Troubleshooting Cookie Baking
I'm always trying to get consistent results whenever I bake a particular cookie recipe at home, so when I publish one on this blog, it's because it's given me what I'm looking for. There are several things which help me bake good cookies that are delicious and perfectly edible every single time.
A batch of my Chocolate Chip Cookies made this morning.
Number one: pay attention to the steps in the recipe. If it says to mix a certain ingredient for a certain amount of time or if things have to be done ahead of time, like toasting or melting & cooling an ingredient, then be diligent about this. The recipe itself has to be good too. If there is a typo in a recipe found in a cookbook, online or in some other publication, that can prove to be disastrous. I've had my share of those in the past and I either know where to alter the recipe or I move onto another one.
Number two: your oven temperature has to be calibrated to what you set the dial to. The best & surest way of keeping this in check is through an oven thermometer. These can be purchased at kitchenwares stores or most supermarkets and it's a good idea to keep one in the oven at all times. The brand of oven thermometers I trust most is made by Taylor. I've had several of them in my ovens throughout the years and they have worked better than other brands. It's amazing sometimes to see how far off some ovens can be. In my old home, I had an oven that was almost 50 degrees off the mark. That can change your baking by a considerable amount in a matter of minutes. Remember, every oven is different; even within the same manufacturer, the model & type of oven may prove to be different from the next one. So oven thermometers in every oven! The position of your racks, too, should be adjusted before you preheat your oven. Doing it after it's preheated can be dangerous and can lead to heat loss from opening the oven door.
A well used Taylor oven thermometer. The oven is set at 375° F & the thermometer registers it pretty close to the mark.
Number three: make sure your leavening ingredients are fresh & that you measure the ingredients correctly. Too much of this or too little of that can affect what type of cookie you end up with when it comes out of the oven. Thank goodness I've now begun to weigh everything using the metric system, along with our standard cups here in the United States. I realize that my recipes from the past have not been measured that way, so I will try to go back little by little and add the metrics.
Number four: the type of baking sheet you use to bake cookies will certainly make a difference in your baking. For the cookie recipes on this blog I use shiny aluminum half-sheets, measuring 13"x18"x1", with raised edges made by Nordicware. They are heavy duty sheets which will not warp in the oven, even at high temperatures. I always line them with either silpats or parchment paper (the paper can either be bleached or natural) before I begin a recipe, so that they're ready to receive the cookie dough without a moment to lose. If your baking sheets are the dark, nonstick type, reduce the baking time by a couple of minutes, because these pans will absorb more heat and will brown your cookies much quicker. If you happen to own insulated baking sheets, you may need to add a few more minutes (these are constructed of 2 sheets with a gap in between them).
Number five: timing is key. Have a good reliable timer and set it as soon as you pop the baking sheet in the oven and close the door. Keep it next to the oven on the countertop. Some kitchen ranges, like mine, have built in timers, so those can be used too. Check the cookies halfway through baking & rotate them if your oven has hotspots, and again towards the first suggested baking time. Have cooling racks set out on your counter for the hot baking sheet.
It's good having these baking tips whenever one wants a good cookie at home. Most home cooks trust their instincts when it comes to baking and through years of doing so, one can become really good at churning out dozens upon dozens of cookies for yourself, your friends & family. Please don't hesitate to write, comment or inquire about anything on this blog. I want everyone to have success in their homes & kitchens!