Baking demands accuracy and care, and cookie baking is no different. Some unspoken universal rules for baking cookies are: follow the recipe to the tee, make sure the oven is preheated to the correct temperature and try not to open the oven to sneak a peak while the cookies are baking.
Tips for flop-proof cookies
- Use high-quality ingredients, always! This step is non-negotiable. Cookies are simple, delicate bakes and there really is no hiding behind poor-quality ingredient choices.
- Make sure both the butter and eggs are at room temperature. Softened butter allows for the butter and sugar to cream properly. Correctly creamed butter and sugar form an emulsion. Note that this emulsion can be broken by adding cold eggs, causing the mixture to curdle. A stable emulsion helps create the structure of the dough and helps the cookies to rise. This step is crucial to avoiding dense cookies.
- Always measure the flour correctly – well, all the ingredients, of course – but especially the flour! Kiss dry brittle cookies that crumble to the touch away for good.
- Don’t overmix the dough – while you may be a tough cookie, no freshly baked tough cookies will do! A good rule of thumb is to stop mixing before you think you should.
- Season the flour with salt – this step is essential to ensure the cookies are packed with flavour. Salt is a flavour enhancer and even cookies need a little sprucing. It also serves to balance the sweetness in any recipe.
- When in doubt, refrigerate – if you’re having a hard time handling the dough, wrap it in clingfilm and pop in it the fridge for 30 minutes. After a quick visit to the fridge, the dough will be easier to shape, and the chilled dough spreads less during baking.
- Never grease the pan – baking paper or silicone mats are a cookie’s best friend! Try to make sure your tray is light in colour. Cookies baked on darker trays tend to pick up too much colour before they are done baking properly.
- Never place cookie dough on a warm baking tray. They should only ever be placed on a cold or room temperature baking tray.
- Use a cooling rack. You’ve gone through all the effect to make sure your cookies are crisp, golden and maybe a little chewy in the middle, so you’ll definitely want to avoid soggy bottoms!Try these olive oil espresso choc chip cookies
Expert tips from some cookie-masters themselves
Mama Bongi’s choc-chip cookies need no introduction – if you know, you know! Here’s what the queen of choc-chip had to say: “Baking with love is the key ingredient. But also make sure the measurements of your ingredients are always consistent, your oven is heated to 170°C, and you bake the cookies for exactly the right time, and you will never go wrong!”
Here’s what the glam baking boss Kate from The Kate Tin had to say: “Let your choc-chip cookie dough stand overnight. It seems like a useless tip, but it totally changes the flavour and texture of the cookie. The flour has a chance to absorb liquid and it gives an extra chewy cookie!”
Mariza Ebersohn from Life in the South, whom we consider the authority on all plant-based baking, shares her top-tips for baking plant-based cookies: “Use chilled vegan butter or chilled coconut oil; all-purpose flour or self-raising flour usually makes the best cookies; chilling the cookies for 20 minutes before baking makes extra-crunchy cookies; don’t skimp on the sugar (use brown sugar or coconut sugar as a healthy alternative); don’t forget the chocolate and vanilla extract; always add enough salt (this can’t be said enough); and, lastly, always press the cookies flat since vegan cookies don’t spread as much.”