Updated: Mar 20
Hello again! Today I'm going to go over the top cookie mistakes that I've made (or seen) in my 5 years of selling cookies so YOU don't have to make them!
Are you ready to skip the trips to the trashcan with your pan of cookies in tow? I thought so!
Top Cookie Mistakes:
I have tried every variation of adding butter to a cookie recipe you can think of. I've used cubed butter, frozen butter, melted butter, grated butter, and softened butter. I've used Shortening and Butter-flavored Crisco, butter flavoring and even browned butter, oil, and peanut butter.
Now, here's the thing. My top two priorities when it comes to cookies are: getting the best taste and being efficient with my time. If a step isn't worth the time spent on it, I'm not going to do it. Browned butter is a good example of this. It tastes really good (this is where you melt butter in a pan and cook it until it browns.) But this step isn't worth it to me when I'm making thirty batches of cookies. Here's the lowdown on butter for cookies:
Cold & Frozen Butter: The theory behind adding cold butter to your cookie dough is that the butter will hold up better in the oven and keep your cookies from going flat. . . But have you ever tried to stir frozen butter? Do you see the problem here?
Cubed Butter: Mixing cold butter is hard (no pun intended haha.) So, some recipes tell you to freeze the butter, cut it up into cubes, AND THEN try to mix it. Man, those chefs are problem solvers aren't they. . . Well, congrats. Now you have spotted cookie dough from all the medium sized chunks of butter that won't mix with the sugar.
Grated Butter: Yes, this is a thing. Yes, with a cheese grater. Okay, so those problem solving chefs went a step further. Forget cubed butter. You must shred your butter. . . Some recipes recommend freezing your butter and then taking a literal cheese grater to it. Um, I don't know about you, but I buy shredded cheese for a reason: so I don't have to shred it myself. I feel the same way about my butter.
If you are insistent on using cold butter (which isn't necessary, I promise) shredding your butter is the best way to go, but you are still going to have little shavings of butter that don't fully mix into your dough (unless you mix it long enough to bring the butter back to room temperature. Talk about pointless.)
Melted Butter: On the other end of the butter spectrum, we have the chefs who prefer butter puddles. If I had to pick a side between rock hard butter or butter puddles, I would have to say puddles are a little better because it will mix into your sugars very well, which is what we want. But, here's the thing: Adding melted butter can potentially scramble the eggs in your dough. If you heat your butter too hot, which is easy to do in a microwave, and it comes in contact with your eggs in the mixing bowl, it's not pretty. If I'm being honest, the main reason I don't melt my butter is because I have to wash the bowl I used to melt it. Remember when I talked about skipping steps that aren't worth it?
Softened Butter (Room Temp): This is my favorite way to add butter into my cookie dough! It mixes really well and there is no extra effort other than pulling your butter out of the fridge ahead of time. If I forget to take it out of the fridge before hand, I just pop the sticks (in their wrapping paper) into the microwave for 10-second bursts until they are soft. (make sure to flip your butter over to different sides as you heat it otherwise the sticks will turn to a puddle on one side.)
Browned Butter: If you have the time and energy, I recommend trying this one. Browning the butter in a pan before you add it to your dough adds a big depth of flavor, but as I mentioned above, it's a little tedious and can potentially scramble your eggs if you're not careful.
All Crisco: Shortening is great. It takes the oven heat better than butter does, but it doesn't taste as good as butter (even the butter-flavored kind.) My recommendation is to use all Butter-Flavored Crisco in Peanut butter cookies. Peanut butter has a strong enough flavor that it masks the Crisco after taste completely. For recipes without peanut butter, I think butter works/tastes better.
Oil: I'm not going to go into crazy detail here, but oil is best used in cakes. I don't recommend subbing oil for butter in cookies. There is only one cookie recipe I can think of (The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe) where you put oil in the cookie dough, but it is in addition to the butter and its purpose is to get a special, dense, texture that is unique to these kind of sugar cookies.
Peanut Butter: Please don't try adding cold peanut butter to your cookie dough. For all the reasons I just talked about, use room temperature, soft, peanut butter.
Spreadable Butter: My mom has told me that she has actually seen her friends do this! And so, I have to stop this one. If you are using Country Crock's spreadable tub of butter or I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, stop what you are doing and back away from the spreadable butter. First off: It's not butter its a medley of vegetable oil, artificial flavors, and a lot of water to keep it from going hard in the fridge.
