Oh hey, good morning sunshines!
It’s me, ya giiiiirl who feels like she finally got her baking down over the last 3-4 months. You know, the girl who’s been baking since September of 2018? Yeah, that one! Me! I baked for months and months which turned into years of just kind of winging it (LIKEMYEYELINER okay I’m sorry I had to say it!), which would produce sometimes crispy, sometimes less crispy, sometimes hard, rarely SOFT, cookies! Cookies that were all over the map. Se la vie, it is what it is. Honestly, I just didn’t care. Know why? Because all I wanted to do was decorate! I didn’t get into this “HOBBY” to make perfect cookies. I got into it to have fun decorating and build THAT skill. I was like, hey, people keep eating them, people keep ordering them, and you know what? Screw it. Consistency is overrated.
CAN YOU READ THAT AGAIN? “Consistency is overrated.” Yeah, I’ll admit it, those were words coming from someone who just didn’t want to take the time to perfect her craft. It’s embarrassing now. But it’s me.
You know what changed it? In November 2019, I had a booth in this craft fair that I participate in every year - it’s the Santa’s Helpers’ Holiday Shopping Expo here in Gray, Maine, and I passed out samples of cookies for people to rate. And that day, hand over fist people preferred the softer cookie (I just so happened to have a batch of the sampled cookie that was softer than the other cookie they were rating). Between that and starting trying out Cookie Ice Nights and picking up some fun little orders here and there, I realized if I were going to continue decorating cookies into 2020 it was time to really try to turn this hobby into a business, so it was time to get serious and consistent! I wanted to repeatedly produce quality that people could expect.
So that brought me to exploration mode. And exploration mode is where I lived for the following three to four months until I found this trick. But where? If you’re in the world of cookie decorating, then you’re likely in all the Facebook groups. Cookie Decorating for Beginners and Anything Goes Cookies are two great ones to start with, and you can type virtually anything into the search bar and half a mil search results will come back. So I found some random post at the bottom of some thread around how long to bake cookies for and this woman said something that is going to become my first point:
What you do after your cookies come out of the oven matters
What I would do is I’d take my cookies out of the oven and use a cookie spatula to move them to a cooling rack, and voila, I’d be golden! Almost too golden though. What do I mean by that? That cookies when you take from the oven and are starting to brown, because they continue to bake out of the oven (omg chemistry wtf so weird), they will go from lightly brown or golden to BUH-ROWN and crispy.
So according to that one user (you amazing woman who I will never know to give credit to because I didn’t realize how important the note you gave at the time was, womp womp), she bakes her cookies for 7 minutes (which is significantly shorter than the amount of time average recipes tell you to do), then pulls them out of the oven, leaves them on the same baking sheet for 7 minutes, THEN transfers them to a cooling rack. Tbh I thought she was bonkers. 7 minutes, 7 minutes, move? That’s dumb. No thank you. Work smarter, not harder. That’s my mantra and that did not align with that philosophy! Lots of work and extra weird steps! But I’ll be damned. After I tried a bunch of different ways to get consistent coloring on my cookies and consistent baking, I said screw it, why not try it. So it turns out my ancient oven can’t do it in 7 minutes, she needs about 8-12 to bake them depending on the cookies, but after that time period, I took them out, then did indeed leave them on the baking sheet for 7 minutes, then moved them to the cooling rack and it amazed me how much they developed over that 7+ minutes out of the oven! Sometimes just for fun I’ll still peek at the bottom of the cookie when it comes right out of the oven then again when I move it to the rack 7 minutes later just to see how much it browns. (And then I’ll peek again after they’re cool on the rack; they’re often a little more brown then too!) So to sum up why we do this: because the cookies continue to bake on the baking sheet, it makes sense to remove them from the oven a little earlier than you normally would to allow them to fully bake but stay nice and soft as they develop on the baking sheet and cooling rack! (OH! And they harden on the cooling rack. If your cookies are soft and keep breaking when they’re warm, no worries, that’s what they’re supposed to do. Pop them on the cooling rack and don’t touch them for an hour.) And this first point leads me to my second thing I wish I’d known when I first started baking sugar cookies, which is…
How to tell if cookies are done - and what done really looks like
So the original recipe I followed from The Cake Girls recommended I keep the cookies in the oven until I start to see light brown on the edges. That’s a solid rule of thumb; I’m not knocking it. And people loved those cookies. However, often when I did that, they would continue to bake further outside of the oven and they’d get even harder after cooling, so they’d be a little on the crispier side. Which is okay, but not what I wanted. SO. In preparation for the SAME Holiday Shopping Expo event, I wanted people to sample chocolate cookies. So I baked chocolate cookies and this recipe gave me the next nugget I wish I’d known earlier: with chocolate cookies you can’t see the bottom of the cookies and how brown they’re getting, so instead of using that technique, you should push the cookie on the baking sheet while it’s still in the oven. If it moves easily from its spot, it’s baked! If it clings to the parchment paper in its spot, it’s likely underbaked and not ready. So I started instituting this with my plain sugar cookies, and it’s been the BEST technique! So 70% of the time, my cookies do not even look slightly brown on the bottom when I pull them out of the oven. 30% of the time, you can start to see a little light brown, which is fine! But even when they do brown slightly on the sides, I keep em. People do like them, and they are still WAY less brown than they used to be with my old technique. :) And lastly…
How to get the cookies to have flat tops
Such a simple task. Makes decorating SO MUCH EASIER. How do I get the cookies to be flat on top, instead of lopsided and bubbly? (I will say I recently saw a post that broached the “bubbly” topic but quite frankly since I’ve found my solution to flat tops I don’t feel the need to worry about the amount of air in my dough that may or may not be causing the bubbles because the only issue it causes is aesthetics!) Well. This technique is CRAZY easy and I found it about a year or so into my journey: A FONDANT PRESS. I know, right? What?! Yeah. So the fondant press is shaped like a little iron made of plastic and you straight up take the cookies out of the oven, and within 3 seconds, grab your fondant press and keep your oven mitt on, hold the pan down, and iron over the tops of your cookies! Like WHAT?! It’s that simple. It’s amazing. It’s the best cheat I’ve learned yet!
And friends, I hope those 3 tidbits help you on your cookie journey!
Until next time,