Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crafting the perfect cookie

The perfect cookie is by definition 1.) Chocolate Chip and 2.) Home made. While point 1 may be arguable to some folks (they'll still be wrong despite the arguing) you still can't beat point number 2. I happened to create a batch of lovely chocolate chip goodness yesterday, so I thought I'd share some of my tips for baking success.

Use the right tools. Invest in a good stand mixer. Nick gave me a very nice Kitchenaid stand mixer as a Christmas gift a few years ago. Before that I had always used a hand mixer and never wanted to upgrade-mostly because of the price of stand mixers, but the hand mixer had never let me down, so I just didn't see the point. The first batch of cookies I made after plugging the thing in, and I found out what I was missing. The dough blended much more evenly, which helped the cookies bake more evenly. The stand mixer has also improved the quality of the cakes I bake, as well as pizza dough.

Parchment paper is your friend. Line your baking sheets with it religiously. It keeps the cookies from sticking to the pan, helps prevent burnt bottoms, and makes clean-up a snap. You can also re-use the same sheet for the whole batch.

Make the rounds of dough as uniform in size as possible. Get yourself a mini ice cream scoop and use it. Scoop, run the tool along the inside of the mixing bowl to press the dough in and skim off the excess, drop into perfect rounds on the pan. It's clean and easy and all your cookies come out to be the same size.

Use the 2-1 rule. Have 2 baking pans for the cookies, but only put 1 in the oven at a time. Having only 1 pan in the center of the oven helps the cookies bake more evenly because the air isn't getting blocked by the second pan.  While one pan is in the oven, the second is either being loaded with more cookie dough or is cooling. More on this after the next tip...

Rotate the pan half-way through the baking time. If the recipe calls for the cookies to bake 12 minutes, turn the pan around at 6 minutes and continue baking.  That way, if your oven has any hot spots it has equally affected the entire batch.  Combining this with the 2-1 rule, here is the process I generally use when baking:

  • Set up the first pan with dough. Let it bake for half the alotted time.

  • Rotate the pan in the oven and set up the second pan with dough.

  • When it's time to take the first batch out of the oven, pull that out and reload with the second pan. Immediately remove the cookies to a cooling rack, or onto a section of countertop covered with a paper sack that has had the bottom cut out, so that it lays flat. The paper helps absorb any excess grease from the cookies and also helps pull away some of the heat. (See how I snuck an extra tip in there. Heh. Did ya?)

  • Reset the timer for the half-way mark on the rotation schedule. Let the pan that was just pulled out of the oven cool during this time.

  • When it's time to rotate the second pan, do so and then set up the original pan again for the next round of baking. Rinse and repeat until all the cookie dough has been used.

  • My final tip is this: Don't trust your timer. Use it as a guide, but watch how your cookies are baking.  Some times different types of pans will need different amounts of time in the oven. This is the case with the pans I have.  They're the same brand, but one set will need 10 minutes in the oven and the other goes closer to 14.  You don't want half of your cookies perfect and the other half to get charred. If they're looking a little crispy, or not quite done, adjust the baking time as necessary until you get a perfect golden brown. Also remember that the baking process will continue for another minute or so once they're pulled out of the oven.  It's better to pull them slightly early and you can pop them back in for another round if they need it after a little cooling time.

    Now go forth and bake!

    1 comment:

    Celestya22 said...

    Mmmm. Now I want to go make some cookies. I definitely agree with your perfect cookie definition. My fave recipe is an old family hand-me-down for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. mmmm.