7 Cookie Baking Mistakes
The smell of freshly baked cookies makes your mouth water. It's all the more annoying when you take the baking sheet out of the oven and find that the chocolate chip cookies are as apartment as Frisbees or the oatmeal raisin cookies are burnt to a crisp. And why do your sugar cookies keep losing their shape in the oven? Never fear: we'll help you fix all your cookie baking mistakes.
As you know, baking isn't only a culinary art form, but there is also a lot of chemistry behind it. To help you get even better at cookie baking, we asked chefs and bakers to share with us some common cookie baking mistakes and their best tips on what to do instead.
Here are 7 cookie baking mistakes you may be making and how to avoid them.
1. Mistake: Using artificial vanilla.
Using artificial vanilla (or artificial almond or lemon) is one of the biggest mistakes she observes when baking cookies at home. Regardless of the quality of the other ingredients, the cookies will end up tasting artificial.
How to fix it: Always use pure vanilla, either as an extract, paste or pod, Morrow recommends. The taste is incomparable.
2. Mistake: Relying too much on your timer.
Setting a timer and double-checking that the oven is set at the right temperature is just one way to make sure cookies don't burn. However, many home bakers leave all the work to their timer and forget to take a look through the oven window. When they do, taking a look can help ensure the cookies are baked just right.
How to do it right: The cookies don't have to look done baking to be removed from the oven. Remove them from the oven as soon as they crack and no longer look shiny. In fact, the only shine should be that of the melted chocolate French fries.
Cookies can go from chewy and soft to hard and crispy in a very short time. If you like chewy cookies, try baking them one minute less, she says.
3. Mistake: Not letting the cookies cool enough.
You've baked perfect cookies and are eager to serve them warm. But if you take them out of the pan too quickly, they'll fall apart.
How to fix it: Let the cookies sit on the sheet for a few more minutes before placing them on a cooling rack. This way they'll firm up and keep their shape when you slide the spatula under them.
4. Mistake: Mixing the dough too much.
If you mix the dough too long, the cookies will be very tough, Sheehan says. Mixing the dough too long can result in dry, cracker-like cookies. And that's not what you want, is it?
How to fix it: If you're using an electric mixer or a hand mixer, stop mixing the dough when you can still see streaks of flour in the mixture. Then continue kneading by hand, which isn't as rigorous, Sheehan says.
5. Mistake: Not chilling the dough.
The scenario: You want to bake a dozen cookies, but instead you just have one big cookie conglomerate because the dough spreads across the sheet. Experts say this mistake happens when you don't refrigerate the dough. Refrigerated cookie dough doesn't melt as quickly, so it doesn't flatten too much on the cookie sheet or melt into the neighboring cookies.
How to fix it: If you're baking drop cookies like chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies, you'll need to chill the dough before putting it in the oven. Freeze the portioned cookie dough on a baking sheet for at least an hour before baking. This will help the cookies keep their shape while baking.
6. One mistake: using a spoon for drop cookies.
Ever wonder why your cookies aren't perfectly round and even, like on your Pinterest board? The secret to round cookies, it turns out, is the help of a kitchen utensil that isn't a spoon.
How to solve the problem: It's worth investing in a small ice cream scoop to better portion the dough.
7. Mistake: Creaming the butter incorrectly.
If you add a stick of butter to the mixer, it's much harder to get a smooth consistency, and it can even put a strain on your machine.
Here's how to fix it: cut the butter into small cubes and add the sugar, using the mixer's whisk attachment on medium-high speed for about five minutes. The mixture will be smooth and fluffy, with a lighter color and a fluffier texture, similar to a cake frosting. The result is more tender cookies. This technique is great for making sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip cookies.
Also, make sure the butter isn't too cold. If the butter is too cold, it won't form air pockets when creamed with the sugar. And then the sugar can't properly combine with the butter when you mix the two ingredients together.
Before you cream the butter, it should be between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. You should be able to leave an indentation in the stick of butter with your finger.