A plate of homemade cookies, still warm from the oven, is a favorite childhood memory. Dense and chocolaty, crisp and spicy, rich and buttery . . . They’re fun and easy to make, especially after you learn a few simple techniques.
As a general rule, baking requires you to be more exact than cooking. Recipes must be followed precisely — and ingredients measured carefully — to ensure the final product turns out correctly each time.
Use Fresh Ingredients
If ingredients like flour have been in your pantry for a long time, it’s best to replace them before baking anything. Flour absorbs moisture, especially if you live in a humid environment, and that alone is enough to change the final outcome of your cookies. Leaveners (baking soda and baking powder) lose their potency over time, so consider changing them every 9 to 12 months.
Have all the ingredients and utensils (measuring cups and spoons, silicone spatulas, etc.) you are going to use at hand. This is called mise en place, a French culinary term meaning everything in its place and ready to use.
If you are making cut-out cookies and have time the night before baking, prepare the dough and refrigerate it overnight. This is called resting, and it gives the dough time to relax so it’s easy to roll out and cut.
Keep Ingredients at Room Temperature
This will ensure the cookies come together without any lumps and that all the ingredients mix together evenly.
Experiment with Flavor
If you want to substitute one flavored extract for another (for example, orange extract instead of almond extract), just use the same teaspoon-for-teaspoon measurement and replace one for the other.
When a recipe tells you to cream the butter and sugar, either in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, you are softening the butter and incorporating air into it. This gives the cookies a lighter consistency.
Mind Your Eggs
Add room-temperature eggs one at a time to completely incorporate each before adding the next. If the eggs are still cold, place the whole egg, still in its shell, in a cup of warm water. This brings it up to temperature quickly so the cookie dough doesn’t break and separate.
Nix the Lumps
Always sift your dry ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredients, unless a recipe specifically says not to. This prevents lumps from forming in the dough.
Keep It Cool
Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, it’s a good idea to chill the cookie dough for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. This resting time allows for easier rolling of cut-out cookies and also helps prevent drop cookies from spreading too much when baking.
Remember to Preheat
Preheating the oven is a must when baking. An oven thermometer can tell you if your oven is running hot or cold. Some baking issues, like this one, are simple to fix, so make sure your oven has an accurate temperature.
Check out some of our crowd-pleasing Williams-Sonoma cookie recipes:
- Ginger Cookies
- Pressed Sugar Cookies
- Chocolate Brownie Cookies
- Thumbprint Cookies
- Banana Oatmeal Power Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
About the author: A graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Natasha is the Williams-Sonoma Culinary Expert for the Wichita, Kansas store. She is the mastermind behind the in-store technique and cooking classes and is often on the road training other Williams-Sonoma Culinary Experts.