A Lesson In The Art Of Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's not as easy at it looks!

Haven't you heard? Cookies are the new sourdough bread. 

We've always seen ourselves as the kind of people who enjoy things like pottery or making nut milk, yet so often we're too busy or too stressed to do any of it in earnest. However, somewhere between the gentle push to work from home and the "stay at home" orders, we've come into more time in the house with a more urgent need than ever to make it feel safe and cosy.

These hard times have made knitters, painters, and stress-bakers out of all of us. But while it was baking sourdough bread, in particular, that seemed to be calming anxiety like no other remedy - a new baking trend has emerged: cookies. 

Cookies come in all shapes of sizes, of course, but we’re not talking about the crunchy, crumbly biscuits that break apart when you bite; rather the soft, saucer-sized, American-style chocolate chip versions you see stacked in bakery shop windows. The kind that once you smell walking down the street, you’re powerless to resist. 

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But while they look easy to bake, cookies are actually far more complicated than you'd expect. When you're baking it is easy to find a great recipe (if you're yet to find a recipe, we have a bunch of delicious baked cookie recipes here), but that doesn't always guarantee great results. Anyone who has already attempted to bake chocolate chip cookies may have encountered one major problem: spreading. Before you place them in the oven, they're all equal, separated discs. Yet when you take them out of the oven, you're left with one giant baking sheet of cookie dough. 

That's why we've reached out to the experts over on our sister site, Food and Wine for their tips and tricks on how to stop cookies from spreading. It really can make all the difference to the finished product. 

If you're giving cookies a go, whatever the recipe, here are some top tips to keep in mind. 

Weigh It Out

Baking is more like science: you need to weigh out everything perfectly. If you're even the smallest amount off, it could affect the recipe.

the softer, the better

When baking cookies, make sure your butter is soft - leave it out for 30 minutes before baking. Melted butter will leave you with a flat cookie, and hard butter can leave you with butter lumps through the batter.

play with sugar

Different sugars bring out different flavours, so if you are using a solid recipe you can play around with the sugar a bit. Dark sugar gives them a caramel taste and darker colour, white gives sweetness, while muscovado sugar gives them a beautiful texture and colour.

surface matters

If you have one at home, use a silicone mat, this stops the cookie from sticking. Alternativity, you can use greaseproof paper, but do not add anything on to the paper as it can cause the cookies to spread too much. 

just mix it

Always beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl; sometimes butter likes to stick to the bottom it only becomes apparent when you're spooning out the mixture - and you have to start again!

an egg-sellent technique

Add eggs in one by one. We like to sift our flour in, to make sure all the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder are well dispersed.

cookie cookie bang bang

If you are looking for the perfect cookie, take them out halfway through cooking and give the tray a bang, before placing them back in for their final few minutes. This gives the cookie an even bake.

have a little patience

As hard as it is, you are going to have to leave them to cool on the tray for a few minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

KEEP IT TIGHT

Keep cooled cookies in an airtight container. They will last up to three days there. Alternatively, place them in a lunch box with some freezer proof paper, then pop in the freezer where they will last for six months. You can also freeze raw cookie dough - chill in the fridge, then cut into sections. Chill again to keep them firm then pop in a ziplock bag. It should be good for about six months.

Main image by Jennifer Pallian 

This tips and tricks featured in this article were originally published by our sister site, FOOD AND WINE.

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