Have you ever baked a batch of cookies that came out burnt, flat, or too hard? Did you know that with some easy recipe tweaks, you can control if your homemade cookies come out soft & chewy, thin & crispy, or puffy & cakey?
We’ll teach you things like: how to make cookie dough; the right way to handle butter; how to get different texture cookies; the best cookie sheets; why peanut butter cookies have fork marks; and so much more!
As a matter of fact, you can find everything you need to know about baking the perfect cookies… right here in this guide!
Feel free to skip to a specific section of the guide via the links in the table of contents below.
Table of Contents
- How to Make Cookie Dough
- How to Store Cookie Dough
- How to Get Different Texture Cookies
- Cookie Sheets
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Tips
- Substitutes for Brown Sugar
- Sugar Cookie Tips
- Peanut Butter Cookie Tips
- Cake Mix Cookies
- Can You Freeze Baked Cookies?
Making a successful batch of cookie dough is the first step to making a delicious cookie. Whether your goal is to bake a batch of soft, chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, or some holiday inspired Sugar Cookies, the dough is super important.
Most cookie recipes will either call for butter or shortening. Shortening is 100% fat and is more stable than butter because it’s made from hydrogenated oil. Butter is an emulsion of 80-85% fat and 15-20% water. Since butter is a natural product, it needs to be handled properly to ensure the cookies come out right.
You can substitute butter for shortening, or visa-versa, but keep in mind that the end-result will be different. We discuss how to make a substitution later in this guide.
First, let’s discuss how to properly use butter in cookie dough.
Butter is a key ingredient in so many baked goods – and for good reason! It adds essential body, texture, and a rich flavor profile…especially when used in soft, chewy cookies.
Here’s how to properly use butter in cookie dough:
Only use softened butter, but not melted. The ideal temperature is 65°F. At this temperature, the butter should be cool to the touch, but be spreadable. If the butter is too cold, it will be too hard and you won’t be able to cream it properly.
The best way to soften butter is by cutting it into cubes and letting it sit at room temperature. If you need to soften butter quickly, you can place your cubed butter near the oven as it preheats, but keep a close eye on it because you don’t want to melt it! Never microwave your butter to soften it. Microwaving it will heat it unevenly and you’ll just end up with partially melted butter.
Cream the butter and sugar first. When making cookie dough, your first step should be to cream your softened butter and sugar together first. You see, creaming butter introduces air into its structure and the addition of sugar adds even more air. This is the only opportunity your cookies have to develop and keep their shape during baking. Without these tiny air pockets, your cookies will come out flat.
Creaming butter is easy. Just add your softened butter and sugar to a stand mixer and beat it on medium speed. Don’t own a stand mixer? No problem – you can also cream butter with a hand mixer on medium speed.
Unsalted vs. Salted Butter
It’s okay to use salted butter in cookie dough, but you’ll need to leave out the salt if it’s called for in the recipe. It’s better to use unsalted butter, because you can actually control how much salt you wan’t in the recipe.
Shortening is another popular fat used in cookie recipes. Some of the key differences of a cookie made with shortening instead of butter is the texture and taste.
Shortening will result in cookies that are more soft and chewy vs. ones made with butter. In addition, your cookies won’t spread as much when using shortening, which makes it a good choice for decorative Sugar Cookies.
In terms of taste, butter wins hands down because of the rich flavor it imparts in just about every baked good it’s used in. Shortening has no flavor at all!
Shortening is easy to work with. Since it maintains the same consistency over a wide range of temperatures, you don’t need to worry about it being too hard or melted when mixing it. Simply add it to the mixer first, then sugar. There’s no need to cream it.
Substituting Butter for Shortening
Butter can be substituted for shortening and visa-versa. To substitute one for the other, simply substitute it one-for-one:
- Substitute 1 cup butter for 1 cup shortening;
- Substitute 1/2 cup butter for 1/2 cup shortening; etc…
If your recipe calls for salted butter, but you wan’t to use shortening instead, you’ll need to add salt. If this is the case, add 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every cup – 1/8 teaspoon for 1/2 cup, dash of salt for 1/4 cup, etc…
A typical batch of cookie dough is made with the following ingredients:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
The order and method of mixing together the ingredients to make cookie dough is super important. Here are the steps:
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl and set it aside.
