Basics of baking – Cookies (Tips and tricks on how to bake cookies)

Have you ever baked cookies in your oven? Is it possible to get fresh, warm nice, crunchy, crispy cookie or those melt-in-mouth nankhatai at home?

Yes, you can bake any type of cookie you want to in your domestic oven. You just have to follow the recipe correctly, measure ingredients carefully and most importantly… you should know your oven settings. When I started baking cookies, I had so many doubts.. but slowly by many trials and errors I got my answers.

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Through this post I am trying to address few common issues people face before trying cookies. I hope this post will be helpful and you will be able to bake your cookies more easily.

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In my next post I will be posting a recipe for nankhatai (a type of cookie) which is very popular in India and easy to bake.

Common doubts and solutions regarding baking cookies:

1. What is the ideal room temperature for butter?
2. Why my cookies are soft, not crispy?
3. After 2-3 days cookies turn soft.
4. What is the right temperature to bake cookies? Will my cookies remain soft or will they burn?
5. Is there any substitute for egg in cookies?
6. Cookie dough is sticky and I am not able to roll cookies.
7. Can I keep half of the cookie dough in the fridge and bake them later?
8. How much kneading is required for preparing the cookie dough?
9. How to store cookies?

  1. Room temperature butter should not be warm. While touching it with our finger, it should be cold but there should be an indent in the block of butter. But at the same time, our finger should not sink into it.

Now, how long it takes butter to reach this temperature after taking it out from the fridge? There is no fixed time for this. It completely depends upon the temperature of your kitchen. During summer, butter will soon become soft whereas during winter it will take more time.

2.

(1) Whether cookies are soft, chewy, hard or crisp depends completely on your recipe.
(2)  Generally, after baking time is over, while touching you will feel that cookies are soft and they are not completely baked. Cookies are soft because they are very hot. So carefully shift these cookies on cooling rack and you will notice that as cookie cools down completely, they become firm.

Don’t leave cookies inside the oven to cool down. Remember that after switching off also oven remains hot for quite some time. This heat will harden cookies.

But sometimes after cooling also you find that cookies are soft. In that case just switch on oven at 150/155 degrees and bake cookies once again for 10-15 minutes. Sometimes, during monsoon, cookies turn soft. You can turn them crisp again by the same method of baking them on less temperature for short duration.

3. Mostly recipes where milk cream, curd or fresh fruits are added, cookies turn soft after 2-3 days.

4. Temperature is alway given in the recipe, but never follow it blindly. All ovens have different temperature settings.

For baking, people use microwave, OTG or their kitchen range ovens. All these have different settings. And at the same time all these are available in different sizes. So, if you are baking cookies in 31 litres capacity of microwave at 180 degrees, you can’t bake at the same temperature in a small size microwave. Heat will reach faster in small oven, and cookies will burn. So, there is no fixed rule for temperature and time. With your oven, you have to do some frequent baking to know what settings are best for you. Though, the most common way to figure out if the cookies are done is to see their edges. When edges start turning brown, cookies are done.

5. Personally, if following some egg based cookie recipe, I have never substituted egg with anything else. I simply omit it and if dough is dry, I use milk. But flaxseed powder is supposed to be the best substitute for egg. Replace one egg with 3 tbsp of water mixed with 1 tbsp of flaxseed powder.

6. By mistake, we add slightly more milk to bind the dough and now we have sticky and loose dough. Don’t panic, just wrap it in the cling film and keep it in the fridge till it is firm. Take it out and roll your cookies comfortably.

7. Yes, you can cling wrap cookie dough with 3-4 layers to avoid it drying and can bake next day.

8. Cookie dough doesn’t need extensive kneading, otherwise cookies will turn hard. Cookie dough is just an assembly of all ingredients.

9. Once cookies cool down completely, store them in an air tight container.

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Basics of baking – bread/buns/rolls (Wheat flour buns with pizza spices-2)

What do you do when you have to bake following your own recipe and Internet is not there? Apoorva desperately wanted buns with pizza spices in the evening and I was fine with that because recipe was in my blog itself, but due to continuous rain some problem happened and there was no Internet. Generally during rainy days we get affected by  electricity problem, but surprisingly power was there but no Internet! I don’t go out much, so I didn’t care to check that data pack had also expired. Now I was cursing myself for not maintaining a diary with at least all my own recipes.

So finally I decided to do some guesswork and wrote the quantity of ingredients to compare later with my previous recipe Tea time Wheat Flour Buns with pizza spices (1) and started kneading the dough  with prayer in my heart for continued power.

Buns came out really well and later when I checked both the recipes there were only a few variations. The biggest difference was the quantity of water. In previous recipe wheat flour had absorbed more liquid but this time it was less. I am using Ashirwad brand wheat flour from the beginning but it was clear that they don’t maintain same flour quality always.

That’s why I always keep on insisting in my bread posts that one should never follow blindly same quantity of liquid used for kneading the dough written in the recipe.

Around a year back I was following a bread recipe by a famous blogger and according to the instructions used whole quantity of water to knead the dough. Dough became so wet that it was impossible to handle, so I added extra flour. There was nothing wrong in the recipe, but the flour blogger had used had more liquid absorbing quality than mine. So, whether you are using wheat flour,  all purpose flour (maida) or chiroti rava, if required, reduce or increase the amount of liquid given in the recipe while kneading the dough.

