First foray into baking cookies
March 23, 2011 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to bake cookies for the first time. What should i make that's both delicious and that epitomizes the joys of baking?

Somehow I've lived my life without baking cookies. My friends have pointed out what an incomplete existence this is, so I've decided to get myself in the kitchen and give it a shot.

I'm not picky or averse to trying something adventurous, but try to keep it simple - I'm new to baking. Bring on your best recipes!
posted by remixnine to Food & Drink (48 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, the most divine thing to bake, for me, is chocolate chip cookies using the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag.
posted by xingcat at 11:56 AM on March 23, 2011 [19 favorites]

Chocolate chip cookies. The best thing about these is that you can buy a bag of chocolate chips from the grocery store, and there will be a simple recipe on it for chocolate chip cookies. You can't go wrong with it, the smells are great and the eating is awesome.
posted by babbageboole at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ditto to the Nestle recipe, but I also love the joy of baking recipe here.
posted by eggyolk at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2011

It's really hard to mess up the classic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. I speak as a terrible cook- I can mess up the simplest recipes, so if I can do this one well that means it is fool proof.
posted by pickypicky at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

At the risk of over-complicating things, I suggest getting a roll of parchment paper and using that as it makes the cookies so much easier to get off the pan. NOT WAX PAPER. Parchment paper.

Other than that, bake cookies.
posted by GuyZero at 11:58 AM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

For if you aren't a fan of Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin is another classic that is nigh impossible to mess up!
posted by eggyolk at 11:59 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agree with chocolate chip cookies, and agree with using the recipe on the back of the (nestle toll house, right?) bag.

One suggestion, though: since you've really never baked cookies before, maybe start with oatmeal chocolate chip. They're a little more forgiving. Aaaaalso delicious.

No, I lied, two suggestions: baking soda. Soda. Yes.
posted by phunniemee at 11:59 AM on March 23, 2011

If you're not a regular chocolate chip cookie fan, how about oatmeal white chocolate (oatmeal butterscotch are also good)? These are amazing.
posted by rebekah at 11:59 AM on March 23, 2011

My favorite Nutella cookie that I bake every Christmas. (I refrain from baking it the rest of the year because it is too sinfully loaded)
posted by francesca too at 12:01 PM on March 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Seriously, and I'm not trying to be a smart ass here or anything, bake the ones that you know will get eaten. Your favorite, the favorite of your social group, whatever. But the good part about baking, or any making of food for that matter, is having people enjoy what you've done.
posted by theichibun at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everything Cookies!
posted by KogeLiz at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2011

Go to Keep reading down the blog until you hit a recipe that sounds too good to not eat RIGHT NOW. Then, follow her directions and bake it.

I swear, everything that woman does is delicious, domestic magic.
posted by Citrus at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

Buy some ice cream while you're at the store, then take two of those freshly baked (slightly cooled) cookies and make a sandwich. So amazingly good.
posted by bizzyb at 12:04 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two tips:
1) eat some cookie dough before you bake it. Whatever, salmonella.
2) Undercook the cookies slightly. Let them cool and they'll harden up a little and be chewy and delicious (unless you like crispy chocolate chip cookies, in which case just go buy some Chips Ahoy). And if you misjudge and undercook them by a lot, hey, more cookie dough!
posted by MadamM at 12:08 PM on March 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion for the Toll House cookie recipe, with the caveat: try using butter-flavored shortening instead of actual butter. Butter has a lower melting point so it can be a little more finicky. Also make sure you take the cookies out of the oven as soon as the edges are golden brown - they'll continue to cook as they cool.
posted by girih knot at 12:11 PM on March 23, 2011

The Toll House back-of-the-bag recipe is a cookie-baking rite of passage.

Oatmeal Scotchies, on the back of the butterscotch-chip bag, are also great.

Seven-layer bars
(or magic bars, depending on where you grew up) are VERY easy and super-delicious.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:18 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Cook's Illustrated chocolate chip cookies are the best cookies I've ever had, and I don't particularly like chocolate chip cookies.
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Spice cookies - they will smell divine while baking
Chocolate chip & hazelnut cookies - everyone's favourite, easy
Melting moments - very easy, melt in your mouth texture
posted by leigh1 at 12:22 PM on March 23, 2011

These are supposed to be "the best", but come on. They're homemade chocolate chip cookies. They're going to be awesome no matter what.

