Cookies are fun to bake and most recipes can be prepared with pantry ingredients and a few goodies picked up at the local supermarket. The house smells amazing minutes after they enter the oven, and shortly thereafter fingers and mouths are being burned from trying to eat fresh hot cookies before they’ve had a chance to cool properly.
There are dozens of cookie styles, each offering a tasty and beautiful dessert. For picnics, parties, formal gatherings, or just to snack, there is a cookie recipe that is perfect for every situation. From essentially all sugar to incredibly healthy varieties, traditional to new creations, cookies offer the home cook an opportunity to create something wonderful and delicious, and display some culinary artistry.
Most baked cookie recipes are very straightforward and follow the same basic principles as most baked goods. To be successful requires carefully measuring ingredients, use correct technique, achieve proper oven temperature prior to baking, and adhere to the baking time.
Cookies, like quick breads, are an excellent way to introduce beginners to the world of baking. With a variety of styles produced from easy to follow recipes and a few cookie making techniques, cookie mastery is inevitable.
There are several methods for combining ingredients in cookie making, specifically how the fat (butter, shortening, etc.,) is combined with the other ingredients. The most popular is the creaming method. The rubbing-in method, and melting method are 2 additional ways for introducing the fat into the cookie recipe.
The creaming method refers to using a hand mixer on low speed or spoon to beat or stir the fat (butter, shortening, etc.) until smooth. At this point sugar is usually added, and the mixture is beaten until smooth and creamy. Eggs are often added one at a time to the creamed butter and sugar, and beaten after each additional egg. Low speed on the mixing is key, as is softening the butter, and bringing the eggs close to room temperature (65 F.).
Technique involves cutting in the fat, which is generally very cold, into flour using a pastry knife, knife, fork, or food processor. The fat is rubbed in until the mixture resembles crumbs. Liquids are added to the flour mixture until dough forms. The method reduces gluten development and produces a tender baked good. Shortbread and bar cookies are examples of cookies that use the rubbing-in method.
Using heat to melt the fat and/or dissolve sugar before incorporation into the other ingredients.
There are several methods for shaping cookies before baking including rolled cookies, hand shaped cookies, drop cookies, piped cookies, pressed cookies, and bar cookies.
Cookie dough is rolled thin with a consistent thickness, and cut into shapes using cookie cutters or a sharp knife. Rolled cookie dough is easier to work with when chilled. Dough is often frozen before rolling out to avoid the dough falling apart and any point during cookie shaping process. Dough can be rolled between two sheets of plastic for easier rolling, and then chilled before cutting the dough into cookie shapes. Examples of rolled cookies include sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and sables.
Hand Shaped Cookies
Cookies are carefully crafted from dough that ranges from soft to firm. Cookie shapes are achieved with a minimum of pressure, to keep the cookies from becoming hard and compact. Often the dough is chilled to keep the butter in the cookies cold before baking. The result is a cookie that retains its shape better when baked.
Cookies are shaped from dough using teaspoons or tablespoons. One spoon gathers a small amount of dough; the other helps mold it into the desired shape, typically round balls. Cookies are dropped onto a cookie sheet, with adequate space between them, before baking.
Pressed or Piped Cookies
Soft cookie dough is inserted into a chamber and forced out the opposite end through the use of a plunger. A die is attached to the cylinder, shaping the cookie dough as it extrudes. The dough is sliced into individual cookies as the dough leaves the cylinder. Piped cookies are produced from cookie dough inserted into a pastry bag being squeezed through a pastry tip to create small cookie shapes.
Cookie batter or dough is poured or spread into a prepared pan in one or more layers and baked. The cookies are cut with a sharp knife into squares, rectangles, triangles, and other shapes into individual offerings.
Bar cookies are constantly evolving. The easy to make, visually appealing bar cookie often resembles cakes and pies as bakers have taken liberty with the concept of bar cookie construction and created contemporary takes of favorite classic desserts.
Refrigerator cookies are created from logs of dough that have been chilled until firm enough to slice into thin cookies. Refrigerator cookies can be created from combinations of different color dough, as well as from layering different dough recipes on top of one another before rolling into a log. The dough can be refrigerated for several days before baking.
Cookie Recipe Collections:
Bar Cookies – Cookie dough is spread into a prepared pan, baked and cut into bar shaped cookies. Bar cookie creations can range from simple to elaborate and include goodies such as chocolate, caramel, fruits and nuts. Bar cookies can be multilayered and often include a shortbread or pie like crust.
