Questions about Making Cookies

Holiday Baked Goods Image Gallery Making batches of beautifully shaped cookies is easy with a little cookie knowledge. See more holiday baked goods pictures.
©2007 Stockbyte

Baking cookies -- how difficult can it be? If you've ever struggled with cookie cutters or turned out a sheet of flat, lumpy pancakes instead of chewy little morsels, you know that baking cookies requires a little more knowledge than just "mix and bake."

Baking cookies can be tricky, so we've compiled a list of tips and tricks that should help you make perfect cookies every time:

How Do You Make Cookies Soft and Chewy?

Do your cookies harden too quickly, or turn flat when you bake them? Find out which ingredients will help you get the perfect fluffy cookie, and tricks for keeping them soft for days in the cookie jar.

Cookie Know-How

Making cookies that are uniformly shaped and baked is key to having a successful batch. Learn how the right equipment and techniques can make all the difference.

Using a Cookie Press

Creating perfectly shaped cookies can be a snap using a cookie press. Find out how a cookie press works, and get tips for using it to make great shaped cookies.

Christmas Cookie Hints

Stressed out with too much baking to do over the holiday season? Check out our tips to help save time and stress during this busy period.

Successful cookie baking can be achieved using these simple tips. Start on the next page by learning how to keep cookies soft and chewy.

For more information on cookies, see:

How Do You Make Cookies Soft and Chewy?

Use a slice of bread to keep your cookies as soft as the day you made them.
Use a slice of bread to keep your cookies as soft as the day you made them.
©2007 Corbis

Q. My homemade cookies sometimes become hard and dry after only a few days. Is there any way to make them soft and chewy again once they've become brittle?

A. It's always disappointing to reach into a cookie jar expecting a soft cookie and get a hard disk instead. To prevent this from happening, place completely cooled cookies in an airtight container along with a slice of bread. The moisture from the bread will be absorbed into the sugar from the cookies, allowing the cookies to maintain their original softness for a longer period of time. Be sure to change the slice of bread every 2 or 3 days to prevent the growth of mold.

Q. What is the best kind of butter to use in baking cookies? Can I use margarine or shortening instead?

Many recipes call for "softened butter." Softened butter is butter left at room temperature at least until you can bend it easily in stick form. You'll know it's soft enough if an electric mixer can cream the butter instead of breaking it into bits.

When a recipe calls for butter, use stick butter. If you substitute margarine or oil for butter, chances are you'll end up with flatter cookies, because they can contain more water than butter. If you substitute shortening, chances are your cookies will be more cakelike and won't flatten as much as they should.

Likewise, your cookies will most likely collapse if you substitute a whipped spread for the butter, since spreads contain lots of air.

But if your butter-based cookies are consistently too flat, there are a couple of things to try: First, chill the dough thoroughly before baking. Keep dough cold between batches, and make sure your utensils are cold as well. Transfer dough to sheets quickly. Cookie sheets should be cool when the dough is loaded on so that the cookies don't melt and start "baking" before they're in the oven. Use at least two cookie sheets; one sheet should be off the stove and cooling while the other is in the oven. If cookies are consistently pancake-flat, try substituting shortening for half the butter; again, chill the dough thoroughly before baking.

When making cutout cookies, use only half the dough at a time; keep remaining dough refrigerated.

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl while creaming the butter, sugar, and eggs; this ensures even blending with the wet ingredients. Mix in the dry ingredients just enough for the dough or batter to form to ensure a tender crumb.

Find more cookie hints and tips on the following page.

For more information on cookies, see:

Cookie Know-How

Using a good cookie sheet and lining it with parchment paper is an easy way to improve your cookie production.
Using a good cookie sheet and lining it with parchment paper is an easy way to improve your cookie production.
©2007 Robert Kyllo

Q. I always end up with some large cookies and some that are too small. How can I make sure all of my cookies are the same size?

All types of cookies should be of uniform size so they bake equally. For uniform drop cookies, use a small ice cream scoop, melon baller, or tablespoon. "Icebox," or "refrigerator," cookies are sliced from chilled rolls of dough. Be sure the dough is very firm before slicing the cookies in uniform widths with a sharp knife. (It helps to rotate the roll about a quarter-turn with every slice to keep the roll round.)

