Methods & Techniques for Cookies

COOKIES
For years, cookies have been one of our all-time favorite treats. You can enjoy a cookie and a coffee after a meal, or multiple cookies with friends or as a great welcome to the neighborhood gift. Did you know that cookies were brought to America by Dutch settlers? Called koekje – meaning “little cake” these first sweet dry biscuits have been adapted to hundreds of mouthwatering recipes we love today.

Cookies today are small, flat pastries. A very versatile option as they can be eaten as a mid-morning snack to a delectable end for formal dinner. We see cookies in platters, made to order, a great side to ice cream or fruit. The flavors of cookies are almost limitless. Just to name a few, you have chocolate, oatmeal, peanut butter, pistachio, cinnamon and more. You can even add dried fruits and nuts for extra taste and texture.

We will talk about the different types of cookies, baking and panning, how to achieve various textures, shapes and more.

Mixing Methods
Cookies, like quick breads and cake batters, are made from a rich dough that is mixed using the creaming method. Most cookie doughs contain less liquid than other batter, you don’t need to alternate your flour and liquid. The final texture of a cookie is determined by the proper creaming and the amount it spreads during baking. When a cookie batter is thoroughly creamed, the sugar begins to dissolve and the fat is properly aerated. Maximum spread is achieved only in a dough where the sugar and fat has been thoroughly creamed together. When less spread is wanted, less creaming is necessary. Cookies that have a high fat content, require less creaming. If you overmix you cave a cookie that will crumble very easily.

Cookies can be leavened with baking soda, baking powder or just plain air and steam. Cookie recipes with high fat percentage and low moisture, the over-development of gluten is not usually an issue. But be careful, careless mixing can produce a dense, tough cookie. When a cookie recipe has eggs or liquid, the flour is blended in gently but rapidly to minimize gluten development. Other add ins such as nuts or chocolate chips are stirred in for this reason.

MAKE-UP TECHNIQUES

There are many varieties of classifications for cookies. This refers to the way in which the cookie is prepared after the dough has been made. For example, there are drop, icebox, bar, sheet, cut out, pressed, rolled, molded or wafer.  Let’s take a minute to look at these methods.

DROP COOKIES
This is cookie where the dough is scooped or spooned in to mounds and then baked. Some examples would be chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter. While it is not important for these cookies to be uniform in shape, it is good practice to have uniform size and placement to assist in proper baking. If you place the cookies in even rows, you will have them bake evenly. Always remember to leave enough room between cookies to allow them to spread without touch while baking. Using a scoop is a best practice to get even cookies. Rolling the dough between moistened palms is a great way to get uniform shape of a finished cookie. Another method it to roll the dough like a log and slice the cookies to even thickness. Many types of drop cookies are flattened with a fork before baking. A good tip is to dampen the fork with water or dip it in sugar before pressing. Drop cookies tend to have a soft chewy texture.

ICEBOX COOKIES
These are cookies made from dough that has been shaped into logs or rectangles, chilled thoroughly (at least overnight), then sliced into individual pieces and then baked. Many are often rolled in nuts or sugar before slicing. This gives them a wonderful, flavorful decorative edge. They can be simple like a chocolate chip log to something sophisticated as a pinwheel or checkerboard cookie.

Creating uniform cookies is very easy, when you take your dough out from the fridge, you mark the dough before cutting. You can use a ruler, a bicycle cutter, etc.

This dough freezes really well. It can be stored in the freezer, well wrapped for up to 1 month. You can take it out and slice off cookies to be baked fresh when needed. Thaw the cookie dough overnight in the fridge before using.

BAR COOKIES
Bar cookies are made from a stiff dough that you roll into a log then bake. The bars are then cut into slices once baked. A very well know bar type cookie is the biscotti. However, biscotti are different due to the fact that they go back in the oven after being sliced for a second baking time. This produces a dry cookie that has quite a long shelf life.