(And I picked CC cookies, because they're the epitome of cookies, in my opinion. Sure, others are good too, but nothing beats a warm chocolate chip cookie.)
posted by pyjammy at 12:23 PM on March 23, 2011

this is super exciting! one of the things that i love about baking is trying out modifications of the same type of cookie. chewy chocolate chip or thin and crispy. how about adding in a little ginger and molasses? using dark chocolate? making giant cookies on the cookie sheet? or even a massive one in a skillet?

once you get into the swing of it, you'll see that there are a few common types of cookies with lots of twists and variations in them (that you can make yourself or get from recipes).

have fun! oh, and the chocolate, ginger, molasses ones above are a favorite in my house.
posted by anya32 at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to say Shortbread Cookies, because I like them the best. It's a different sort of recipe than most cookies, from what I understand. Maybe you should do them second. But do not neglect them.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2011

Oh - if this is your first time baking cookies - don't overbake them. Watch them like a hawk - when they become golden at the edges, they are done! They will look raw in the centre, but they will crisp up once cooled completely.
posted by leigh1 at 12:37 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Replace some/half of the white sugar in a recipe with honey for cookies that stay moist longer. The premise, as explained to me, is that honey draws moisture in. Or something. That doesn't sounds as convincing as I remember it now that I'm actually writing it out, but it made for some damn good oatmeal/chocolate-chip/walnut cookies. mmmmm.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2011

More info on the Tollhouse recipe (possibly more than you need): more about flour measurement from Cooking for Engineers, and the Good Eats show explaining 3 different recipes including the chewy chocolate chip recipe referenced by anya32.
posted by and for no one at 12:44 PM on March 23, 2011

This thread may come in handy if you decide to expand your horizons after a successful first outing. I stand by the ginger cookies I posted in the first comment, which are very simple (just don't skip the step of refrigerating the dough) and uncommonly delicious.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:53 PM on March 23, 2011

Agreed on the tollhouse recipe, but its very excellent to add in M&M's instead of chocolate chips, or in addition to chocolate chips. I love the crunch! I usually use about two regular size packs you can get at the checkout lane.
posted by fuzzysoft at 12:53 PM on March 23, 2011

I didn't read to see if this has already been mentioned, but Martha Stewart's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies are absolutely divine. I've made them a few times and friends fight over them. They are also GIANT!
posted by lovableiago at 12:56 PM on March 23, 2011

OK, I know you have a lot of suggestions for chocolate chip cookies, but these are the best I've ever made. And the extensive comments on that page help with anticipating any problems you might have.
posted by zerbinetta at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2011

just came back to add a hippie.ish cookie that i love, too: carrot oatmeal
posted by anya32 at 1:17 PM on March 23, 2011

Btw, the key to the Cooks Illustrated cookies is browning the butter. It really makes a huge difference in the flavor.
posted by electroboy at 1:25 PM on March 23, 2011

-When first trying out a recipe, don't spend all of your dough on a single batch. It's far better to turn out several small trays in sequence so as to get a feel for the optimum cookie size and baking time.

-Invest in parchment paper.

-My three go-to recipes:

CI's Spiced Sugar Cookies. (You can replace the measures of individual spices with ~1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice. Do not, however, omit the black pepper, the keystone of this recipe.)

CI's Oatmeal cookies. (Try it with chopped dates instead of raisins.)

Smitten Kitchen's crisp salted oatmeal white chocolate cookies.
posted by Iridic at 2:08 PM on March 23, 2011

As another slight alteration to the Tollhouse cookie recipe, I enjoy doing half a bag of chocolate chips and half a bag of peanut butter chips. And no nuts, because who would ruin a perfectly good cookie with nasty nuts?

As others note, be careful not to overbake - getting that perfect, chewy center with slightly crispy edges is the true right of passage as far as cookie baking goes, regardless of what recipe you use.
posted by ashirys at 2:11 PM on March 23, 2011

Resting your dough overnight in the fridge (cover it tight with plastic) will produce better cookies the next day (the flour will have time to fully absorb the moisture that you put into the dough.

Another pro-tip is prior to baking, sprinkle a bit of course salt (like kosher) on the dough. The theory here is that a small amount of salt makes everything taste better, even sweet things and plus the course salt adds a tiny bit of a satisfying crunch.
posted by mmascolino at 2:16 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shortbread is really easy, delicious, and easy to customize (I've melted butter with Earl Grey tea, strained the tea out, and let the butter harden to make *amazing* cookies). I like this recipe. You can use salted butter and omit the salt.