There is this myth out there that whipping your cookie dough will incorporate air into it which will keep your cookies from going flat. While I agree that mixing your dough thoroughly is important, over-mixing will cause your cookies to be crumbly fluff-balls or tough, depending on the recipe. If you have time to put a load of laundry in the washer before you turn your mixer off, you're probably over-mixing your dough. Don't over-think this step, just mix your dough until it looks like everything is mixed well.
Hands down, over-baking is the BIGGEST mistake when it comes to cookies. For chocolate chip cookies, you want to pull them out when golden spots begin developing. For sugar cookies, you literally want to UNDER BAKE them. For snickerdoodles, you want to pull them out BEFORE any brown or gold color appears on the cookie. Each type of cookie has a different point that you want to pull them out of the oven and that point is most likely earlier than you think it is. Ideally, you want to remove them right before they are done cooking and let them finish baking on the hot pan as they rest.
#4 The Cooling Rack:
If you just read mistake #3, you might have already picked up on this. For a perfectly baked cookie, I strongly recommend letting the cookie rest on the hot baking sheet after you pull them out. I'd say the only time I would actually use a cooling rack, is if I accidentally over-baked the cookies and I don't want any more heat on them! Then, I would move them to the cooling rack to try and stop the baking process as fast as possible. This might be my own belief, but I think letting the cookies finish baking on a hot pan gives the cookies an extra umph in the overall texture of the cookie. Also, as you might of noticed already, I don't like washing any more dishes than I have to, and have you ever tried washing a cooling rack? It's about as fun as washing a cheese grater. It is not the easiest thing to wash.
#5 Following The Recipe Exactly:
You might be surprised at this one. Isn't that what a recipe is for? To tell you exactly how to make cookies? Yes it is. . . and also, no it's not. If you are following a recipe that involves weight, like with a food scale, then yes, you should follow that recipe exactly as it is written (as far as ingredients, not bake time.) If you are following a recipe that uses measuring cups, then you should use that recipe as a guide. For instance, if a cookie recipe calls for exactly 6 cups of flour, then you should add 5 cups and see how the dough looks before slowly adding the 6th cup. Cookie dough should be thick and not sticky. The reason your flour amount might change is because the measurements of your other ingredients might be slightly different when you aren't weighing them. Eggs can also vary in their volume of whites and yolks. So if weighing isn't your thing, then I'd suggest learning to watch the consistency of your dough so you can add flour accordingly. Weighing your ingredients is awesome, and when you have a very temperamental recipe (such as intricately decorative sugar cookies, the kind that requires super sharp edges or specialty cake recipes, like vegan cake,) then I definitely recommend using a scale. Otherwise, for home baking, and for regular cookie recipes, I don't think a food scale is vital. On the contrary though, if you are a person who likes exact things, use the scale. I however, like the traditional measuring method, because that is what I'm most familiar with, but who knows, that might change. I have a lot of baker friends who swear by the scale and maybe one day they will win me over to their science-y ways.
#6 Knowing When To Heap A Measurement And When Not To:
There are many ingredients that are easy-going. These ingredients are okay to add a little extra, or be lenient when measuring. And then, there are ingredients that are better off not guessing around with. For instance, I personally believe that vanilla (high-quality vanilla) is an ingredient that is okay to be liberal on (or judge with your eyes.)
On the other side though, there is flour. Be purposeful with your flour and measure it the right way (scoop it into the cup and level it off before adding.)
Know which ingredients are best in exact measurements and which ingredients have a buffer (adding more or less won't make or break your cookies.)
#7 Crowding Your Cookies On The Pan:
I'm coming back and adding this tip here after writing this, so if you're reading this, congrats, you get a little bonus tip! If you are trying to fit as many cookies onto a sheet as possible, chances are you are crowding your cookies. This will make them bake into each other and you'll have to cut them apart after they are done baking. Give your cookie dough about 2 inches of space in every direction when you place them on your sheet. If you want a sure guide, buy a silicone baking sheet with markings that tell you where to place your cookie dough for baking
There you have it. Seven cookie mistakes to watch out for! Like all things, baking is a skill that becomes better (and easier) with experience, but my goal with these tips (and my blog as a whole) is to drastically cut down the time it takes you to master the art of baking and decorating your own creations.
There will always be more to learn or a better way of doing things and I aim to always share the things that work the best for me and update you when I discover something better. My priority with all my desserts is: taste first and efficiency second. If there are two recipes that are equally good and one way is easier, I'm going to use the easier recipe every time!
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