The same logic applies for time limit of proofing the dough. Generally first proofing time is somewhere between 1 to 1+1/2 hours. If your kitchen is warm then dough could be double in size in 50 minutes to 1 hour. If you will let it proof for the next half an hour it will be over proofed, and over proofing dough does not give you a good loaf of bread.

For first proofing if I am keeping dough in switched off microwave (which I generally do) then proofing gets over in one hour, but if I keep the dough on kitchen counter it takes half an hour more.

If you are using dry active yeast, you have to proof it first before adding it with the flour. In proofing the yeast temperature of water is most important. It should be slightly more than lukewarm…if water is cold or too hot, it kills the yeast. Take a bigger glass to proof the yeast because it blooms nicely – so there should be enough space in the glass. Add yeast, sugar and lukewarm water in the glass and mix it with a spoon. Cover it and keep it aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes it will be frothy with bubbles on the top and it’s ready to be used. I have posted recipe also for White Sandwich Bread with active dry yeast in the blog.

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Don’t let yeast overproof – it will not give you good loaf of bread and you will get yeast smell in your bread/buns .

Instant yeast doesn’t need prior proofing – it can be added directly to the flour. Always keep yeast in the fridge. If you are keeping it in a box, always write down expiry date on the box. Just in case if you have forgotten to write it, then proof it to check its effectiveness.

Baking temperature is also very important. Every oven has different temperature settings. So, if I can bake buns at 190 degrees, probably your oven might do the same baking at 180 degrees. Here size of the oven also matters a lot. In small oven or microwave, heating rods are much nearer to the baking pan, so high temperature will not give you good result. Generally people complain about getting the top of bread/buns/cake hard. It happens as heat reaches very fast due to the small size of oven. So if recipe mentions to bake at 180 degree, you can reduce the temperature to 170 degrees. And still if required, use ‘tenting method’ I have mentioned in one of my bread post White Sandwich Bread

Once your bread is baked, place baking tin on wiring rack for 10-15 minutes so that tin cools down and it is easy to demold your loaf. If bread is sticking around the edges, clean the edges with sharp knife and take out bread and leave it on the wiring rack till it is completely cooled. Now give bread proper resting time of 3-4 hours by cling wrapping  and keeping it in the fridge. The  crumb of bread will settle down in the fridge and while slicing you will get neat bread slices. If you have invested in buying a bread tin, please invest in buying a bread cutting serrated knife also.

Don’t get disheartened if your first or second bake didn’t go as per your expectations…. you need to learn about the settings of your oven and it will happen with multiple bakes. Love your oven and it will give you desired results!!!

So, the whole purpose of writing this post was to highlight these basic points. I hope all these points will be beneficial to your baking.

Now let’s see what slight changes I did in my previous recipe with my guesswork .. so whichever recipe suits you… this one or the previous one….. try that, but one thing is for sure that your kids will be very happy with these buns because of the wonderful aroma of pizza spices in your house!!!!

Ingredients!

Sugar             1+1/2 tsp
Salt                 1 tsp
Yeast               3/4 tsp
Wheat flour   2+1/2 cups
Milk powder   2 tbsp
Milk                  1 cup +1/4 cup (reduce 1 tbsp) (it should be slightly more than lukewarm)
Pizza mix spices    3 tsp
Oil                            3 tsp
Butter                     2 tbsp
Instead of milk water can be used or you can use both by mixing them together.

Other than milk all ingredients should be at room temperature.

On sim heat warm 2 tbsp butter and add 1+1/2 tsp pizza mix spices and keep it aside.

Process :

Take a big vessel and place all dry ingredients in it.

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Keep adding milk slowly to collect all ingredients in the shape of dough.

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Knead for 10 minutes and keep adding 1 tbsp milk from time to time. Consistency of  dough should be very soft and kind of wet but not so wet that you can’t manage. Add oil and knead again for 5 minutes.

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Place this dough in a bigger size oil greased bowl so that there is enough space for the dough to become double in size. Apply some oil on top of the dough, cling wrap the bowl and keep it in a warm place for first proofing.

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When dough doubles in size, take it out on clean oil greased kitchen counter and punch it gently.

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Collect it together, prepare a log shape and cut your desired size and roll them in shape of buns. Keep buns in oil greased baking tray or roll parchment paper on baking tray and keep buns on it with some gap in between. Space between buns is needed as buns bloom during second proofing and baking in the oven.

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Apply pizza mix spices butter on all the buns and keep them for second proofing.

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Just 10 minutes before second proofing time is getting over, preheat oven at 190 degrees.

Second proofing gets over in 20-30 minutes. Don’t let buns overproof otherwise instead of rising in the oven they will sink.

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Give milkwash to all the buns and bake them at 185 degrees temperature for 20-30 minutes or till the top of the buns become brown and buns bounce back if pressed.

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Again apply remaining pizza spices mixed butter to give them shine and to keep them soft. Serve them hot or if you are planning to serve later then shift them to wiring rack. But I am sure before cooling, buns would start disappearing!!!!!

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