Cookies frustrate me. No no- not when I’m eating them, but when I’m baking them. With a fickle 25 year old oven that can’t quite decide what temperature it wants to stay at, I feel like I can never get it right. I can’t blame my oven though, because I’ll admit, I suck at baking cookies from scratch.
Unlike cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and just about any other cake, the methodology behind the types of inputs and the process behind integrating those inputs is more complicated when it comes to a cookie. Pray tell, you ask? I was going to anyway.
Input: Cold butter v. soft butter
Butter begins to melt at exactly 68 degrees F. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a lot of leeway for me, considering my house temperature in the summer is over 75 degrees. Even worse, once butter melts, “it’s gone.” You can rechill it all you want, but the emulsion within the butter will break down. So clearly, you can screw up your input before you even input the butter.
So when do you use cold butter?
Not in cookies, that’s for sure (well I’m sure there are some one-off recipes that do but…). Cold butter holds air well. That’s why when you make puff pastry, you want the butter to be icy cold. Chunks of butter in between layers of a croissant will melt, releasing steam, causing the dough to rise (and ultimately creating those flaky layers!). So cold butter works as a leavening. When you see those domed cookies and you’re wondering, ‘My, how did those cookies get so thick and dense?!” Well, that’s the butter.
Most cookies call for creaming the butter and sugar. As you cream the two, you incorporate air. The point isn’t to actually soften the butter, it’s to beat air into it. Sugar adds more pockets of air. Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Why not just use leavener like baking soda or powder?” Well, they can’t create air pockets.
When do you use melted butter?
This is up in the air. Melted butter dissolves sugar much better and improves the consistency of the dough. At the same time, it makes for a very runny cookie, meaning it’ll spread out in the oven. So if you like those thin, spread out cookies, melting the butter may be your way to go.
For a much more comprehensive article from a much more renowned source, check out the NYTimes piece on butter!
Beyond the mixing stage, which I won’t even get into, how and when you place your cookies onto the cookie sheets makes a huge difference. Some secret recipes call for an overnight chilling over the dough, but more importantly is baking on the same cookie sheet. If you’re too impatient to wait for the cookie sheet to cool before putting on your second batch, the dough will start spreading and that dense cookie you were salivating for will just remain a dream.
Now do you see why cookies frustrate me? And this is just the butter we’re talking about (although I personally believe that butter is the most important component in a cookie). So the remedy?
Now normally I wouldn’t subject my friends to boxed anything, but Kodiak Cakes left me a nice little package of boxed mixes some while back. And when you’re bad at baking cookies from scratch… good quality box mix starts to look appealing.
So Suki and I, en-route to Amanda’s graduation party, baked up a storm with these Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. All you need is a stick of unsalted butter and an egg. No sugar, no flour, no other hassles. Of course, you still need to cream the butter, but you dramatically cut down on the time and best of all, it’s nearly always guaranteed to come out delicious!
Isn’t that oven awesome? So we followed the cardinal rule of letting the cookie sheets cool (by rinsing them in cold water) and the cookies came out perfectly! What do I love about these Kodiak cookies?
- How ridiculously soft and chewy they are. They break apart delicately in your fingers but the outer edges have that slight crisp to them. Ah, heaven!
- The dark chocolate chips. These aren’t your generic chocolate chips. They tasted so… real!
- The taste. It’s like an explosion of chocolate and oatmeal, but not overbearing enough for it to be a bad thing.
- The size. They don’t spread that far out so you can just set them 2 inches apart and you’d be fine. Once in the oven, these cookies rise, like a dome but full of dense chewiness. It’s that creamed butter I tell ya!
- The time. Literally 5 minutes to throw together and under 10 to bake!
Suki and I had to resist eating all of them ourselves. That’s her up there. She’s quite the awesome one. Anyway, we kept on making excuses like, “Oh, that cookie looks like it’s about to break apart. We can’t bring that! Yeah, let’s just eat it!”
While I would absolutely love to buy these mixes, they’re not carried in my local grocer so I’d have to order them online and unfortunately, they don’t come cheap. But if you’re looking for a quick and healthier solution to baking cookies, this might be a brand for you to consider!