SHEET COOKIES
Sheet cookies are made from doughs or batters that are either poured, pressed or layered in to a shallow pan. These are cut in to portions after baking. Most often they are baked in square or rectangle pans to avoid waste or scraps. You might see many layered or fruit filled types in this style. Some examples are date squares, lemon or lime bars. Some people prefer this style for a dessert table as they are great for precise and uniform portioning. It is usually best to chill or freeze prior to cutting.

CUT OUT COOKIES
These cookies are made from a firm dough that has been well-chilled and then rolled out to an even thickness. This dough is one, that if wrapped well can be kept in the freezer for up to a month. The dough should be thawed in the fridge overnight then use and normal.

Lightly-dust the work surface and rolling pin prior to working with the dough. This will help to avoid the dough sticking. Some recipes will call for a light layer of granulated sugar. When you have a dough that is high in fat, it is recommend using a silicone mat or two layer of parchment paper to roll out the dough. It is usually best to keep the dough at ¼ inch to 1/8 inch thick for cut out cookies.

There is almost no limit to what you can cut out with this style of dough. You can use cookie cutters, pastry wheels, a knife, etc. I recommend lightly dusting of flour on the cutter surface to avoid the dough sticking to the tool. Start cutting from the outside, working your way inwards. Also, it is best to cut your cookies as close together as you can to avoid scraps. While you can rework and reroll your scraps, there is a chance that you will have tougher dough and a tougher-baked cookie.

They are usually baked on an ungreased cookie sheet (I prefer to use parchment paper), to avoid spreading. Many cut out cookies are frosted and decorated with different icings. You can also at nuts, coarse sugars and other garnishes just before baking. If you do it right after rolling them out, they will adhere the best.

PRESSED COOKIES
Commonly known as spritz, piped or bagged cookies, these are made with a soft dough that can be forced through a piping bag or cookie press. It is best to use as soon as it is made. Most of these types of cookies are smaller and have a decorated shape. Doughs for piped/pressed cookies commonly use eggs as their only liquid. Eggs is a toughener, it helps the cookies retain their shape. Using too much fat or a soft flour can cause cookies to spread and not keep the desired shape. Overmixing can also cause them to not retain the piping marks.

ROLLED OR MOLDED COOKIES
This is a stiff dough that you can hand roll or shape into balls, crescents or other shapes. Shortbread cookie dough is often pressed into carved molds prior to baking. This dough should be firm and dry so that it holds it shape and keeps the impression in tact during the baking process.

WAFER COOKIES
These cookies are made from a very thin egg foam batter that you pour or spread onto a cookie sheet to bake. While the cookie is still hot, you can mold it into a variety of shapes. You see these a lot in a tightly-rolled cigarette or a cone shape.

BAKING
It is important to make your cookies uniform in size. Use a spoon or scoop, roll them to a precise thickness, you can use spacing rulers for example. To get nice uniform cookies with piping/pressed you just need a little practice.

Leaving the same amount of space between the cookies helps the air to circulate so that the cookies can bake and brown evenly. Cookies should be removed from the pan and placed on a cooling rack once they are baked. They will continue to cook on a hot cookie sheet and may burn.

RECIPE BALANCE
Texture is a big part of what makes us enjoy a cookie so much. Crispiness, softness, chewiness and spread can be affected by the balance in the recipe. Things like the ingredients, their ratio in it, the ovens temperature, pan coating and more. Understanding these will help you to adjust your recipe to achieve the desired cookie

CRISPINESS
A cookie dough with a high-fat and sugar content and low moisture content. These cookies are usually dried out during the baking process. Proportioning is key. Cookies made with granulated sugar will increase the spread, while cookies made with powdered sugar will have less spread. Flour with a higher protein will also give you a crisper finished cookie.

SOFTNESS & CHEWINESS
This cookie is made from a dough that has a high moisture content and a low percentage of fat and sugar. Eggs in the dough help to give a chewier texture. Granulated not powdered sugar, helps to also aid it the chewy texture.