Whether you’re an acclaimed pastry chef or a novice home-baker, when it comes to baking, you should know one thing – precision matters the most! Because it is a combination of art and science, you need to make sure that you do full justice to both the aspects, so you’re able to get the desired results each time you bake.
If a recipe needs you to use unsalted butter, by all means, use that and not the salted variant. If you’re required to use cold butter, do not make the mistake of using it at room temperature. When asked to fold the batter, beat it at your own peril.
In this post, we take a look at a few cardinal rules of baking the perfect little melt-in-your-mouth cookies.
1. Gather All Your Ingredients
Before you start measuring and mixing your ingredients, it is important that you get them out on the table to avoid an oversight of an element.
Once your table is ready with all the needed items, you can start measuring them out. Again, I would stress on maintaining precision. Teaspoon does not equal tablespoon and any change in the measurement of an ingredient (as mentioned in the recipe) can result in a disaster.
It makes sense to read through the entire recipe beforehand and adhere to the recipe strictly.
2. Use Fresh Ingredients
Always, and I mean always, ensure that the ingredients you use in your baked dish are fresh and pure. Whether it is the butter, the essence, the nuts, or the eggs, do make it a point to check their expiration date before picking them up at the store.
For items like eggs and produce, which do not come with specified ‘best before’ dates, use your keen senses of sight and smell. If it looks or smells strange, do not buy/use it.
3. Let the Butter Soften on Its Own
Cookies require that you use the butter at room temperature, as opposed to cold.
A lot of new home-bakers take this aspect for granted. Sure, you can microwave the butter to soften it, but doing so will alter its texture and change the way it blends with the other ingredients. This could also impact the look and taste of the final product.
Ideally, you should plan the baking in advance and remove the butter from your fridge to allow it to soften naturally at least 80 – 90 minutes before you use it.
4. Deal with the Eggs
Does your cookie batter start to curdle when you add eggs to it? If that’s the case, we’ve cracked it for you. Not the egg, but the curious case of the curdled batter.
Chances are you’ve been using eggs straight out of the fridge. Cold eggs do not react very well to butter and sugar, and hence, the curdling.
To avoid this from happening, make sure that you remove the eggs from the fridge at least 40 minutes prior to using them. Think you’ll have a tough time remembering this? There’s another way – warm some water and place the eggs in it for about 4 – 5 minutes. Remember, the water should be warm and not hot. Hot water will start cooking the eggs and you don’t want that.
The egg can be used once you remove it from the water.
5. Oven Temperature
So you’ve baked cookies before, but found them to be too mushy in the middle, or burnt from the outside, even though you removed them from the oven after the specified timeframe? Maybe there’s a problem with your oven’s calibration.
This is common and has an easy solution. Simply head to your nearest baking-supplies store and invest in a high-quality oven thermometer.
Test its effectiveness by setting your oven at a certain temperature and allow about 20 minutes preheating. Use your new oven thermometer to check the heat by placing it inside the oven. It will reveal the actual temperature, which can be adjusted later as per your requirement.
6. Use Measuring Cups and Spoons
The element of precision is akin to a ghost that haunts the entire baking process. It is important that you measure your ingredients carefully using measuring cups and spoons.
Don’t place the measuring tools inside or over your mixing bowl when measuring ingredients. You may accidently end up adding that much extra of it to your recipe.
7. Avoid Substituting Ingredients
One of the biggest mistakes home-bakers tend to make is that they try to substitute baking ingredients, even those which aren’t substitutable.
When it comes to baking, you need to be very particular about such things. Use only genuine, high-quality and very specific ingredients, if you want great results. Flour, sugar and butter, in particular, are the main ingredients that go into making a cookie, and in no way should they be substituted with anything else.
Instead, place the measuring tools over a paper towel to avoid wastage as well as extra addition.
8. Keep the Size of the Cookies Uniform
Try to keep the size of all the cookies as uniform as possible. The best way to ensure this is by using the same spoon or scoop to measure the dough before rolling them into balls.
If the balls vary in size, chances are that they will bake differently.
9. Take it One at a Time
Avoid putting more than one sheet of cookies into the oven at a time. Doing so will lead to the unequal distribution of heat, which will make it difficult to bake them perfectly.
Baking too many cookies at once may also result in the cookies taking more time to bake than usual.
10. Fight the Temptation to Peek
Use all your super powers to resist the temptation of opening the oven door to check on the cookies. Doing so will change the temperature inside the oven which would result in under-baked cookies. Use the oven light to observe their progress, if required.
There is a method to getting your bakes right, which may be tricky to master initially. But with the right tools and guidance, it is easy to rustle up some of the best baked goodies. Plan well in advance to be able to execute the baked dish better. Once you get the basics right, the only thing you will be left with is delicious, crumbly cookies.