All My Secrets – Cookies 101 – Lesson 1

I remember my first attempt at baking.  It was bread.  I managed to kill the yeast, and of course the result was more like a brick than anything worth a schmear of  jam!  The best family comment?  “That’ll make a great doorstop!”  So, after the worst happens, look for help from those who have failed.  Since those very early days, I’ve made every mistake, and learned a lot.  Take my advice!  Baking perfect cookies is not brain surgery!  What it is calls for attention to detail.

Baking is an activity for the “Control Freak” in us all!  Unlike savory culinary preparations, pastry requires precision at every step.  Just throwing a bunch of ingredients together usually results in a mound of dough that will never become the ultimate cookie experience.  Sharing all my secrets for baking the perfect cookie will be fun, informative and well worth the reading time!

Baking tools of the trade

The First 7 Secrets – Tools of the Trade – Before you crack your first egg, make sure you have the proper tools to produce the best cookie ever!  Here’s a list of  ‘must haves’!

  • Clean baking sheets – they are so inexpensive, do yourself a favor and buy new ones.  Throw out all those old, blackend, greasy cookie sheets and begin new!  You won’t believe the difference.  I prefer plain metal sheets.  No teflon coating – no unwanted chemicals in our tasty treats!
  • Parchment paper – you don’t know it yet, but this is the secret to a nicely browned, slightly crunchy bottom to your cookie.  Parchment provides an extra cushion to assure even browning from the bottom to the edges of the cookie.
  • Spray oil – just a little spritz in each corner of the baking sheet to keep the parchment paper from sliding while handling the tray.  Spray each corner of the tray very lightly, then place the parchment.
  • Oven thermometer – OK, read carefully!  There is no oven in any home that is perfectly calibrated.  Not only that, every oven has hot spots (more on that later).  The best trick for the perfectly baked cookie is making sure the oven is at the appropriate temperature.  And ALWAYS pre-heat your oven!  Make sure the internal temperature of your oven is at the desired degree before you place your first tray of cookie dough.  Follow the temp on the oven thermometer!
  • Mixer – whether you have a stand mixer or a hand mixer, make sure it has enough power for the job.  The more power you have available, the more ‘control’ you have over the finished product.  Hand mixers work fine, you just need patience to achieve the proper mix.
  • Measuring cups, spoons – OMG!  This is the ultimate tip.  The control freak’s dream – precison can only come with proper measuring skills.  There’s a bit of wiggle room in every recipe, but the more accurate the measure, the more perfect the cookie. Never ‘guess’ an amount. Use the tools!
  • Cookie cutters, scoops, spatulas, sifters, whisks etc. – speak for themselves.  Face it, you’ll have all the tools of a commercial kitchen once you move into the real creativity of baking unbelieveable pastry confections!

There’s a whole lot of science behind flour, sugar and butter, but that’s not what we are exploring right now.  Just trust me on this … take your time, measure perfectly, and you will have the best start to the perfect cookie experience.  And oh yeah … use the right tools!

Really!  When it comes to baking cookies, there is just no way to take shortcuts and end up with an esthetically-pleasing, tastefully-decadent sweet treat.  So, if you’ve ever had a cookie burn, fall apart, flatten out or taste like paste, then this blog is for you.  And even if you haven’t had these experiences, follow the tips passed along in this blog.  I guarantee they will have you well on your way to becoming a French Pastry Chef!  Well … at least a pretty good cookie baker!

Next post … reading the recipe and building the perfect cookie dough!