Place cookies at least 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. If you're making cutout cookies, place similar size and shape cookies on the sheet at a time to ensure even baking.

Dip your cookie cutters in flour to keep them from sticking to the dough. Transfer cutouts to the sheet with a wide spatula to prevent wrinkling.

Q: What is the best kind of cookie sheet to use for baking cookies?

Shiny aluminum cookie sheets are the preferred baking pan for consistently well-baked cookies; dark or insulated cookie sheets can result in overbaked or underbaked cookies.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. This nonstick paper, sold in the waxed paper and aluminum foil section of the supermarket, is well worth the cost -- no messy greasing or spraying, and no sticking. You can slide an entire sheet of baked cookies onto a wire cooling rack without breaking them, and you can re-use the paper for the next batch.

You can also roll dough for cutout cookies between two pieces of parchment paper to prevent sticking to counter­tops and rolling pins. The parchment will peel off the rolled-out dough.

Q: Help! Every time I bake cookies, some of them come out underdone, while some are burnt. Is there a way for me to prevent this?

If cookies are browning unevenly in the oven, rotate the cookie sheet.

If you use two cookie sheets at a time, switch the top and bottom pans halfway through baking.

Check on your cookies a minute or two before the minimum recom­mended time. If they're firm on top and the bottoms are beginning to brown, remove them immediately unless your recipe specifically states otherwise.

To prevent breaking soft, just-baked cookies, let them cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet after you remove them from the oven. When the cookies have firmed up, slide the parchment to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

Store cookies properly. Most should be stored in covered plastic containers or tins.

For tips on how to use a cookie press, continue to the next page.

For more information on cookies, see:

Using a Cookie Press

A cookie press is a great tool for making shaped cookies.
A cookie press is a great tool for making shaped cookies.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Q. What is a cookie press and how is it used?

A. A cookie press is made of a hollow cylinder, fitted at one end with a decorative disk, and a plunger for pressing out the dough at the other. Cookie presses may be made of plastic or metal. And, they are available in several varieties: battery-operated gun, manual gun, and manual press with screw mechanism.

They come with several metal or plastic disks, into which are cut decorative designs. As the dough is pressed through a disk onto a cookie sheet, it is shaped into a cookie. The shape can be changed by changing the disk. The most commonly used disks create Christmas-themed wreaths, bells, trees and stars; but other disks form hearts, people and animals.

Besides disks for shaping cookies, cookie presses usually come with decorating tips. Fitted with one of these tips, a cookie press can be used in place of a pastry bag to decorate cookies, cakes and appetizers. Any frosting or filling with a soft consistency can be used, but make sure any solid ingredients in the filling are finely chopped.

For best results, follow these tips:

  • Use only recipes specially developed for cookie presses.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for your cookie press.
  • Shape dough into cylinders and press into the barrel as directed in manufacturer's directions.
  • If dough has been refrigerated and is too firm, allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. Otherwise, the cookies will not come out smoothly and may even damage a motorized cookie press.
  • Do not grease cookie sheets unless directed in recipe. Pressed cookies need to adhere to the cookie sheet or they will not detach from the cookie press.

For hints to help make the Christmas cookie-baking season less stressful, continue to the next page.

For more information on cookies, see:

Christmas Cookie Hints

With a lot of Christmas cookies to make, these time-saving tips will help reduce the stress.
With a lot of Christmas cookies to make, these time-saving tips will help reduce the stress.
©2007 Mishie

Q. The holiday season always leaves me feeling frazzled, with so many cookies to bake in so little time. Do you have any ideas for making the process smoother?

A. Follow these useful tips to ensure perfect results during the holiday baking season:

  • Before you begin, double-check the recipe to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and equipment called for.
  • Remove butter or margarine from the refrigerator to soften, if necessary.
  • Measure all the ingredients accurately and assemble them in the order they are called for in the recipe.
  • Follow recipe directions and baking times exactly. Check for doneness using the test given in the recipe.

For more information on cookies, see: