Beginners Guide to Baking Cookies

Spanish Polvorones Cookies

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Of all of the desserts you can bake, cookies can be the easiest and the most fun. They're often one of the first desserts we're taught to make as children, and they're always the first to disappear at a potluck or bake sale!

Despite how easy they are, there are still some basic tips and tricks you can learn for preparing, storing and baking cookies. If you're looking for some handy cookie guidelines, you've come to the right place!

Cookie Dough Basics

Most cookies are made from the same basic ingredients. The dry ingredients consist of all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. The sweetness comes from granulated and/or brown sugar. The fat is either softened butter, margarine, shortening, or occasionally oil. Eggs and vanilla extract are also used. For different flavored cookies, you can add any or all of these: chocolate, cocoa, nuts, raisins, oatmeal, spices or extracts.

Making the dough is pretty consistent with all cookies. Mix your dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. In a large bowl, cream your butter and sugars, then add your slightly beaten eggs and vanilla. To this mixture, slowly add the dry ingredients until well mixed. At this point, the extra flavorings are added to the dough. Then, the dough is prepared the way dictated by the cookie type.

Cookie Baking Hints

  • Use only the freshest ingredients whenever possible.
  • Large eggs are the standard eggs used.
  • Try not to use substitute fats. If the recipe calls for butter, use butter.
  • Make sure you measure your ingredients properly.
  • Keep the dough chilled in between baking batches of cookies.
  • Use parchment paper to prevent your cookie sheets from becoming greasy in between batches.
  • Last but not least, don't eat all the cookie dough! Save some for the baking process.

Storing Cookies

  • Soft cookies, such as bar cookies, are stored in a container with a tight lid. If they tend to dry out, add a slice of apple to the container.
  • Crisp cookies should be stored in a container with a loose lid, like a cookie jar. If there is a lot of humidity in your area, add a piece of bread to the container. The bread helps to absorb the moisture.

Different Cookie Types

  • Bar Cookies are prepared by putting the dough in a rectangular pan. They are baked and then cut into squares. Most drop cookie recipes can be converted to this type of cookie. These are the easiest cookies to make because several batches are baked at once
  • Drop Cookies are the easiest individual cookies to make. Balls of dough are dropped from a spoon onto a cookie sheet. It doesn't get any simpler than that!
  • Molded Cookies feature dough that is formed by the hands into shapes such as wreaths, crescents, canes, or balls. Balls are sometimes flattened with the bottom of a glass.
  • Pressed Cookies are made by pressing the dough through a cookie press or pastry tube to form different shapes. These are also known as "spritz cookies."
  • Refrigerator or Icebox Cookies are prepared by shaping the dough into long rolls and then refrigerating them. Once cold, the dough can be sliced and baked. This is a great prepare-ahead-of-time dough because it can also be frozen.
  • Rolled Cookies take a little more preparation. With a rolling pin, the chilled dough is rolled out. The dough is cut into shapes by using a knife, pastry wheel or cookie cutter.