Five Technique Tips for Holiday Baking

Beloveds…IT’S GO TIME. Fall has officially entered the chat, which means one thing:

The. Holidays. Starting with Halloween and going through New Year’s Day, we will be in a consistent baking bonanza.

Cookies. Cakes. Breads. All the cinnamon rolls.

With so much available yumminess, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all. Fear not, Friends. Today, I have simple simple tips to help you be a calm, cool baking boss during the holidays.

Ready? Me too! Let’s Go.

In this Post:

Start Practicing Early

The Holidays are a baker’s Game 7, so I’m going to give it to you straight: the day of your holiday meal is not the time to “try” that Outrageous Coconut-Creme Meringue Cake from Fine Cooking for the first time.

Friends, even for experienced bakers, the day of the holiday isn’t the day to make that dessert. Because that baby…is a handful. A stunning centerpiece, for sure, but most definitely not something to make the same day that you’re serving it.

In general, it’s best to practice your holiday baking dishes at least once or twice before serving them on the big day. I typically start holiday baking practice early in the fall (around early October…but I’m weird) so that I can plan for each holiday, test my recipes, and tinker if necessary.

My recipe book. ❤️ Quick tip: I write all of my recipes in pencil.

Holiday baking will still be plenty stressful, but I can use the lessons learned from those practice runs in October to benefit the cookies, pastries, cakes and bread that I make in November, December and January.

Avoid Improvising During the Final Bake!

I know that I literally just said that I tinker with baking recipes. However, what you won’t catch me doing during the final bake is improvising. Friends, by the final bake, the time for playing around has come and gone. That’s when my recipe is locked into that blue recipe book, I’m double-checking ingredient amounts, and I’m baking to the letter of that tested recipe.

The end goal is to make something that tastes utterly delicious. And, by the time it’s time to bake the holiday goodies, I’ve tinkered and tested and come up with something you truly believe in. At that point, it’s just time to execute what you know and make that utterly delicious thing.

Don’t Overcommit Yourself

Once you get the reputation as the “best baker in the family”, you’ll start getting requests during the holidays for your Greatest Hits. Literally all of them. Literally for every holiday. I say this from experience, Friends: if you don’t plan your holiday menu, you will quickly get overwhelmed by your baking responsibilities.

That defies the spirit of the holidays and that is not fun.

To avoid overwhelm as I’m practicing recipes for the holidays, I typically match a recipe with a specific holiday. To stay more focused and efficient, during my October planning phase I might even create a table that looks something like this:

RecipeHolidayBake DateNotes
Carrot CakeChristmas12/23/21Needs refrigeration. Make sure there’s space!
Apple PieThanksgiving11/25/21Make dough and filling on 11/24/21 so I just have to build and bake the pie on Thanksgiving Day.
Easy peasy.

You don’t have to create this chart, but it can help you visualize how much work you’re committing yourself to for specific holidays. And, it can help you tell Aunt Janice that no, you won’t be making her favorite carrot cake for Thanksgiving, but she will see it on Christmas Day. She’ll have apple pie on Thanksgiving though!

Aunt Janice doesn’t want you to overextend yourself either.

Get Ingredients and Equipment Early

Certain ingredients become a whole nightmare to find around the holidays. Red food coloring? Vanilla? BUTTER? Asking your local grocer for these ingredients in the days before a major holiday can get you this response:

Please, Family, avoid real tears in the grocery store and stock your ingredients early. Even if you start stockpiling gathering your ingredients in September and October, most baking staples can be stored safely until you need them in November, December and January.

And, PSA, you can freeze butter to help it last longer. (Thanks Spruce Eats!)

This same philosophy works for new equipment. Fall is the time of year that many new bakers like to get started on their new baking journeys. It melts my heart to think of all of the people who are joining this wonderfully warm baking community this fall. It’s highly recommended to get all of the baking equipment that you need early in the fall, so that you’re not fighting with latecomers on. The only one that wins in that scenario is Amazon Prime.

Not sure what you need to get started? I’ve got your back! Click here for a FREE copy of my Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers!

Work in Your Wheelhouse

The holidays are the best time to showcase your Greatest Hits. While it can be really fun and extremely rewarding to present your family and friends with something spectacular that you improvised the day before the major event, it can also backfire spectacularly. It’s also super stressful to pull off something like that!

And aren’t the holidays stressful enough?

Most. Definitely. Stressful.

While it is true that with great risk can come great reward, great risk carries great risk too.

If you’ve spent the entire year perfecting layer cakes, it’s probably best to let the resident sourdough queen bring the bread to the holiday event. If everyone works in their gift, then everyone wins.

Conclusion

Holiday baking can be some of the most fun and rewarding baking that you do for the entire year. I hope these quick tips help you as you prepare for your holiday gatherings, big and small, this season!

See you next time!


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UPDATED! How to Cream Butter and Sugar (With New Video!)

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Scene: {Daybreak} Your kitchen. You’re preparing to bake.

Ready to bake!

You’ve cleaned off that old KitchenAid stand mixer that you got as a gift, or you’ve unboxed that brand new KitchenAid hand mixer that the Amazon delivery person left just this morning. Because you’re You, you even turned on your equipment on to make sure that it works before you get started.

You’ve checked the recipe *generally* to make sure that you have everything that you need.

You’ve gathered your ingredients and prepared your mise en place. Your oven is set, your pans are prepped, and you’re ready to be a TOTAL KITCHEN BOSS.

You’re feeling good. You’re ready to start.

“Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.”

**Record scratch. Freeze frame.**

Beloved, if you have no idea what that means, you’re in the right place today. In this post, we are getting to the nitty gritty of what it truly means to cream butter and sugar using both a stand mixer and a hand mixer. This term appears constantly in baking recipes, and it’s confusing for so many people.

Creaming butter and sugar is also critical to the success of a recipe, so it’s super important that you get on the good foot with this technique. Otherwise, you can set yourself up to fail before you even start.

Let’s go!

In this Post:

TL;DR: I’m Just Here for the Videos

For those of you who are visual learners (or if you’re just in the mood to dance), I cover this subject very briefly in these video shorts; one is dedicated to the stand mixer, and the other–you guessed it–is dedicated to the hand mixer. Feel free to take a look and then come back here to fill in your learning!

Here’s the video for how to cream butter with a stand mixer:

And here’s a video for how to cream butter and sugar with a hand mixer:

They’re both really good, short videos to show you how to properly cream butter and sugar in each machine. For even more specifics, Family, keep reading!

What Does it Mean to Cream Butter and Sugar and Why is it Necessary?

Creaming is simply the act of combining granulated sugar and fat (usually butter, but sometimes cream cheese, shortening, or a mixture of fats) until the mixture is lighter in color, increases in volume, and the granulated sugar crystals are not as grainy. A finished creamed butter should look cloud-like and should feel silky, luscious, and ever so slightly grainy.

As I just mentioned, there are several different types of fat that you can use for creaming. In this post, I’ll discuss butter, but this creaming method can be used interchangeably for each type of fat.

This process is hugely important for baking recipes. You see, when you cream butter and sugar together, you’re manually whipping air into your baked goods. This air works with your leavening to create rise!

If your cakes have a tendency not to rise, dear reader, read on! Proper creaming changes everything and it’s the first recommendation that I make when someone comes to me with this specific problem.

Ingredient Rules

First, and this can’t be overstated: PLEASE DON’T USE COLD FAT. In order for maximum creaming effectiveness, the butter needs to be truly soft. Cold butter won’t combine well with granulated sugar, the sugar won’t blend at all, you will tax your mixer, and you will never arrive at the Texture Town destination that you seek.

You should be able to make an indention in your butter with the side a spatula or your finger.

To soften butter, the best method is to put it on your countertop…and leave it there. How long you leave it there depends on a couple of factors: 1) the room temperature (my kitchen is usually between 72°F and 75°F), 2) the butterfat content of your butter (I typically use Kerrygold or Finlandia); and 3) the size of the butter that you’re working with (I always cube my butter before letting it sit on the countertop to help it soften even faster).

Room temp matters for obvious reasons; the higher the temperature of your kitchen, the faster the melt and the quicker you can get to the fun part. The butterfat content matters because higher butterfat butters will melt faster than lower-butterfat butters. For more on this, check out my post on butter! The size of the butter plays into this as well; the smaller the chunks, the faster it starts to melt.

Under the conditions that I described above, I’m usually ready to get baking in about an hour (the cubing really moves things along). For low butterfat butters, unless your kitchen is very warm, I would not recommend moving onto the next phase for at least 90 minutes or more.

In order to get baking, you should be able to press a butter knife or the tip of your finger into the butter and make a good indention.

While it might be tempting to speed up this process in a microwave, it’s highly ill-advised because the butter will likely soften unevenly, with some spots that are properly softened and other spots completely melted.

The next thing to consider about your ingredients is that you cannot use confectioner’s sugar for this task. You need the solid sugar granules to create air pockets in the butter and to increase the volume of your butter. Confectioner’s sugar, with the consistency of powder, cannot do this. It’s a good start for buttercream though!

Finally, while some recipes will tell you to “mix on high speed”, that’s truly unnecessary. In a KitchenAid stand mixer with properly prepped ingredients, you’ll have a great creamed butter in 3-5 minutes on medium speed (somewhere between speeds 4 and 5). While a hand mixer will take a few minutes longer, you still don’t need to use the highest speed setting. Don’t tax your mixers for butter and sugar! Save that for the double pizza dough recipes!

Or don’t. You really shouldn’t tax your mixers, or you could end up in a sad place, like I did here.

Tools Needed

There are three different methods for creaming butter, and they each require different tools:

  • The Stand Mixer Method: You’ll need a stand mixer, the mixing bowl for that mixer (they lock into place so it’s important to have the bowl that’s meant for that specific mixer), your ingredients, and a rubber spatula.
  • The Hand Mixer Method: You’ll need a hand mixer, a mixing bowl, your ingredients, and a rubber spatula.
  • Mixing by Hand: You’ll need a wooden spoon, a fork, a mixing bowl, your ingredients, and, you guessed it, a rubber spatula.

In this specific post, we’ll cover creaming techniques that are done with stand and hand mixers. The method of creaming butter and sugar by hand is super nostalgic and and fun and I’ll cover it another time!

Technique for Creaming Butter

Once your butter is nice and soft, you’re ready to go. Start by adding just the butter to your mixing bowl and mix on low/medium speed (stand mixer: between speeds 2-3; hand mixer: between speeds 1-2) for about two minutes. I find that this helps the butter get to a consistent temperature and texture throughout, and makes for a better finished product.

Next, with your mixer still on low speed, slowly add the sugar. At this stage, the mixture will have the look and feel of wet sand. The hand mixer video will show you what this looks like with that tool!

Great. Now I want to go to the beach.

Once the sugar is completely added, you can gradually increase your speed until you reach a medium speed (stand mixer: between speeds 4-5; hand mixer: between speeds 3-4). At about the 2 minute mark, use your silicone spatula to get all in that bowl and scrape the whole thing. I mean it! Everything! Scrape the mixture off the rim, sides and bottom of the bowl and send it all back to the action. This is a messy business and ingredients are expensive! 😊

At this point, the mixture will be a tiny bit smoother and a tiny bit lighter in color. You’re not done yet.

Turn the mixer back on medium speed and let it go for another 1-2 minutes. If you watch the butter and sugar at this stage, you can actually see it start to loosen, grow in volume, and get noticeably lighter in color.

Yes. I have done this.

