In England they're called biscuits. The Spanish name is galletas. In Italy, their names are specific to the recipe, such as biscotti or Amaretti. Though the names for them are unique, the love of cookies is universal.
Which makes it all the more surprising that the invention of the cookie was just a happy accident. Early bakers used very small amounts of batter to test the oven temperature before baking a cake. These little test cakes were called koekje, which means “little cake” in Dutch. The crispy little circles were so tasty, the bakers started making them on purpose and the cookie was born.
Types of Cookies
The seemingly endless variety of cookies can actually be divided into a few basic types: bar, drop, refrigerator, rolled and shaped cookies.
Cookie types are determined by the consistency of the dough and how it is formed into cookies. The texture of the finished cookies within any type can range from crisp to soft and chewy. All of the cookies have at least one element in common: the ability to tantalize your taste buds.
We've provided you with a quick rundown on the different kinds of cookies, as well as matched recipes to the side for examples of the different types of cookies.
Here are the basic definitions for each type, and some tips on how to bake them successfully.
Bar Cookies are a cross between cake and cookies. The dough is baked in a pan and then cut into pieces. We also call these slices.
Bar Cookie Tips
- Always use the pan size called for in the recipe. Using a different size will affect the cookies' texture; a smaller pan will result in a more cake-like texture and a larger pan will produce a drier texture.
- Before cutting, most bar cookies should cool in the pan on a wire rack until just warm.
- To make serving easy, remove a corner piece first, and then remove the rest.
- Line the baking pan with foil, shiny side up, allowing a 5cm overhang on sides, so cookie to be lifted out of pan for easier cutting.
Drop Cookies are probably the easiest of all cookies to make. Spoonfuls of dough are simply dropped onto a cookie sheet and baked.
Drop Cookie Tips
- Space the mounds of dough on cookie sheets as recipe directs, usually 5cm apart, to allow for spreading.
- Cookies that are uniform in size and shape will finish baking at the same time. To easily shape drop cookies into a uniform size, use an ice cream scoop with a release bar. Fill scoop with dough and press against side of bowl to level.
- Some drop cookie recipes instruct you to roll the dough into balls with your hands and then flatten them on the cookie sheet. Dust your hands with flour or powdered sugar before forming the dough into balls. If the cookie dough is chocolate, use cocoa for dusting.
- After rolling dough into balls, you can flatten them on the cookie sheet in several ways. To create a pretty patterned top, dip a table fork into granulated sugar; press criss-cross fashion onto each ball, flattening to 1cm thickness.
Refrigerator Cookies are made by first shaping the dough into a log. The log is refrigerated until firm, and then sliced onto a cookie sheet and baked.
Refrigerator Cookie Tips
- Shaping the dough into a log before chilling is easier if you first place the dough on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and use it to roll and shape the log.
- Before chilling, always wrap the rolls securely in plastic wrap or air may penetrate the dough and cause it to dry out.
- Use gentle pressure and a back-and-forth sawing motion with a sharp knife when slicing the rolls; this helps the cookies keep their nice round shape.
- Rotating the roll while slicing also keeps one side from flattening.
Rolled Cookies require rolling the dough out flat with a rolling pin. Then it is cut into decorative shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp, pointed knife.
Rolled Cookie Tips
- Chill the cookie dough before rolling for easier handling.
- Remove only enough dough from the refrigerator to work with at one time.
- Save any trimmings and re-roll them all at once to prevent the dough from becoming tough.
Also known as pressed cookies, shaped cookies are created by pressing dough through a pastry bag or cookie press to form fancy shapes. Shaped cookies can also be formed by hand-shaping the cookie dough into simple designs.
Shaped Cookie Tips
- If the recipe calls for a cookie press, do not try shaping the cookies by hand unless the recipe states that you may do so. The consistency of the dough was formulated to work with a cookie press.
- If your first efforts with a cookie press are unsuccessful, transfer the dough back to the cookie press and try again.
Cookie Baking Basics
Take the guesswork out of cookie baking by practicing good techniques.
- Read the entire recipe before you begin.
- Remove butter, margarine, and cream cheese from the refrigerator to soften, if necessary.
- Toast and chop nuts, peel and slice fruit, and melt chocolate before preparing the dough.
- Measure all the ingredients accurately. Assemble them as directed in the recipe.
- When making bar cookies or brownies, use the pan size specified in the recipe. Prepare the pans according to the recipe directions.
- Adjust oven racks and preheat the oven. Check oven temperature for accuracy with an oven thermometer.
- Follow recipe directions and baking times. Check doneness with the test given in the recipe.
- The best cookie sheets to use are those with no sides or up to two short sides. They allow the heat to circulate easily during baking and promote even browning.
- For even baking and browning, place only one cookie sheet at a time in the centre of the oven. If the cookies brown unevenly, rotate the cookie sheet from front to back halfway through the baking time.
- When baking more than one sheet of cookies at a time, rotate them from top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
- Use shortening or a non-stick cooking oil, not butter, to grease cookie sheets. Instead of greasing, you can line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat made from silicone and fibreglass. Lining the cookie sheets eliminates cleanup and bakes the cookies more evenly. With baking paper, cookies can cool right on the paper instead of on wire racks.
- Allow cookie sheets to cool between batches. The dough will spread if placed on a hot cookie sheet.
- Unbaked cookie dough can usually be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to six weeks. Rolls of dough should be sealed tightly in plastic wrap; other dough should be stored in airtight containers. Label dough with baking information for convenience.
Testing Cookies for Doneness
To avoid over baking cookies, check them at the minimum baking time. If more time is needed, watch carefully to make sure they don't burn. It is usually better to slightly under bake than to over bake cookies. The following are some general guidelines that describe doneness tests for many types of cookies.
- Fudgy Bar Cookies: The surface appears dull and a slight imprint remains after touching the surface with a fingertip.
- Cake-like Bar Cookies: A wooden toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean and dry.
- Drop Cookies: The surface is lightly browned and a slight imprint remains after touching the surface with a fingertip.
- Refrigerator Cookies: The edges are firm and the bottoms are lightly browned.
- Rolled Cookies: The edges are firm and the bottoms are lightly browned.
- Shaped Cookies: The edges are lightly browned.
Many cookies should be removed from cookie sheets immediately after baking and placed in a single layer on wire racks to cool. Fragile cookies may need to cool slightly on the cookie sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Bar cookies and brownies may be cooled and stored in the baking pan.
- To keep baked cookies at their best, it is important to store them properly. The cookies should keep if you follow good storing practices.
- Store soft and crisp cookies separately at room temperature to prevent changes in texture and flavour.
- Keep soft cookies in airtight containers. If they begin to dry out, add a piece of apple or bread to the container to help them retain moisture.
- If crisp cookies become soggy, heat undecorated cookies in a 150