If you want to make chocolate chip cookies, this recipe makes the best I've ever had. If you make the cookies a bit smaller than the recipe calls for, the edges are crunchy, the middle is chewy, and they are to die for.

I've also found that substituting cranberries for raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies is sublime.
posted by Logic Sheep at 2:37 PM on March 23, 2011

I made these cookies at the holidays and they were divine. Simple and easy and a nice change if you want something other than chocolate. The almond extract really makes them. White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

That's definitely something to keep in mind. Most cookie recipes call for vanilla. But I've found that substituting is fun and makes it something out of the ordinary.
posted by katyggls at 2:53 PM on March 23, 2011

I love oatmeal cookies, esp. w/ dried cranberries. Whatever cookies you make, highly skilled researchers confirm that resting the cookie dough, for an hour, or, even better, 24 hours, in the fridge, makes a big difference. In the interest of Science, make lots of cookies, to test this hypothesis. I volunteer to help taste-test.
posted by theora55 at 3:15 PM on March 23, 2011

O, and use Real Butter, Real Chocolate, etc. It matters.
posted by theora55 at 3:16 PM on March 23, 2011

You have lots of great suggestions here already, so I will say what NOT
to make unless you have an electric mixer: peanut butter cookies. In fact whatever recipe you pick, make sure that it is easy to stir up. Thick substances mixed with a wooden spoon can make the joy of baking evaporate really quickly.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:04 PM on March 23, 2011

Do NOT mix up chocolate chip cookies with a mixer though, at least after the chocolate chips are in!

Ditto on real butter and real chocolate, and taking them out of the oven when they are brown around the edges but still soft in the middle.

Oh, and I like to get all the ingredients out before I bake, just to make sure I have enough of everything, and that it is fresh. You don't want baking soda that is too old, or they won't rise right.
posted by misha at 5:26 PM on March 23, 2011

The most-requested cookies in my arsenal by far are these pillow cookies from bakerella. They're basically chocolate chip cookies with a brownie center. You can use any chocolate chip cookie recipe as long as you're using mini-chips.

The recipe isn't complicated, but it does require a little planning; I bake the brownies and make the cookie dough a day or two before since the cookie dough needs to firm up at least a few hours before baking. (But I have a teeny-tiny kitchen so it's just easier for me to break it up like that.) For the brownies I use the CI recipe but I cut the sugar in half. I can't seem to find a link to the brownie recipe online, sorry, but you can MeMail me if you want it.

I'll add another general tip to the mix: Use aluminum-free baking powder (like Rumford) to eliminate the tinny/metallic taste that baking powder can sometimes impart.

No matter what you end up baking, baking911 is an invaluable resource if you get stuck along the way.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:31 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not much of a cook, but I love to make snickerdoodles. Other than the cream of tartar, the ingredients are pretty standard (flour, sugar, butter/shortening, baking soda, vanilla extract, eggs). Use your hands to roll the dough into small balls, then roll the balls in a sugar & cinnamon mixture. As you bake them, they'll flatten and crack on top. Your house will smell wonderful. Eat while warm - dip in milk - yummmmm!
posted by kbar1 at 7:59 PM on March 23, 2011

I thought I was going to be the first to suggest snickerdoodles! They are one of the first things I made when I got into baking as a kid. Like kbar1 says, they make your house smell fantastic, and are pretty easy to make. Just be careful to not overbake them!
posted by apricot at 9:35 PM on March 23, 2011

If you are new to baking, note:

1. baking POWDER and baking SODA are different things - be sure you add the one your recipe calls for

2. condition of butter matters. If the recipe calls for softened butter, let it sit out for a half hour before starting. If you take steps to soften it, be sure they are very gentle steps - don't microwave if to the point where it's partly melted, because melted butter will act differently in the batter than softened butter would.

3. salt matters - first of all, notice whether your butter is salted or unsalted - if it's salted, decrease the salt the recipe calls for; second of all, don't skip the salt entirely, it's an important component of making things taste right

4. Mix ingredients in the order they tell you to. Sometimes it doesn't matter but sometimes it does. Ditto for pre-heating the oven.

5. A mixer is great, but if you don't have a mixer, you'll be fine. I don't usually use a mixer for cookie dough. It is a workout to mix thick doughs by hand, but the worst that will happen is your arm will be a little sore. Don't hand-mix with a wimpy spoon, though, because it may bend.

