Have you ever wondered how other people get their homemade cookies to look like they came from a bakery? It’s all in the right ingredients, techniques, and tools. Here’s everything you need to know to bake perfect cookies from scratch.
Quick Tip: Cookies are only as good as the ingredients you use.
Using the correct ingredients in their proper ratios is crucial to good baking. For best results, follow the recipe and measure ingredients correctly.
Most cookie recipes call for all-purpose or pastry flour. If you use bread flour with its high gluten protein content, or cake flour, which is high in starch, you’ll end up with cookies that tend to spread less when you bake them. Recipes for shortbread cookies or other cookies with a crumbly texture usually have a higher flour-to-liquid ratio.
Get the inside scoop on different types of wheat flour and gluten-free flour, including coconut flour.
These are the ingredients that make baked goods puff up. In cookie recipes, the two most common leaveners are baking soda and baking powder.
Baking soda is simply bicarbonate of soda. It neutralizes the acidity of the dough, allowing the cookies to brown in the oven.
Baking powder is a combination of bicarbonate of soda plus cream of tartar, an acidic ingredient. Since baking powder already contains its own acid, it will not reduce the acidity in the dough, and the resulting cookies will be puffier and lighter in color.
Learn how to use baking soda and baking powder in your recipes for best results.
Fats are all about flavor and spread—what a cookie tastes like, and whether it keeps its shape or flattens as the fats heat and liquify in the oven. In general, more fat in the recipe produces flat, crispy cookies, while less fat produces puffier, cake-like cookies.
The kind of fat you use also makes a difference. Cookies are made primarily with butter, margarine or shortening, and each behaves differently. Note that whipped spreads are not suitable for baking.
Cookies made with butter tend to spread out because it melts at body temperature—a much lower temperature than other solid fats—resulting in a “melt-in-your-mouth” burst of flavor. In fact, butter is an essential flavor agent in certain cookies, such as shortbreads. If cookies spread more than you’d like them to, try lowering the amount of butter, sugar, or baking soda in the recipe.
Shortening has a much higher melting point than butter, and will help cookies keep their original unbaked shapes.
Margarine has a only a slightly higher melting point than butter.
Learn more about the difference between using butter and margarine in your baking recipes.
Like fats, sugars liquefy when they heat in the oven. The type and amount of sugar both play a big role in cookie performance.
White sugar makes a crisper cookie than does brown sugar or honey.
Cookies made from brown sugar will absorb moisture after baking, helping to ensure that they stay chewy. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes contain both brown and white sugars.
If you lower the amount of sugar called for in a cookie recipe, the final baked cookie will be puffier than its high-sugar counterpart.
Find out how to bake with different sugars and sugar substitutes.
Eggs and Liquids
Eggs are a binding agent, holding ingredients together. Egg yolks add richness but allow a crisp texture after baking, but egg whites tend to make cookies dry and cakey. To make up for the drying effect of the egg whites, extra sugar is often added. This is why cookies made with just egg whites tend to be so sweet—think of light and airy French macarons.
Continue to the Next Page …