From the Mailbox: tips on baking the perfect cookies

choc chip3

Technically speaking, this was not from the mailbox, but rather, a culmination of google searches that landed visitors to this space. Seeing that it is the time of the year when most Malay/Muslim households are abuzz with baking cookies for the upcoming Eid (more commonly known here as Hari Raya Aidilfitri), there has been a surge of visitors looking for “Hari Raya cookie recipe”, “easy Hari Raya recipe”. But of all the searches, the one that caught my attention was “why Hari Raya cookie flat”.

Since I can’t seem to find the time to share new recipes (will update after the Eid celebrations, I promise), I thought it’d be best to share tips on baking the perfect cookies for this season.

choc chip4

Tip #1: Chill the dough
Some recipes call for the dough to be chilled, so ensure that you do so with the recommended duration, otherwise you’ll end up with a morphed adaptation of a sheet cake when all the cookies spread and decide to go the amoeba way. Yup, been there, done that.

Even in recipes that do not call for the chilling of dough, I’ve taken to practise chilling the dough in between batches, taking out only what’s necessary. It definitely helps in ensuring that the cookies do not spread, and for recipes like cutout cookies, it helps in maintaining the shape of the cookies. Also, it’s a big boost for the texture of the resultant cookies; I’m a fan of chewy chocolate chip cookies vis-a-vis cakey or crunchy, and having the dough cold and sent straight into the warm oven makes the cookies bake at a slower rate, thus resulting in the chewy centers.

Tip #2: Use lighter-coloured baking sheets
Darker coloured baking sheets, as beautifully sleek as they may look, are not friends of a cookie connoisseur. Dark pans conduct heat faster as compared to lighter sheets, so your cookies will bake and brown faster, and there are higher chances of the bottom of your cookies to be burnt. When/if using dark pans, you might want to check your cookies a few minutes before the recommended baking time, or you can lower the temperature just a notch.

choc chip1

Tip #3: Leave cookies on the pan for at least 5 mins
You always see it on the telly; a mother donning a crease-free apron takes out a batch of cookies from the oven, and her young child traipsies into the kitchen and grabs one off the baking sheet. And that’s just about the greatest television illusion we’ll ever see, second to the fact that the camera adds 10 pounds to anyone.

Cookies continue to bake after being removed from the oven, so if you were to grab one straight out from the oven, you’d probably end up with soft, crumbly, underbaked cookies;– and that’s not in a good way. The heat from the warm baking sheet reacts with the cool room temperature, firming up the cookies, so you should leave the cookies on the sheet for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies look set (you can test by gently poking the edges with your fingertip, and it doesn’t cave in), before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool down.

Do not, however, leave them on the sheet for too long (3-5 minutes is just about right), because as mentioned, the longer you leave them there, the more they’ll firm up, and if you take too long to remove them, the cookies may stick to the pan.

choc chip2

Tip #4: Let baking sheets cool between batches
Start off with a baking sheet at room temperature, and thereafter, try to ensure that the baking sheet cools down before you place your next batch of cookie dough on it. If your baking sheet is warm, the dough may melt and spread out, even before they go into the oven.

You can gently wipe crumbs off the used sheet with a paper towel or spatula, before placing your next batch, or you can simply run the pan under cold water, and wipe dry before using. What I usually do is I plonk the whole sheet with the dough into the fridge while waiting for its turn to go into the oven.

Tip #5: Do not over-grease your baking sheet
Read your recipe carefully;– if it calls for an ungreased pan, don’t grease it, and if it calls for a greased pan, don’t go liberal on it. Over-greasing your baking sheet will cause the cookies to spread. Just think of it like an oil spill on a pavement; the lesser the amount of oil spill, the lower the chances of you falling and sliding.

I usually use a pastry brush to spread soften butter on the baking sheet to give it an even coat.

Hope that helps! If anyone has any further enquiries on baking cookies, or any further tips to add on, feel free to drop a note πŸ™‚ Happy baking, and Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all my Muslim readers.

Previously on FTM:
From the Mailbox: my take on food photography
From the Mailbox: the humble crumb topping


38 thoughts on “From the Mailbox: tips on baking the perfect cookies

  1. the mister

    And she’s back!!! πŸ˜€

    I love your FTMs! Their tutorial style makes me wish I baked so that I can try out the tips! Hehe…

    Well written, dear! πŸ˜€

  2. munirah

    oh the second picture of the half eaten cookie is soooo tempting me to bake more cookies! great tips by the way, maybe you should post more tips! πŸ™‚

  3. grace

    excellent tips! for the longest time, i would fill my baking sheets as soon as i got the previous batch off. what a difference it made to simply let them cool down!

  4. ovenhaven Post author

    bie: Maybe you should give baking a try! I’ll write the most perfect brownie tutorial for you, and you can bake for me πŸ˜›

    munirah: Haha, thanks, sweetie! Sure thing, will share more tips in the next FTM hopefully πŸ™‚

    grace:Glad to have helped, dearie. Give it a go the next the next time! πŸ™‚

  5. The Little Teochew

    Wow, you are really generous to share all these useful tips! Those are some good-looking cookies you have there! I am a fan of crispy crunchy cookies, so does that mean that I should not send the tray straight from the fridge to the oven? Cos that’s what I have been doing and I always get chewy ones! *slaps forehead*

    Is this a new camera or have your photography skills just improved yet again?!

  6. ovenhaven Post author

    Helene: Thanks, dearie πŸ™‚ Baking is a learning process, no? I’ve had all kinds of flat cookies and crunchy-when-I-want-them-chewy cookies, but the most important thing is learning from them mistakes.