You’ll notice that it looks like there’s much more of it in the bowl; this isn’t true! You’re still working with the same amount, but this is aeration happening before your very eyes. And it’s amazingly cool.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Time to check your work with your rubber spatula. With a stand mixer, I’m usually done with creaming by the end of the second mix. Typically, with my hand mixer, it needs one more good mix before it’s ready to move onto the next step.

The Finished Product!

Your finished, creamed butter should be roughly two shades lighter than the butter that you started with, and it should be at least 2-3 times the volume of what you started with. Also, texture-wise, you’ll notice that the grains of sugar aren’t as hard and pronounced as they once were. That’s because they’ve started to dissolve during this process!

The completed, creamed butter should look kind of like this:

If you’re here, great! Time to give your mixing bowl one last good scrape and move on the “incorporating your eggs” part of the festivities. If not, don’t worry. Mix on low/medium speed for one-minute intervals until you’re there. You don’t want to go too long because you could actually end up over-creaming your butter and NOBODY WANTS THAT.

Just FYI: over-creamed butter is white, grainy, and greasy. This makes a good spread for toast or bagels, but it won’t do its job in your baked goods.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and that it’s helpful for you on your baking journey. Remember, you’ll get better with practice so keep on baking! You’ll develop a feel for all of it, including creaming butter and sugar.

Got any lingering questions? Leave them in the comments section below!

Until next time. — Shani ❤️

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Check Out My FREE New Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers!

Welcome to Begin with Butter! My name is Shani, and I’m the resident Butter Ambassador and owner on this site. I’m the quirky, nerdy, self-taught, fun-loving guide that’s here to lead you through the initial phases of your baking journey.

And I’m so excited today to share a brand new, FREE ebook that’s going to make your baking life much, much easier!

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Want to know what you’ll get if you download the ebook? Take a peek at this sample page!

This site is for the newbies–the new bakers and non-bakers who want to become consistent and proficient bakers. I know proficiency is possible, since I went from a non-baker myself in 2014 to a custom bakery owner now.

My philosophy is simple: you can become a great baker if you’re willing to start from the beginning and learn the hows and whys. If you already know that baking isn’t cooking, you’re off to a great start!

In other words, it’s the technique for me. 😊 But, in order to execute those techniques, you need a few simple gadgets.

And that’s where lots and lots and LOTS of people get stuck.

Don’t Worry! I’ve Got the Solution! And it’s Free!

With all of the resources and baking shows out here, it’s easy to think that you need a stand mixer, a blast chiller, fondant, and an unlimited supply of bowls to even get started as a baker. And that, all by itself, is discouraging enough to make you quit before you’ve started.

While those things are nice, they’re not necessary. So, I wrote my new, FREE “Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers” with my favorite starter gadgets to help you understand exactly what you need for your first foray into cupcakes, muffins, and cookies.

In addition to telling you what you need to get started, you’ll learn why you need it. There are even (non-affiliate) links in the book so that you can go directly to individual sites and find the exact same gadgets that I use in my kitchen!

It’s a F R E E resource that’s available for download right now. For those of you who have some things, but aren’t sure whether you have everything you need, you can double check the list and be confident that you’ll be ready to get started. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to confidently start executing many baking recipes without a trip to Target or the agonizing wait for the Amazon delivery truck.

And did I mention that it’s free?

Maybe you have an aspiring pastry chef at home and want to make sure that they have everything they need? Then this guide is great for you too! With this guide, you’ll know whether your aspiring chef has the tools that they need to confidently go for it on their first try.

Guys, I am so excited to share this ebook with you, and I hope you find it useful as you step into your new life as a home baker!

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Seven Amazing Baking Tools You Need Right Now!

Guys! It’s here! Check out my new, FREE e-book, the “Buying Guide for Beginning Bakers”! It’s got all of the gadgets that you truly need to start baking! Want the download? Enter your email below!

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Hey BwB Family! It’s gadget day!

If you’ve been here for a while, you probably know that my absolute favorite thing (besides my family 😬) is baking. And I am admittedly a huge nerd about baking gadgets.

Y’all, I’ve tried all the gadgets. And–spoiler alert–a lot of them have better marketing than “cutting edge design”.

There are a few baking gadgets that have earned my everlasting devotion. I’m talking about the tools that I cannot remember being without in my kitchen. The unsung gadgets that have made baking a much easier and fun experience for me. This post is my love letter to them.

Here we go!

**all opinions are mine. The links are not affiliate links; just links to some really good products that I believe in with my whole heart and hope you enjoy.**

In This Post:

Oven Thermometer

I’m going to put it out there. Your oven is a liar. Not a liar in the malicious, manipulative kind of way. But a liar like your dog, when they’re trying to convince you that you didn’t just feed them dinner two minutes ago.

The same way you don’t want to start baking in a cold oven (unless a recipe specifically calls for it), is the way that you don’t want to start baking in an oven that’s not the right temperature. But if your oven is unwittingly lying to you, what’s the fix?

The fix is this.

A $7.00 oven thermometer can make an enormous difference in your baking.

This, my friends, is a low-tech godsend called an oven thermometer. You can either hang this or set it right on top of the oven rack and it will tell you the exact temperature of your oven at that time. My oven thermometers live in my ovens at all times because they tell me the real deal about what’s going on in there.

The one on the left works perfectly…it just looks terrible from years of (over)use. I literally purchased the one on the right so that I could have a pretty picture for this post.

Baking demands as much precision as possible, and this includes your oven temperature! Exact temperature is key to achieving a perfect result. That’s why an oven thermometer is so important; it’s calibrated to tell you when you’ve reached the proper temperature and it will let you know exactly how far off your oven is.

If you set your oven to 350°F without having this failsafe in there, it’s highly unlikely that the oven will be at exactly 350°F when you’re ready to bake. And an oven that’s too hot or too cold could definitely lead to a ruined result.

Digital Food Scale

Not to be dramatic, but…

A DIGITAL FOOD SCALE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL IN YOUR KITCHEN.

Yes, my scale is a little beat up. It still works beautifully though.

I admit that that was dramatic. But a digital food scale is definitely the most important tool in a baker’s kitchen.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: baking is a game of inches, and how you measure ingredients will make or break your recipe every single time.

I’ve written two posts about why a food scale is important, and how to measure using a food scale, so it’s not surprising that this darling item ended up on this list.

Parchment Paper

I told Y’all that my baking beginnings were humble. This is the point where I share with you that I didn’t know about parchment paper when I started baking. Now, I can’t live without it.

Parchment paper is literally heat-resistant paper that’s used to prevent food from sticking to cake pans and cookie sheets. It’s also tough enough to stay in one piece when there’s a mess on top of it, which means that clean up is a quick business that includes throwing away the used parchment paper and giving my cookie sheet a quick wipe and rinse with soap and water.

It is genius for those moist (I know) layer cakes that have a tendency to stick. Simply cut a round of parchment in the shape of your cake pan, butter your cake pan, place the round at the bottom of your buttered cake pan, put butter on the top of the parchment, flour the whole thing and NEVER HAVE A CAKE STICK EVER AGAIN.

Some people prefer silpat silicone baking mats, which do the same thing as parchment but are reusable. I say try both! I did and I ended up choosing parchment paper because cookies spread more thinly (and get more brown around the edges) on silpat mats, but your taste buds might like what the silpat mat has to offer!

Multi-Level Cooling Rack

Friends.

Again, when I began, I did not own a cooling rack. I quickly found out that this was a must for baking, so I started with ONE of these:

The way I’m laughing at myself right now is not ladylike. It holds SIX cookies. But this is actually my favorite size for layer cakes, because I’m weird and I like each layer to have its own autonomous cooling zone.

I bought three more of the six-top cooling racks before I discovered this:

This was much, much better but it takes up a lot of valuable real estate on my countertop. It holds 24 standard sized-cookies or muffins and is a great fix when you have room for it.

I was slow-walking around Michaels one day and stumbled upon this multi-level cooling rack:

Family, please understand that this was an act of pure happenstance.

A multi-level cooling rack is genius because it holds 45 standard sized cookies and has a small countertop footprint. Instead of spreading out, this one goes up. I’ve used it to cool everything, from cookies, cupcakes, muffins, boules (and other artisan bread loaves), and my famous milk and honey rolls. It’s truly a space saver and it helps you get lots of baked goods off of hot pans in a hurry, which is important!

Danish Dough Whisk

A Danish dough whisk is the most amazing tool for making any kind of bread dough by hand. Unlike a wooden spoon (which is also a great tool for making bread, by the way), a Danish dough whisk works through tough doughs much more easily, thus making mixing more efficient and less backbreaking.

For those who enjoy making bread dough by hand, this tool is it. You can work through harder doughs much more easily because there’s not a solid spoon for resistance.

Pastry Cutter

A pastry cutter is a tool that’s used to help cut solid fat into flour, and is specific to pastry (pie!) making. For pastry, it’s important to have larger chunks of solid fat in your dough. Those large chunks of butter (or shortening, or even lard) release small amounts of steam as they’re baked, which creates tiny pockets of air in your pastry dough. That’s where the flakiness comes from!

Some people like to use a food processor to make pastry dough, and that’s a great technique too. I am a very hands-on home chef, and I actually prefer to use hand tools to mix things like pastry dough and bread. With practice, using your hands helps you develop a great baker’s touch. Because one of the best kept secrets in baking is knowing when to stop.

A pastry cutter is a low-tech tool, to be sure, but it’s an amazing gadget and an absolute must for the home baker who wants to make pie without investing in a countertop appliance.

Air Tight Storage Containers

::Cambro storage containers have entered the chat::

My Cambro containers allow enough room for the dough to rise without getting squished, which is something you never want as a bread baker.

Family. Food waste saddens me more than just about anything. It…it just…stings.

When you start baking all the time (if you haven’t already), proper storage containers for raw ingredients like flour and sugar will be key. True, once you’re baking 4-5 times a week, you’ll consume flour and sugar and a scarily rapid rate, but that’s probably about the time you’ll realize that you can buy these ingredients from restaurant suppliers.

You’ll want somewhere to store this:

That’s where my favorite Cambro containers come through like a champion. They seal tightly, come in a range of sizes, and they keep flour and sugar fresh for a long time. Because I have these, I can buy flour and sugar in bulk and have a great place to store it!

Once you get serious about baking, being able to buy in bulk is so important. Having proper storage for those bulk ingredients will be so helpful for making those bulk dollars stretch.

Conclusion

It took a while for these gadgets and tools to become part of my working baking repertoire, but once they did, I noticed big improvements in my baking. They each solved a big problem with a small effort, and collectively led to huge improvements in my overall baking.

Are you going to try one or more of these fun gadgets? Let me know in the comments below! And while you’re here, go ahead and subscribe!


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Home » Featured Recipes » baking essentials

Technique Tips for The Best Cookies!

Hey BwB Family! Today we’re talking cookies.

Wait…the saying is “talking turkey”, isn’t it…😬

Oh well. “talking cookies” works. Friends, the purpose of this post is to give you universal techniques that you can use to make your favorite cookie recipes even better. You don’t need a specific recipe to make amazing cookies!

Let’s go!

In this Post

There are few things I love baking more than cookies. This post has been a long time coming because cookies are kind of my jam. Let’s get started!

Don’t Overmix the Dough

What does “overmix” mean, exactly? If you’ve done any baking whatsoever (not being dramatic 😉), then you’ve seen this word in a cookie recipe or two. Overmixing is literally just the process of mixing something too much, which usually creates texture issues from too much gluten development and leads to tough cookies.

Like these “soft, chewy” cookies from when I first started baking:

In standard cookie recipes, the flour (combined with a leavening/salt mixture) is the last thing added to the recipe; once that comes into contact with your wet ingredients, it starts to form gluten bonds that give structure and texture to those cookies. The more that you physically mix flour with the rest of your wet ingredients (either with a mixer, spoon, or spatula), the stronger those gluten bonds become.

Strong gluten bonds mean chewy texture in breads (yay!), but strong gluten bonds can also mean a brittle, tough texture for cookies (boo!). You don’t want this!

How to Mix Dough Properly (With a Picture Tutorial!)

How do I avoid overmixing cookies? I thought you’d never ask. This is a story that’s best told in photos.

Before you add the flour, you need to make sure that all of your other ingredients are completely incorporated. If they’re completely mixed together, you won’t have to do much more mixing once you add the flour. And don’t forget to cream the butter and sugar properly!

So, instead of this:

You’re looking for this:

Once the pre-flour ingredients are uniformly combined, that’s when it’s time to add flour. I add flour in batches, even if I’ve scaled my recipe down. Adding too much flour to your recipe at once is a great “recipe” for a giant, magical PUFF of flour right in your face.

That’s…not my favorite. It also means that that flour you’ve meticulously measured for your recipe isn’t going into that recipe.

So, I add a little flour and mix until it’s almost incorporated. Like this!

At this point, the objective is not to get every streak of flour incorporated into your dough. The objective is to have your mixer do as few revolutions as possible to combine most of the flour from that first batch. Remember, we want to reduce gluten development! The loose texture is what you want to see at the end of your first batch of flour.

Onto the next flour addition!

After the second batch, you can see that there’s still flour that’s not fully incorporated. This is okay! We will address all of it!

Third (and final) batch on deck!

Some of you probably want me to make it make sense at this point. To you I say, Okay!

At this point, I stop my mixer completely and finish by very gently mixing with my trusty red spatula.

If there are chocolate chips or other accoutrements that have to be added right at the end (like with this batch), I stop mixing with my trusty red spatula just shy of the flour being fully incorporated. This is because there’s still mixing going on when you add the chocolate chips! Luckily, the chocolate chips only need 3-4 turns with your mixer to be fully incorporated into your dough. Or, even better, you can use your trusty silicone spatula to incorporate those chocolate chips and avoid over-mixing!

Here’s the finished cookie dough!

At that point the flour is *just* incorporated and your dough is complete.

Let the Dough Rest!

I never, ever bake cookies immediately after making the dough. In fact, I usually don’t even bake cookies on the same day that I make the dough. I put it in a glass bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a lid, mark it with a “TBB” (To-Be-Baked) date, and put the dough in a refrigerator for anywhere from 8-48 hours. Overnight is my favorite, but if I make cookie dough before the crack of dawn, and if my children give me puppy dog eyes all day, then I’ll begrudgingly bake them off around dinnertime.

When you allow cookie dough to rest, some really good stuff happens:

  • The flour gets fully hydrated without additional mixing. This means fewer gluten bonds and a more chewy cookie!
  • The fat (usually butter) gets a chance to firm back up, which helps the cookies hold their shape and not get completely flat and burnt around the edges when they’re baked. Because yuck.
  • The flavors fully come together, meaning that you’ll be able to really detect the molasses notes that that brown sugar adds to your chocolate chip cookies!

The only downside to resting your cookie dough is…the wait. But it is completely worth it! If you’re truly short on time (shout out to the “Babe, would you mind making cookies for the company potluck this afternoon?” bakers out there), even an hour or two would be better than baking cookie dough fresh from the mixer.

Don’t Crowd the (Light-Colored, Parchment-Covered) Cookie Sheet!

I don’t make huge cookies. Despite that fact, I only put six cookies on a cookie sheet. SIX:

Fewer cookies on the pan means better airflow over each of the cookies. Better airflow over the cookies means more even baking, even if your oven has hot spots!

We do not like the hotspots, Beloved, but they are inevitable in almost any oven. After a while, you’ll think of them affectionately because they’re unique to your oven. More importantly, though, you’ll know how and when to adapt your baking in order to avoid their wrath.

For cookies, I prefer light-colored cookie sheets that are covered in parchment paper. For more about why I prefer light-colored cookie sheets, take a look here!

Fewer cookies on the cookie sheet also gives the cookies a chance to spread out. Because cookies need room to spread into their perfectly imperfect shapes:

Baking fewer cookies on a cookie sheet allows those cookies to spread without blending together into one big, underbaked cookie (unless that’s your thing, of course).

Different bakers have different numbers of cookies that they’re willing to put on a sheet pan. I landed on six and I’m quite comfortable here. As with anything else, practice is key to help you develop your special baking style!

Use the Convection Setting

I love a good turn up.

While I have no idea what that term actually means (what are we supposed to be “turning up”, anyway?), I use it to describe my oven settings for baking. A 350°F oven on the convection setting is my happy place for baking just about any cookie on earth.

Yes, my ovens are set higher than 350°F because my ovens have a very loose relationship with the truth (about temperature) and my cheapie oven thermometer is the ultimate truth teller. And yes, it is 6:13 in the morning. A late start to baking for sure.

Convection baking simply means that a fan blows heated air around the oven cavity during baking. For cookie purposes, this means that you can bake more cookies at one time and those cookies will bake more quickly and evenly. In theory, it also means that you don’t have to turn your cookie sheets and switch their oven racks during baking. I still do that though. #BecauseMyOvens

For new bakers, the thought of using a convection oven can be terrifying, because convection baking can lead to disastrous results if you’re not paying attention or if you’re unfamiliar with your specific oven. I understand that completely. It took me five years to get comfortable with the thought of convection baking. But Family, once I finally understood what convection can do?

If you are nervous about using the convection setting on your oven, no worries! Just reduce the temperature of your oven by 10-15°F and check a minute or two earlier than you normally would. You’ll develop an understanding for your specific oven’s convection settings very quickly with enough practice.

For cookies, I set my ovens to 350°F and put the oven racks on the fourth and sixth levels so that I can bake two pans of cookies at the same time. This photo is a rush job at the 5:00 minute mark, when I was turning the cookie sheets and switching them on their respective oven racks:

{In my Wicked Witch Voice}: They are melllllllting…

Not every baker will need to turn pans and switch racks. Once you know your oven, you’ll know whether the hot spots are going to dictate this step! For these cookies, I baked on the first rack for five minutes, turned both cookie sheets and switched the racks, and baked for four minutes more.

Results and Conclusion

If you hyperlinked to this section, you’re probably looking for proof that all of these tips can work for you. Here it is!

While these finished, cooled cookies take quite a pretty picture, they never look that way immediately out of the oven. Fresh out of the oven, they are very puffy up and look slightly underdone in the center.

They flatten out after about a minute out of the oven, and the color in the center deepens ever so slightly even after coming out of the oven.

That, Friends, is the mythical thing known as the baking “touch”, and that will come to you with practice! The secret is to let them sit for three more minutes on the hot cookie sheet before removing them to a cooling rack. This is totally counterintuitive to watching them bake to a perfect golden brown in the oven, I know. But if they get to that point in the oven, they’ll continue to cook on your countertop and get overdone.

These are my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookies that I developed for my custom bakery. But you can have amazing results with any cookie recipe if you use these techniques. I want to see you be successful with your family recipe or your favorite blogger’s recipe, and these tips universally apply to standard cookie recipes!

Those of you who are searching for cookie recipes can find unbelievable ones here (the world-famous Jacques Torres recipe) or here (on handletheheat.com). But try these techniques with as many recipes as your heart desires!

For those of you who’ve told me before that you can’t bake, I’m here to help you bust every barrier imaginable so that you can. So, today, if I’ve helped you bust any barriers to making decadent, delicious, chewy, perfect cookies, I am grateful that you’ve given me the opportunity to do so.

Keep being great and KEEP PRACTICING! I’m an email away if you have questions, or feel free to leave a comment below.

Until next time!

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