6. Parchment paper (not wax paper) is a good thing, as noted above. If you don't have any, you can still do fine with regular cookie sheets, it's just a bit messier.

7. The basic routine of making cookies is this:
-Preheat oven
-Prepare parchment paper to sit on cookie sheet; if you have two cookie sheets things will go faster
-Get ingredients and measuring spoons/cups out
-Follow recipe, mix up ingredients in order until you have a uniformly mixed dough
-Using a regular spoon, scoop out little balls of dough onto parchment paper on cookie sheets - you may then want to smoosh them a little flat, depends on recipe - you'll leave room on the sheet for the cookie to spread out, so you'll only have maybe 12 cookie balls per sheet
-You can either bake one or two sheets at a time. If baking two at a time the baking time may be a tiny bit extended (eyeball them to decide). If you have two sheets and don't want to do two at a time, you can alternate - fill one sheet, put in oven, fill other sheet, then it's ready to go in when the first sheet comes out; repeat
-Set up cookie cooling area - ideally, a cross-hatched wire cooling rack - when the cookies are done, use an oven mitt and grab the pan and shuffle the cookies gently onto the cooling rack, either by shuffling the parchment paper or by using a spatula/flipper. Then prepare the pan for the next batch.
-You'll probably do several batches of cookies before you use up all the dough.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:40 PM on March 23, 2011

Another endorsement for the Cooks Illustrated chocolate chip cookies. They're incredible. I made them the other day subbing crushed pretzels for nuts in a lazy homage to Momofuku's compost cookies, and they went in seconds.

There's only one way to mess up your basic chocolate chip/creamed butter cookie. Okay, two. The first is, as many other posters have said, to overbake them. I've found that if they're firm(ish) around the edges and very soft on top, and if I have doubts about taking them out, that's the right time to take them out. The second is to make them too small. If you really want to maximise the chewiness, you need to go big, which means baking a few at a time per sheet. They only take about 10-12 minutes in the oven, anyway. I rather enjoy the assembly line aspect of baking off cookies.

Have fun, and eat as much cookie dough as possible, it's good for the complexion.
posted by nerdfish at 1:20 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another nod for CI CC cookies, and thanks nerdfish for the pretzel addition. I'll be trying that my next batch.

Take a gander at these beautiful Delft Tile Cookies
posted by JABof72 at 10:23 AM on March 24, 2011

Our saying for the when-to-take-cookies-out factor is "done in the oven means burnt on the pan".

Those couple of minutes that the cookies spend sitting on the hot pan to cool enough to spatula off will indeed keep cooking them, like a roast that finishes outside the oven. (You can avoid this extra cooking time with the parchment paper, which allows you to slip the cookies off onto a rack immediately as LobsterMitten indicated, but I prefer the texture of a cookie that finishes outside the oven on a hot pan. Still use the parchment paper, just don't feel like you have to remove them to a rack immediately.)

>> The Toll House back-of-the-bag recipe is a cookie-baking rite of passage.

I agree with this heartily and recommend the yellow Toll House bag of semi-sweet chips, including recipe on the back, for your first foray. It's an American cultural experience... so many people remember using that recipe on their first time baking cookies as a kid with Mom or Gram. It's also easy to follow, doesn't require exotic ingredients, and is time-tested, so you can't go wrong.

My one pro-tip on the Tollhouse cookies: "brown sugar" means a granulated sugar with molasses added—not "raw" or demerara sugar which is indeed brown in color but not the required product. Brown sugar is sold right next to white granulated sugar in the baking aisle of most markets.

And you need to "pack" it, meaning use the back of a spoon to press the brown sugar firmly down into your measuring cup so that you are actually getting a full measurement. (You'll see as soon as you scoop it out how the sticky sugar stacks up and needs to be mushed down. If you filled a measuring cup of brown sugar without packing, you'd barely get 1/4 of the required amount.)

When I was a kid, I liked to just dump the molded cup of sugar out into the bowl, because it looked cool, but that made for lumps. Now I like to scrape the packed brown sugar back out of the cup into the bowl so it "fluffs" up again and doesn't lump.
posted by pineapple at 9:02 PM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It also helps to chill your cookie dough before baking, especially if you're using butter. Helps to keep them from spreading out too much.
posted by electroboy at 7:40 AM on March 25, 2011

late follow-up but relevant:

Cook's Illustrated: Knowing When Cookies and Brownies are Done
posted by pineapple at 3:36 PM on March 30, 2011

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