    Pleth: Thanks, sweetie πŸ™‚ Selamat Hari Raya! Looking forward to photos of cute lil Sophie in her baju Raya πŸ˜›

    The Little Teochew: Haha, nope it’s still the same camera. These are actually photos way back in January, when I was conducting a lil cookie experiment to get the perfectly-shaped chocolate chip cookies I want (hence the 3rd pic with two different cookies from the same recipe).

    And yup, if you want crunchy, you shouldn’t bring it straight from fridge to oven. Also, you might wanna check the recipe itself. Higher fat content will give you crunchier cookies, and using all white sugar (or higher white sugar proportion) will yield crunchy cookies as well, since cookies made from brown sugar absorb moisture after baking to remain chewy. Hope that helps!

    felicia: Thanks, sweetie πŸ™‚

    thecoffeesnob: Thanks, dearie πŸ™‚ I think a number of holiday cookies call for greased baking sheets, though the easiest way out is to simply use parchment paper.

    missfattyfoodie: Hope you’ll get the texture you yearn for the next time!

  7. Megan

    WOW! YUMMY! I definatly want cookies now! I thought of myself as a cookie expert but not after these tips. I am definatly going to chill all my cookie dough before putting it on the pan and chill the pan between batches also. I can’t wait to try the new tricks because I LOVE chewy chocolate chip cookies!!!

  8. TasteStopping

    Oh, I have a tip that might help anyone baking with dark cookie sheets: double the cookie sheets up. This will deflect some of the heat and slow down the cooking time on the bottoms, allowing the tops of the cookies to keep up! I use this technique for a sweet potato biscuit that is so moist (and probably full of sugar from the sweet potato) that the bottoms burn before they are fully cooked through. The rest of your tips will come in handy. Thanks! πŸ™‚

    Anyway, I found you through FoodGawker and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  9. snowinsummer

    I bake cookies a couple times a week and I always use parchment paper verses just putting the dough directly onto the baking sheet. I also put the baking sheets into the refrigerator with the dough on and off. Having a cooled baking sheet makes for a better cookie. Thank you for sharing!

  10. ovenhaven Post author

    19thmayflower: Hehe, maybe I should try using that one day. I remember using Betty Crocker’s brownie mix when I was in my teens, and it tasted glorious!

    Megan: I’m a HUGE chewy triple c fan as well! Hope these tips will work well for you πŸ™‚

    Ashley: Thanks, sweetie!

    ingrid:: Haha, wish I had some left to share! πŸ˜›

    bren: Wish I had someone telling me these tips; I had to learn them through horrid cookie mistakes πŸ˜›

    allison: Give them a go the next time! πŸ™‚

    TasteStopping: That’s a great tip! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    snowinsummer: I always seem to run out of parchment, so I go the greased sheet way πŸ˜› And you’re right, cooled baking sheets definitely improve the texture of the cookies.

  11. Marisa

    One more (awesome) tip: if you enjoy a soft cookie, store your fabulous home baked cookies in an airtight container with a slice of bread overnight.

    You’re welcome! -(ahead of time).

  12. ovenhaven Post author

    Marisa: Ah yes, forgot to add that in! Thanks for mentioning πŸ™‚

    tobebeautiful: I hope that these tips will help you on your next cookie baking session! πŸ™‚

  13. sanafia

    It was so informative to read the tips provided by you. Thanks. I’m a new baker and I have a query. I use microwave oven which also has a provision for baking in a conventional manner. The cookie recipes that i’ve come across so far mention only the temperate of pre heating the oven but not time. And time+ degrees needs to be mentioned for my oven. I hope you can help. Thanks

    And thanks for your greetings; Hari Raya Aidilfitri to you too πŸ™‚

  14. ovenhaven Post author

    sanafia: Hi there, hope these tips will help you out πŸ™‚ Usually I preheat my oven for about 15 minutes. Hope that helps!

    jean-marie: Haha, thanks doll πŸ™‚

  15. ovenhaven Post author

    No problem, sweetie πŸ™‚ Glad to share! For crunchy cookies, you can use all white sugar instead of brown, and lookout for recipes with a higher fat content. Also, you can lower the baking temperature to yield crunchy cookies. For example, if a recipe calls for 180C for 11mins, I find that baking it at 160C/170C for 11mins makes it crunchy. Hope that helps!

  16. cookie

    thanks for your tips. it certainly helped; I baked a batch of cookie using the same recipe which turned out chewy last round, it was crunchy! Yippee!!!

  17. N

    Hello there! Just got to know about your blog recently and it’s such an addictive read – I just kept reading and reading and putting my son in the play yard. Haha. I was doing my novice attempt of baking cookies earlier this evening when I witnessed amoeba-shaped cookies forming in the oven to my horror. My helper laughed at me and asked “why liddat”, and I cracked a joke that she probably over-greased when I asked her too earlier – and I now read that it’s true. I should have read tip #4 before baking ’em cookies too because I chose not to grease the 2nd batch and yet I saw some spread with burnt edges 😦 And now that I’ve read tip #3, I better start getting them off the baking sheet pronto now that it’s been cooled for an hour.

    Thank you so much for your tips and recipe sharing nonetheless. I’m such a noob in baking and like yourself, always wished that I could bake someday for the little boy that I’ve longed so for now and now that he’s here (and over a year old too), about time I start practicing for his 2nd birthday!

    Keep blogging and posting gorgeous photos. You really make it look effortless and encouraging for people like me who don’t understand baking terms well. xx

    1. ovenhaven Post author

      Aww, aren’t you a sweetie! Thank you for the kind words. You’ve definitely put a smile on my face. πŸ™‚ Hope your cookie journey will be a better one after these tips! Feel free to drop me a mail anytime you have enquiries. We all start from somewhere, so it’s great to share what we know!

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