- Setup a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Cream butter and sugar together on medium speed until it’s creamy in appearance – about 3 minutes.
- Slow down the mixing speed to low.
- Add the eggs;
- Next, add salt and vanilla extract.
- Slowly add your remaining dry ingredients like flour, baking soda, and baking powder;
- IMPORTANT: Do not add ingredients like chocolate chips or nuts to the stand mixer. It will break them up. Once your cookie dough is fully mixed, remove the mixing bowl from the mixer.
- Add your chocolate chips or other fillings to the dough and fold them in using a wooden spoon. This will ensure your filling doesn’t get broken apart.
- IMPORTANT: Chill your finished cookie dough in the refrigerator before cooking it. Warm or room temperature dough will result in flat, spread out cookies. You can also freeze it to use later.
Cookie Dough Storage
Cookie dough can be made ahead of time and baked at a later date. In fact, baking chilled or frozen cookie dough is the best way to ensure your cookies have the perfect texture and don’t spread out too thin.
You can easily make a large batch of cookie dough and divide it into different batches for fresh cookies throughout the week or month!
There are two basic ways to store cookie dough – short-term storage in the refrigerator, or long-term storage in the freezer. Refer to the sections below for how to do it.
Cookie dough can be stored in the refrigerator in advance of baking it. Simply form the dough into a big ball or roll, and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap.
Store it in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
To freeze cookie dough, you need to divide it into single cookie portions first. That way, you’ll just need to place each little ball of frozen dough on a cookie sheet and start baking.
- Start by scooping tablespoon sized portions of dough, and roll them into balls with your hands.
- Place the dough balls onto a cookie sheet.
- Put the sheet of cookie dough balls into the freezer for about 2 hours or until they’re firm and not sticky. This is important because you’ll be storing them in a freezer bag and you don’t want them to stick together.
- Place the raw cookie dough balls into a freezer bag, seal it and store it in the freezer up to 6 months.
How to Control Texture
The best thing about making your own cookies is that you can control how their final texture will be. Do you like your chocolate chip cookies on the cakey side, soft and chewy, or thin and crispy? The good news is that there are a few different ways to achieve these different textures.
Oven Baking Temperature
Did you know cookies can be baked at a wide range of temperatures? That’s right you can successfully bake them as low as 325°F to as high as 400°F.
With each temperature range, you can actually yield different textures despite your ingredient ratios staying the same! Here’s what to expect:
|Temperature||Time (minutes)||Cookie Texture|
|325°F||12 - 14||Thin and Crispy|
|350°F||10 - 12||Evenly Baked, Cakey and Chewy|
|375°F||10||Crispy Edges with a Soft Chewy Inside|
|400°F||8-10 (must be closely monitored!)||Puffy with a Crisp Outer Shell|
Keep in mind, ovens vary in actual temperature so ALWAYS keep an eye on your cookies as they’re baking. This is especially important at those last few minutes. It’s such a bummer to pull a beautiful batch of cookies from the oven with burnt bottoms!
Alter the Butter
Altering the amount of butter in a recipe will yield different texture cookies.
If you desire cakey cookies, use 1/4 stick less butter than the recipe calls for.
If you desire thinner crispier cookies, use between 1/4 to 1/2 stick more butter than the recipe calls for.
Furthermore, the way you handle the butter can also change the texture of your cookies.
For thin/flat cookies with crispy edges, try melted butter in your recipe instead of softened and creamed butter. This will reduce aeration of the dough and result in a thinner cookie.
Did you know that using corn syrup in your recipe will also produce a more chewy cookie? Yes, it’s true! Here’s how to do it…
When making chocolate chip cookies with corn syrup, you’re not going to use white sugar. That’s because light corn syrup will take the place of white sugar in the recipe.
Simply substitute 3/4 cup of white sugar for 1/2 cup light corn syrup. Since corn syrup is sweeter than regular sugar, you use 33% less of it. In addition, you’ll use no baking powder. Instead, you’ll use only baking soda because the recipe uses brown sugar only.
Check out this recipe of Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies that uses corn syrup to make a moist, chewy cookie!