Biscotti – Twice baked Italian biscotti are wonderfully crunchy, and perfect for dipping into hot chocolate or coffee. The cookie is incredibly versatile, and can be a simple plain delightful cookie, or a decadent treat. Biscotti dough is formed into cylinders, baked until golden brown, sliced into thick individual cookies and baked again. Biscotti are often dipped in dark, milk, or white chocolate as a way to add decoration and add extra flavor.
Brownie Cookies – Brownie cookies are prepared using the batter from brownie recipes. The batter is often enhanced with nuts, chocolate or peanut butter chips to give the cookies extra flavor, richness, and bulk. Brownie cookies, or blondie cookies, are especially delicious right out of the oven. Warm, these soft and scrumptious cookies melt in your mouth.
Butter Cookies – The perfect butter cookie has a tender, crumbly texture that melts in your mouth. The best butter cookies are prepared from the highest quality ingredients you can find. Fresh butter is available from many countries and local producers. Some imported butters, especially European products are simply incredible. Many local and organic butters are of excellent quality. Look for butter in specialty food stores and online. Supermarkets vary in their butter offerings. For a superior butter cookie, choose a good brand of butter, the freshest you can find.
Caramel Cookies – The art of turning sugar into golden caramel is a culinary technique that every baker should learn. Once learned, creativity with the gooey goodness is unleashed and new dessert ideas abound. Caramel cookies are no exception. From deceptively flavored to decadently rich, the addition of caramel takes dessert to another level. Caramel pairs well with chocolate, nuts, and fruits, making it a necessary tool in your cookie making arsenal.
Chocolate Cookies – From luxuriously soft, to decadently crisp, chocolate cookies are a favorite around the world. The possibilities for chocolate cookies are endless. As a subtle flavoring or as the showcase ingredient, there is no denying the delight that chocolate brings to cookies. Chocolate is a lovely companion to fruits, nuts, caramel, peanut butter, coffee, vanilla, many spices and liqueurs.
Chocolate Chip Cookies – Big or small, crisp or chewy, chocolate chip cookies are delicious and a year-round favorite. Usually very simple dough to prepare, subtle changes in ingredients and technique delivers a variety of chocolate chip cookie types. The cookie style adapts very well to the bar cookie format, giving cookie bakers another creative outlet for creating delicious new takes on the classic dessert.
Christmas Cookies – Cookies prepared during the fall holidays are known for their great looks, as well as their great taste. Christmas is no exception. From rolled cookies cut into favorite shapes, to iced gingerbread, and stained glass sugar cookie cutouts, Christmas cookies are an excellent way to create beautiful cookies representing the Christmas holiday, and reflecting the festive winter atmosphere.
Coconut Cookies – Coconut adds exquisite tropical island flavor. Crispy or crunchy, silky or creamy, the distinctive flavor of coconut adds richness to cookies. Coconut is readily available, but good quality, large flakes of unsweetened coconut are worth locating. They take ordinary cookies up a notch, and toast up perfectly, adding another dimension in both taste and texture.
Fruit Cookies – Fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit purees, jams and jellies. The inclusion of our favorite fruit flavors is easy to accomplish and allow the cookie maker to be very creative and produce cookies that are both delicious and visually stunning. The different fruit flavors and vibrant colors can often be combined or paired with complimentary ingredients to create wonderful new fruit cookies.
Gingerbread Cookies – The classic holiday cookie most often prepared using molasses, ginger, a mix of spices, and perhaps a hint of citrus. The cookie dough is rolled thin, shaped using cutters, baked to perfection, and decorated with piped royal icing. Freshly grated whole spices will take these cookies to another level. A good quality, great tasting molasses (not bootstrap), is ideal for these baked treats.
Iced Cookies – Cookies decorated with colored and flavored icing to create delicious, eye-catching dessert treats are a favorite year-round, especially for special occasion such as holidays and birthdays. Icing cookies allows cookie makers the chance to create dazzling designs and delicious dessert treats.
Lemon Cookies – From soft, pillow like cookies that melt in your mouth, to crisp, chewy cookies that deliver more lovely lemon flavor with each bite, the tangy citrus flavored cookies are prepared in a variety of forms. Lemon can be the showcase or a subtle companion to other cookie component flavors.