I think the best tip to baking good cookies is to use good tools. When measuring, I use the appropriate kind of Pyrex-style measuring cups for liquids and the stainless steel kind with the flat top you for dry, but there are products on the market now that do both. Its so frustrating to spend time making cookies from scratch, only to have them stick when you try to remove them, or burn on the bottom before browning on top. I use good quality baking pans, and I butter and flour them prior to use. Just get a bit of wax paper and smear butter lightly over the pan, covering all surfaces. Then sprinkle a tablespoon or so of flour onto the pan, and shake it around until the entire surface of butter is covered (add a bit more if necessary), and lightly tap any excess out into the garbage.
I also use good quality ingredients. Make sure your baking powder or baking soda haven’t expired. Baking soda should bubble when added to vinegar, and baking powder should bubble when added to hot water. When you add these to your dry ingredients, give the dry ingredients a mix so you don’t end up with uneven distribution, resulting in holes in your cookies. Room temperature butter can also make a big difference. If a recipe calls for unsalted butter and you use salted, just reduce the salt or omit it. And use the right kind of sugar.
If you don’t have powered sugar, just whiz sugar in your blender and make it! Corn starch is often added to confectioners sugar, so if your baking tastes a bit different, try adding 1 to 1 1/4 tablespoons of corn starch for each cup of sugar.
For brown sugar, add a tablespoon of molasses to a cup of white sugar. It seems easier to me to just make it when needed rather than buying brown sugar and keeping a moistened chip of clay in it to keep it from hardening.
Here are some of the tools I love to use when baking cookies:
This Norpro 18/10 Stainless Steel Measuring Spoon Set is the kind I use, What I like about my flat bottomed measuring spoons is that they slip neatly into the square tin spice containers we all get from time to time (please remember to replace seldom used spices every so often, they get stale!), and they never get scuffed up with rough edges like the plastic ones tend to over time.
I always thought nothing beats Pyrex for liquid measurements, but now you can buy neat digital measuring cups like this Taylor Digital Measuring Cup and Scale, which display exactly how much you have digitally on the side of the handle. Its really a combination measuring cup and scale and converts standard pre-set ingredients like flour or milk from weight to volume. The cool thing is that you see the 1.1 cups measurement on the side so you know when to shake a bit out. This is going on my wishlist!
I’ve had my batter bowl for several years now, and if I had ever seen it again in the stores I would have bought a bunch for people as gifts by now, but its one of those things you never see again and are just glad you have. This Chantal Pure 2-1/4-Quart Ring Batter Bowl, Clear Light Vanilla is pretty close to what I have though. Its made from durable ceramic with a clear glaze, so not as heavy as the cast iron ones but with some substance to it, so it won’t slip out of your hands easily. I like the lip on the edge, it seems to help drips. This one is even oven, freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe.
I talked about my mix master in an earlier blog – see http://wp.me/p3Qrtj-I. KitchenAid KSM150PSMC Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer, Metallic Chrome is great for cookies and any baking, and has lots of attachments for use in general cooking too. I see its on for a great price at the time of this posting! Some optional attachments:
- KitchenAid RVSA Slicer/Shredder Attachment for Stand Mixers
- KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment
- KitchenAid KPSA Stand-Mixer Pasta-Roller AttachmentAttachment Designed for KitchenAid Stand Mixers, No.796
- KitchenAid KN12AP Stand-Mixer Attachment Pack with Food Grinder, Sausage Stuffer, and Citrus Juicer
Here is the flour canister I use, a Camwear Polycarbonate Square Food Storage container, 18 Quart size. I love pretty canisters, and have bought a few different kinds, but in the end this is practical and is the perfect container for my needs, so I try to resist the beauties that might otherwise reside on my counter when I know that I will just end up getting this out of my pantry.
This Bag in Sugar Dispenser (Clear) (10″H x 9″W x 5″D) is great – you just pop in a five pound bag of flour or sugar, cut the opening, and pour when needed. The patented dual-pour flip top allows two-way pouring. No more big messes when emptying the flour bag! When the old bag is emptied, just pop in a new one. I definitely want to get one of these.
The big sheet pan, Nordic Ware Naturals Big Sheet Baking Pan, is 21″ X 15″, which is about the biggest that will fit most standard ovens. If you use sheets that fill your oven, its best not to use three at a time in convection mode, because the space for circulation at the edges simply isn’t there. Just be aware of how much space is available at the edges. I find it easy enough to bake one of these jumbo sheets of cookies while preparing the next sheet. The only draw back to these baking sheets is that they aren’t dishwasher proof, but the jumbo ones are too big for the dishwasher in any event. I hate washing dishes, but these wash so easily in any size that it isn’t really a problem for me. Later I bought three standard size, Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 by 18 by 1 inch, and put one of them in the dishwasher just to try it, and it did take the finish off, but actually its still a much better baking sheet than any I had before. You can get them in a variety of other sizes, but these are the two sizes I use over and over again.
With convection ovens giving us the ability to bake a few sheets at a time, its about time we all upgraded our wire racks to accommodate the volume of cookies we can produce. Wilton Excelle Elite 3 Tier Cooling Rack 15.875″X9.875-Non-Stick is a set of three premium stacking racks that will do the job. These ones are larger than the average long ones. Dishwasher safe.
If sugar cookies are your thing, then Wilton 2304-1050 101-Piece Cookie Cutter Set should give you mostly everything you will need:
- 101 colorful plastic cookie cutters; average size measures 3-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches
- 1/3-inch comfort edge and deep blade for ease of use
- Shapes for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas, even Super Bowl Sunday; complete alphabet for fun cookie messages
- Great for cutting out cookies, sandwiches, all kinds of foods, into different shapes; fun for crafting too
- Easy-to-clean and dishwasher safe
For decorating, this Wilton 2109-859 50-Piece Tool and Caddy Decorating Set comes with the tips and bags, plus everything you will need to get started, like colors and instructions (see list below) and its in a nice case so you can pack everything away and tuck in the back of the cupboard until you need it again. Included:
Tips: Standard Round Tips #2, 3, 5, 7, 12, Standard Open Star Tips #16, 18, 21, 32, Standard Basketweave Tip #47, Standard Leaf Tip #67, Standard Petal Tips #101, 103, 104, Drop Flower Tips #133, 225, Multi-Opening Tip #233, Leaf Tip #352, Tip #2004 (2D), No. 7 Flower Nail
Colors (four .5 oz. Icing Colors): Lemon Yellow, Christmas Red, Royal Blue, Leaf Green, 18 Disposable Bags, 1 10 in. Soft Touch Bag, Tip Brush, Decorator Brush, two Standard Couplers, 8 in. Angled Comfort Grip Spatula, Practice Board, New Cake Decorating Beginner’s Guide.
For storing your cookies, as if they aren’t tempting enough, why not store them in a clear Anchor Hocking 2-Gallon Heritage Hill Jar with Glass Lid. Especially if you go to the trouble of cutting and decorating them, why not show them off! This vintage style jar is dishwasher safe. Would work great for bath salts or flour or sugar too. Dimensions: 14.40″ h x 9.60″ w x 9.60″ l
1001 Cookie Recipes: The Ultimate A-To-Z Collection of Bars, Drops, Crescents, Snaps, Squares, Biscuits, and Everything That Crumble is the recipe book I grab when I want to bake cookies. Its great at Christmas time, and has lots of specific areas, like large scale recipes for cookie bake trades, or pretty cookies for entertaining.
This is the recipe I use for melt-in-your-mouth Shortbread Cookies – a good instructional video by Robin Hood