The cookie sheet is an important baking supply that can easily be taken for granted. The truth is, they’re absolutely necessary for properly baking a quality batch of delicious cookies.
In fact, your cookie sheet can be what stands between you enjoying superbly baked cookies with rich golden bottoms, or cookies with bottoms like charcoal and semi-raw tops!
Don’t let the wrong choice in cookie sheet destroy your next batch of cookies. Here are some important facts you need to know:
You’ve probably noticed that cookie sheets exist in different sizes. These sizes are standardized and referred to as full, two-thirds (or three-quarter), half, and quarter sheets.
The typical dimensions of cookie sheets are as follows:
|Sheet Size||Dimensions (inches)|
|Full||26" X 18"|
|Two Thirds||21" x 15"|
|Half||18" X 13"|
|Quarter||9" X 13"|
Most home bakers should stick with the half or quarter sheets. They’re the perfect size for most ovens, and are easy to find in stores.
Types of Cookie Sheets
The term “cookie sheet” is often used interchangeably with “baking sheet”. Therefore, for the purpose of this guide, we’ll use both terms.
There are a few basic categories of cookie sheets – rimmed, unrimmed, uncoated, and non-stick.
Rimmed sheets are likely the most familiar to home bakers. This is your traditional baking sheet with a raised rim around the entire perimeter.
Unrimmed sheets are traditional “cookie sheets” that are popular among professional bakers. Unlike rimmed sheets, these sheets have no sides (or maybe just tiny lips for grabbing).
The benefit of unrimmed sheets vs. rimmed sheets are the increased air circulation they allow around the cookies during baking. However, to the majority of home bakers, a noticeable difference in your results will be slight to non-existent.
Uncoated vs. non-stick cookie sheets are your choice as the baker. However, it’s important know the differences between the two types when deciding what to use.
Non-stick sheets are coated with a type of coating that helps prevent food from sticking to them. Typically, this is a fluoropolymer like PTFE, also known as Teflon. Non-stick coatings make the cookie sheet slippery and will actually cause your cookie to spread out more during baking. As a result, you will yield a slightly thinner cookie with crispy edges.
Another important thing to note about non-stick coated sheets, is that baking times may be affected. You see, a lot (but not all) of non-stick coatings are dark, which in-turn will cause your cookies to cook faster. Therefore, you need to keep a close eye on them during the last few minutes of baking… because they may be done sooner!
Uncoated sheets are usually made of natural aluminum. These are your workhorse baking sheets because you can use and abuse them for years! Unlike non-stick sheets, there’s no risk of scratching them with metal spatulas.
Most cookie recipe baking temperatures and times are based on using an uncoated sheet, so you normally don’t have to alter your temps or times when using an uncoated sheet.
Use of parchment paper with an uncoated baking sheet is a good idea to prevent unexpected sticking!
We did some research to find the best rated cookie sheets available for home bakers. Between our own personal experience and findings from scouring the internet for ratings, these baking sheets came out on top:
The best rimmed uncoated baking sheet is the Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet (13 inch x 18 inch); which is for sale on Amazon.com. This baking sheet has thousands of happy users and is made by a brand we love to use ourselves!
The best rimmed non-stick baking sheet is the Wilton Perfect Results Premium Non-Stick Baking Sheet. This can be found in a 2-piece set on Amazon.com. Fans of this baking sheet love how they’re easy to clean due to their non-stick coating.
The best unrimmed cookie sheet is the Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Large Classic Cookie Sheet. This sheet is loved by serious bakers because of its ability to allow you to slide cookies (and other baked goods) right off its surface by a simple tilt.
It also has a great reputation for helping to prevent your cookies from burning on the bottoms due to it’s bright aluminum color. You can find this sheet on Amazon.com.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Tips
The Chocolate chip cookie is one of the most popular and beloved cookies by far – and for good reason! It’s sweet, chewy texture loaded with warm semi-sweet chocolate bits is a bite of Heaven!
The chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield and Sue Brides in 1938. She chopped up a Nestlé Semi-sweet chocolate bar and added it to a cookie. It was first served at the Toll House Inn, located in Whitman, Massachusetts. They were first called “Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookies” and published in the cookbook “Toll House Tried and True Recipes”.
