How to bake the perfect cookies

Baking may seem like a different world and language to someone who is “cooking challenged”, but once you get all the proper tools, there will be no one who will be able to trump your cookie baking powers.

Read recipes before you start

Always pay close attention to any recipe that you are looking at. While baking isn’t the hardest thing in the world, it requires precision and concentration. When you start mixing together all the ingredients, focus on just that and nothing else, unless you want to make silly mistakes like using salt instead of sugar. A distraction will almost always lead to a mistake, and it’s not worth the risk.

Use good and correct tools

Before you start, lay out everything that you will need on a table or counter, and double check to make sure that everything is the right size. Try to always use measuring cups and spoons because, unless you are a master baker, the guessing game is a good one to play in the kitchen. The depth of the pan controls the heat at which you should bake the cookies, small and deep pans needing less heat than large, shallow ones. Try to get to know every tool that you use on more of an intimate level and pay attention to the small details. Prepare the pans as the recipe states, and try to always position the pan in the middle of the oven. Don’t crowd the oven, because this will lead to uneven baking and all sorts of problems for your cookies.

Use good ingredients

Just like with the tools, before starting lay out all of the ingredients that the recipe asks for. Check all the expiration and “sell by” dates on the containers and bags of everything to make sure that you are not using anything that might cause illness. Follow the recipe to the tiniest dot on the smallest i; if it asks for an ingredient to be at room temperature, then make sure that it is at room temperature (but never microwave the ingredient if its too cold, because that might compromise the texture of the cream. Don’t substitute flours types because different flours act in completely different ways.

Measure correctly

This is probably one of the most important steps, because this can destroy all the hard work that you have done. Learn the difference between a dry and liquid measure, and try to use the right utensils for each of the different types. This goes hand in hand with step two. Follow the recipe to the tee, and you can experiment with different batches that you might make.

Oven temperature

Unless told to do otherwise by the recipe, preheat the oven 10 to 15 minutes before you bake the cookies. Purchase an oven thermometer to make sure that your oven is working at the proper temperature, because the wrong temp. can throw off the texture of the cookies completely.

Cookie sheets

Cookie sheets with little or no sides will let the cookies bake quickly and more evenly. You can use vegetable shortening to grease the pan, or you can buy one of the biggest lifesavers, called a silicone baking mat. It keeps its shape, and never rips or tears. It’s a must have, but its optional. Always cool baking sheets between batches, letting them at least cool to room temperature before adding another batch.

Baking the cookies

Make sure that all cookies are uniform size and shape, and make sure that the cookie sheet can fit in the oven with a one inch space around all sides for optimum heat circulation. Leave about two inches between each cookie to accommodate cookie spreading with ease. Always use an accurate baking timer and check cookies at the minimum baking time that is listed on the recipe. Once done baking, remove cookies from the sheet to a wire rack to prevent further baking, and by moving them, it will be much easier to avoid cookie tearing than waiting until the cookies cool on the sheet.

If you follow these tips you will have perfect cookies in no time, and you will probably look like a baking master!