekins and then top with ice cream soon out of the oven for an out of this world cookie sundae!
-Spread the dough out in a large pan and bake for 20 minutes or until center is set and then cut into bars when cool.
-Experiment with different kinds of chocolate or other goodies in your cookies, such as crushed candy bars. Try combining flavors such as chocolate and peanut butter, or white chocolate and cranberries.