Making The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
To get the best taste in a chocolate chip cookie, you must use real butter! The rich depth of flavor that butter imparts in a cookie can’t be matched.
Use Brown Sugar
Always choose a Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe that uses both white and light brown sugar. White sugar and brown sugar both contribute to cookies differently. In the case of chocolate chip cookies, the addition of brown sugar results in a chewier cookie with richer flavor.
Brown sugar contains molasses, which adds an extra degree of flavor complexity. In addition, it reacts with baking soda because it’s acidic and baking soda is alkaline. This makes your cookies more tender because it makes gluten form faster and speeds egg coagulation.
When you cream butter with sugar, the addition of brown sugar reduces some of the air pockets. This in turn will keep your cookies from rising too much and becoming cakey. If you used only white sugar, you would end up with a fluffier, less tender cookie.
You can read more about the science of sugar in cookies in this article by Serious Eats.
Use Quality Vanilla Extract and Chocolate Chips
Be sure to use real vanilla extract in your recipe. Imitation vanilla extract lacks the true essence of vanilla, and your cookies will not taste as good.
Use high quality semi-sweet chocolate chunks or morsels in your recipe. Milk chocolate may result in a cookie that’s too sweet. Plus, the flavor of milk chocolate doesn’t stand out as much. Semi-sweet chocolate imparts that rich chocolate flavor into your cookies that we are all familiar with.
Substitutes for Brown Sugar
If you don’t have any brown sugar on-hand, but need to make chocolate chip cookies, this is what you can do instead.
Since brown sugar is white sugar that contains molasses, you can simply mix the two together to make the equivalent to brown sugar. To make light brown sugar, combine a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 1 tablespoon molasses by mixing.
If you don’t have molasses, you could also use pure maple syrup to make a brown sugar substitute. Just combine a ratio of 1 cup white sugar to 1 tablespoon maple syrup by mixing. Be sure to use real maple syrup though, because the cheap stuff is just flavored corn syrup.
Add Fun Ingredients
Chocolate Chip Cookies don’t have to be restricted to using only chocolate chips. In fact, adding some M&Ms or stuffing your cookies with candy can launch their “delish” factor to the next level!
Using M&Ms that are colored to a specific theme or holiday is a great way to add sweetness to a party.
Take these Chewy Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies for example. Using red and green M&Ms make them perfect for a Christmas party. Likewise, you could use red, white, and blue M&Ms for Independence day; red and white for Valentines Day, etc…
Stuff With Candy
Stuffing chocolate chip cookies with gooey candy like caramel is the ultimate way to surprise your family or friends! That’s exactly what we did for these Caramel Stuffed Candy Corn Cookies! You can easily substitute the candy corn for M&Ms, chocolate chips, or something else.
People love stuffed foods, so why not stuff a cookie!
Sugar cookies are sweet, blond and often found with fun shapes and colorful decorations. If you’re looking for a cookie to decorate for a holiday party or other event, the sugar cookie is your best bet.
Sugar cookies are typically made from the following ingredients, but can vary based on the recipe and desired texture as you’ll read further down:
- All Purpose Flour
- White Sugar
- Baking Powder
How to Cut Out Perfect Sugar Cookies
Have you ever spent time rolling out sugar cookie dough to the perfect thickness, cutting out nice little shapes, only to have each cookie spread into each other while baking? This can be super frustrating, and could ruin the whole batch!
Dawn Lopez from Cutefetti gave an awesome tip for adding all-purpose flour to store bought dough in her Mickey Mouse Halloween Cookies. Check out her site for lots of decorated sugar cookie ideas that implement this helpful tip.
The basic process for rolling out and cutting sugar cookies is as follows:
- Add plenty of flour on your surface and rolling pin, then roll the dough into a sheet about 1/4 inch thick.
- Place the whole sheet of dough on a non-stick surface and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or the freezer for about 10 minutes.
- Once the dough is sufficiently chilled, proceed by using a cookie cutter to cut out your shapes.
- After cutting out your shapes, place them on a cookie sheet spaced about 2 inches apart.
- Bake according to your recipe.
The addition of flour and chilling the dough will greatly reduce the risk of your cookies excessively spreading. They will rise during baking, but will deflate back down after they’re removed from the oven.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut butter cookies are some of the most satisfying cookies to indulge in. Since they’re main ingredient is peanut butter, they yield a naturally soft and chewy cookie! As a result, they almost melt in your mouth!
