Baking has been my delight basically all my life. I started avidly baking when I was 8. It all started with simple things like helping my mom put ingredients in the bowl and then getting to lick the dough off of the spoon! I enjoyed watching the cookie dough through the oven window, gazing at it as it spread into a nice even circle and then rise when they were out of the oven cooling off. As I started getting older, I started making my mom’s recipes on my own. Then when I got to be about 12, I started exploring recipes on my own and creating my own signature cookies as I tweaked the recipe just to my liking. While I have always been a natural baker, other people have shared with me disaster stories. These people always experience a problem when attempting to bake. I am going to share with you some common flops that I hear about on a regular basis along with some tips on how to avoid them.
Cookies appear flat, thin, and runny:
I do not know how many times I have been to someone’s house, church gathering, or party and they are serving cookies that are thin and the dough looks like it cooked into runny layers. This is due to over-mixing your cookie dough. To yield the best results, check out the following tips.
1. Mix the dough just until blended. Do not keep mixing after your ingredients cannot be separately determined.
2. When the recipe calls for adding the flour mixture in small increments while blending, do just that. Flour is your rising agent. Therefore, you do not want to over-mix this ingredient.
3. Most of the time, the recipe directions state to combine the flour mixture with the other ingredients last. Make sure you follow these directions exactly. It is stated that way for a reason.
Cookie dough has a strange consistency:
Cookie dough is not supposed to be runny. In fact, it is supposed to be firm and gritty. When the dough is thin or very smooth, there could be a few reasons why.
1. Double-check the ingredients, you might have forgotten your binding agent (commonly eggs) or your thickening agents (flour, baking powder).
2. Double-check your measurements, you might have measured incorrectly.
3. Make sure you did not substitute any ingredients with a different ingredient that does not have the same purpose or reaction as the originally intended ingredient. I know it is tempting to substitute ingredients when you forget something at the store, or do not have enough of an ingredient, but this could ruin your whole recipe. (The most common substituted ingredient in baking is replacing butter with Crisco or margarine. Some recipes state that this is okay, but if it does not specifically address it, I would not change it.)
Cookies are burnt on the bottom:
This is caused by over greasy cookie dough. Cookie dough is already greasy enough by itself.
1. Again, make sure that you did not substitute any ingredients with a different ingredient that does not have the same purpose or reaction as the originally intended ingredient. When butter is replaced with Crisco, this commonly causes the cookies to be over greasy and therefore burn easily when in the oven.
2. Do not grease baking sheet/spray with non-stick. Cookie dough is naturally greasy enough to not stick to the cookie sheet as long as you do not let them cool completely to your cookie sheet. If you spray or grease your cookie sheet, you will definitely burn the bottom of your otherwise perfect cookies.
Cookies just do not taste like they should
This is caused by altering your flavoring ingredients. Flavoring ingredients may include extracts, spices, chips, nuts, candies, or fruits to add to the dough in order to give it a special taste.
1. Forgetting a flavoring ingredient
2. Substituting a flavorful ingredient
3. Measuring your flavorful ingredient incorrectly
While altering these flavoring ingredients may cause the cookies to taste differently, that is not always a bad thing. Some recipes call for larger amounts of flavoring than what you want. (For instance, I always leave out or cut down the amount of nutmeg the recipe calls for because I feel that it has such an over-powering taste. That is my personal preference.) Other recipes may not be as sweet tasting as you want. (I suggest adding white chocolate chips.) More of a subtle change in taste is altering an extract. There are several different flavors of extract that you can choose from that will alter the taste slightly without being too noticeable because the taste is not very powerful. While altering these ingredients may cause the cookies to taste differently, that is not always a bad thing. I often tweak these flavoring ingredients to yield cookies that are purposefully custom-made to my taste-buds.
To this day, I still enjoy baking. Baking cookies has been my joy because they yield plenty enough to share with family, friends, and co-workers. You must follow directions to a “T” in order to come bake the perfect cookies. Do not over-mix, do not substitute ingredients that do not have the same purpose, do not over grease, and tweak the flavoring ingredients to your liking. Just remember, baking is both an art and a science.