It couldn't be easier to bake perfect cookies... simply follow my 10 easy tips and master the art of baking delicious cookies every single time!
1. Chill The Dough
Chilling the dough is my first tip because it's also the most important one! Unless a recipe states otherwise, it's so important to always chill your cookie dough before baking.
Why is it so important to chill cookie dough?
Chilling cookie dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking allows the butter/fat to re-solidify (after it has softened during mixing/beating).
The fat then slowly melts when baked, keeping your cookies in shape as well as beautifully thick and delicious.
When you don't chill your dough, your cookies will spread too much, be thin and non-uniform in shape.
TIP: Chilled cookie dough will result in perfectly shaped and thick cookies.
2. Know Your Oven
All ovens cook slightly differently ... regardless of whether you're cooking using a convention, fan-forced, gas or steam oven.
It's important to get to know your oven and adjust the cooking time of recipes accordingly. You can do this by buying an oven thermometer and checking the exact temperature, or you can simply play around with recipes and see if your oven seems to cook hotter/quicker/slower than recipes state.
When baking cookies, I recommend starting to check if they're done approximately 5 minutes before the recipe cooking time states. Ie. If a recipe says to bake the cookies for 15 minutes, I would check from 10 minutes onwards.
TIP: Never take the cooking time in a recipe as gospel, instead use it as a rough guide.
3. Preheat Your Oven
Ensure that your oven is preheated to the temperature stated in the recipe before baking the cookies. Don't be tempted to start baking the cookies until the oven is at temperature!
TIP: Preheating the oven will ensure even baking of the cookies.
4. Check The Expiry Dates
One of the most common reasons why cookies don't turn out perfectly is because the rising agent (generally bi-carbonate soda or baking powder) is out of date or no longer active.
Always check the expiry dates on your products. If you're unsure if the rising agent is still active (particularly if the container has been open for a while), you can test them by:
- adding baking soda to vinegar
- adding baking powder to hot water
If they bubble, they are active and fine to use. If they don't, it's time to buy a new container!
TIP: Ensure your rising agents are active and within the expiry date.
5. Room Temperature Ingredients
Unless a recipe states otherwise, ensure that you have all of your ingredients at room temperature before baking.
This includes eggs, milk, yoghurt, butter, cream cheese... anything!
Why Do I Need To Use Room Temperature Ingredients?
Room temperature dairy products trap air through an emulsion. When baked, the air expands and results in light and fluffy cakes, cupcakes and cookies.
Ingredients that are at room temperature are also easier to beat, cream and combine, resulting in a smooth dough or batter. This in turn, results in beautifully baked cookies.
TIP: Using room temperature ingredients will result in light and fluffy cookies.
6. Measure The Ingredients Correctly
I know it's so tempting to just scoop the flour out of the container and pour it straight into your mixing bowl, or grab a spoon from the kitchen drawer that isn't standard size... but if you want perfect cookies, you absolutely MUST measure the ingredients correctly.
Tips For Measuring Ingredients
- When measuring dry ingredients like flour, use a flat spatula or knife to level off the top of the measuring cup.
- Pour liquid ingredients into a larger measuring jug than what you need so it doesn't overflow.
- Use standard sized measuring spoons (not the teaspoons/dessertspoons out of your kitchen drawer).
- Wherever possible, measure your ingredients in grams or ounces. This is far more accurate than using a measuring cup or spoon.
TIP: Measure in grams or ounces wherever possible. Alternatively use standard sized measuring cups and spoons and level off the top with a spatula or flat knife.
7. Baking Tray
Perfectly baked cookies need the correct baking tray!
Choose a flat baking tray when baking cookies. A tray or sheet with no sides is best as it allows the heat to evenly bake the cookies. It also allows for easy removal of the baked cookies with a spatula.
TIP: Use a flat baking tray or cookie sheet with no sides.
8. Prepare Your Tray
Place a sheet of baking (parchment) paper on top of the baking tray before cooking. This:
- keeps the cookies off the direct heat of the baking tray which reduces the amount of spreading
- avoids the cookies sticking to the tray
- allows the base of the cookies to cook to a perfectly light and golden colour and avoids over-browning
- allows for easy removal of the baked cookies
- reduces the amount of cleaning required!
TIP: Always line your baking tray with a sheet of baking (parchment) paper.
9. Cookie Size
Regardless of whether you want to bake mega-sized cookies or bite-sized cookies, the important thing is to ensure that all of the cookies on the baking tray are the same size.
Cookie dough balls that are uniform in shape and size will cook evenly, resulting in perfectly baked cookies.
Leave a generous gap (approximately 5cm) between your cookies to allow for spreading.
TIP: Ensure your cookie dough balls are identical in shape and size.
10. Baking The Cookies
After you've put so much effort into prepping your cookie dough and trays, it's important to follow a few simple steps for baking them in the oven (you don't want to throw away all your hard work at the final step!).
When baking cookies in the oven:
- Place the baking tray in the centre of your oven for more even cooking.
- If possible, bake one tray of cookies at a time (as placing trays above one another in the oven causes uneven heat).
- Rotate your cookie tray halfway through cooking.
- Start to check your cookies approximately 5 minutes before the time that the recipe states.
- Try to avoid opening the oven too many times during baking as the heat will escape. When you do open the oven, ensure that you close the door quickly. Sometimes a quick peak through an oven door that is only slightly ajar is enough to check the cookies (or even better... looking through the glass oven door without opening it at all!).
- Don't overcook the cookies! They should still be soft when removed from the oven but will firm up on cooling. Don't be tempted to cook them until firm as they will be very hard and dense! In my experience it's very hard to undercook cookies but very easy to overcook them. If in doubt, take them out of the oven earlier rather than later!
- Remove your cookies from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes and then carefully remove with a flat egg flip or spatula to a wire cooling rack.
Do you have any more tips for baking cookies to add to this list?
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