Did you know, peanut butter cookies were invented in Canada? That’s right, they gained popularity in the United States around 1910. Needless to say, they’ve been around for a long time!
Are you wondering how to make the best peanut butter cookies? Here are some tips:
There are very few baked good recipes with only 3 ingredients that actually taste amazing! Peanut butter cookies and our 3 Ingredient Oatmeal Banana Muffins are the exception. If you like a soft and chewy peanut butter cookie, you need to give this recipe a try.
Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies are so easy and fast to make. You can literally whip up a batch during a late night craving and be eating them 20 minutes later! As an added bonus, these cookies are naturally gluten free (providing you use gluten free peanut butter), so they can be enjoyed by people avoiding gluten.
Why do peanut butter cookies have fork marks?
One of the important factors about peanut butter cookies is the fact that they won’t spread on their own. Therefore, you must press them down into a cookie shape before baking.
This is typically done with a fork. Just press them down to your desired thickness with the fork facing one direction, then turn the fork 90 degrees and press them again to get a cross-hatch pattern.
Natural vs. Regular Peanut Butter
Natural peanut butter can be used to make delicious peanut butter cookies. In general, the taste shouldn’t vary. However, cookies made with natural peanut butter versus regular peanut butter will have slightly different textures.
Natural peanut butter has more oil content than regular peanut butter, so your cookies will spread out more and have a crispier texture. As a result, the final cookie might be more “greasy” to the touch.
In addition, natural peanut butter is usually not salted. Therefore, you’ll have to add a dash (or so) of salt to your recipe to compensate.
These Flourless White Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies use natural peanut butter in the recipe, and the cookies bake up amazingly.
Did you know that cookies can even be made with cake mix? It’s true, and they’re so delicious! Cake mix cookies are soft and fluffy but still have a satisfyingly chewy texture.
Benefits of Using Cake Mix
Why make cookies out of cake mix? If you want to bake up a quick and easy batch of cookies with unique flavor and texture, these cookies are perfect. In fact, cake mix cookies require only a few common ingredients like:
- 1 box of cake mix
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
As a matter of fact, they only take about 20 minutes to make from start to finish!
These Easy Spice Cake Mix Cookies are a great recipe to try if you’ve never made cookies from cake mix before. The flavor of warm spices is such a great compliment to the soft, fluffy texture.
You can also make tasty combinations of flavors using cake mix to make cookies. For example, these cookies use Devil’s Food cake mix and peppermint extract to make a chocolate peppermint cookie!
Can You Freeze Baked Cookies?
Certain types of cookies that have been freshly baked, can be stored in the freezer. However, delicate cookies like these Pistachio Meltaway Cookies, or ones that are powdered with sugar like Swedish Heirloom Cookies will not freeze well, so don’t bother.
Drop cookies like chocolate chip, sugar, and variations of those that have a thick dough, can be stored frozen. Here’s how to do it:
- Allow the cookies to cool completely;
- Place them on a single layer baking sheet, or something similar;
- Place them in the freezer in single layers until they’re completely frozen (about 1 hour);
- Transfer them to an airtight container, and separate the layers with waxed or parchment paper;
- Baked cookies can be stored for up to 6 months in the freezer.
Other Recipes You’ll Love
We only covered some of the more popular cookies in this guide. However, there are so many other delicious variations of cookies that are worth trying. Here are some of our favorites:
Brownie cookies are made with brownie mix! If you like brownies and cookies, these are a match made in Heaven!
Shortbread cookies are buttery, soft and delicious! Their simple texture is perfect for topping with icing and enjoying with milk or coffee.
These Shortbread Cookies use lemon to add lively flavor to this classic cookie. If you’re a fan of lemon desserts, you’ll love this recipe!
There are an infinite amount of ways to make cookies. Whether you have special dietary requirements, are a picky eater, or just crave something very specific, there’s a variation for you.
I hope you learned some helpful tips from this guide to take your cookie game to the next level.
If you did, please share this guide with your friends and family!
Craving more sweet treats? Check out our Desserts page for more sweet inspirations and ideas.