When making cookies make sure not to overcream the butter and sugar. Unlike cake batter baked in a pan, cookie dough is baked free-form. When the dough is heated and the chemical leaveners expand the air bubbles, the bubbles burst without a pan to force the dough upward, producing flat cookies. For cookies, cream the butter and sugar for only 1 to 2 minutes, just until the mixture is smooth but has not lightened in color.
Another insurance policy against flat cookies, chill butter-based cookie dough before baking. Butter has a low melting point, and starts to soften as soon as it is exposed to oven heat. Refrigerate the chilled dough for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days before shaping and baking. This only works with dough that uses baking powder for leavening. Don’t do this with dough that includes baking soda as the leavener, which loses its rising power soon after it is mixed with wet ingredients.
Professionals use spring-loaded ice cream scoops to portion cookie dough, making cookies the same size that will bake at the same rate. A tablespoon-size scoop is the right capacity for most recipes.
For even baking and easy cleanup, bake your cookies on heavy-duty, rimmed aluminum baking sheets (half sheet pans) lined with parchment paper. To help the paper adhere, butter the baking sheet first. You can also line baking sheets with silicone baking mats instead of parchment paper.
If you’re using silicone mats, you may want to do a test run. Some cookie bottoms won’t crisp as well on the mat as they do on parchment lined baking sheets. Of course, this can be an advantage if you prefer soft, cakelike cookies.
There is no need to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. In fact, more harm can be done by transferring warm, delicate, pliable cookies to a rack than by letting them stand on the baking sheet. If you need to remove the cookies to use the baking sheet again, just let them cool on the sheet until they are firm enough to move.
To discourage overbrowned cookie bottoms (which can happen when an oven heats unevenly), insulate the baking sheet by placing it inside a second baking sheet of the same size. The think layer of air between the baking sheets will protect the top sheet from getting too hot.
Don’t store different types of cookies together or they will exchange flavors and textures. Tin or stainless steel covered containers work best for storage, but plastic containers can also be used as long as they are airtight and fragrance free.
To revive crisp cookies that have softened, bake them for 5 to 10 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Let them cool completely before storing.
To help soft cookies keep their texture, store them in an airtight container with a ceramic brown sugar softener, or with a piece of apple on a piece of aluminum foil, or soft bread. Make sure to remove the apple after 24 hours.
“Work With What You Got!”
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