Everyone loves cookies. Whether you grab them straight out of the oven, want them cool and chewy or prefer them crisp and buttery, there’s a cookie recipe for you.
How to make perfect cookies
A perfect American-style chewy, flat and gooey cookie has a crisp edge, chewiness all the way through and a soft centre. The results vary depending on how you bake them. The key is to always use top-quality ingredients as they'll result in a better cookie; it really is that simple.
1. Always use butter
Butter brings about that richer, fluffier, textured dough, which results in the melt-in-your mouth crumbliness we all know and love. Go for pure butter with nothing added and no sunflower or vegetable oils/emulsifiers; these reduce the meltingly good result. These are usually the butters promoted as ‘spreadable’, so avoid these. Use unsalted butter if you want to control the salt level.
2. Choose the right sugar
The type of sugar you use will affect the flavour, colour and depth of your cookie. You can mix sugars to achieve caramelised sweetness, golden colouring and the perfect chew...
- Granulated sugar
Use this for the ultimate American-style sugar cookie. Mixed in equal parts with caster sugar, this adds serious crunch and a firmer, more biscuit-like finish. Great for decorated cookies and cookies filled with sprinkles.
- White caster sugar
The classic baking sugar we’ve all probably baked with for years. The finer sugar granules add sweetness and beats together perfectly with softened butter for any base cookie dough.
- Golden caster sugar
This unrefined version of the classic white caster has gone through less processing and has more caramel notes due to its darker colour. It's a great replacement for white caster sugar in any cookie recipe if you’re looking for something with a nutty, caramelised flavour.
- Light brown soft sugar
Unrefined sugars retain more of their nutrients. If that’s not an excuse to define your cookie as nutritious, I don’t know what is! Most cookie recipes will mix white caster sugar and light brown soft sugar, which marry together extremely well to form a cookie that has caramelised flavour and a soft texture.
- Dark brown soft sugar
The darker the sugar, the deeper the flavour – and this sugar will add real complexity to your cookie dough. If you’re experimenting with wild flavour combinations, such as our dark chocolate and tahini cookies, try adding some dark brown sugar for a more intense, richer flavour.
- Light brown sugar
Use soft, light brown sugar for that all-important chewy centre.
3. Choose the right flour
Some cookie recipes suggest using plain flour, while others suggest using self-raising. Truth be told, you’ll usually find some form of raising agent has been added to any plain flour recipe, so you can just use self-raising. Self-raising flour is simply plain flour with added raising agent.
4. Check your flour is in date
Make sure your flour is in date and is sealed well once opened to keep the raising agent from deactivating. Only have plain flour lying around? No worries. Just add 1 tsp of baking powder for every 100g plain flour to make it self-raising.
5. Choose the right kind of chocolate
This is probably the most subjective choice you'll make when deciding what your favourite cookie is. There's no right or wrong when choosing the size of the chips you use, the percentage of cocoa solids or which chocolate to go for. However, it's recommended that you use a quality chocolate that you enjoying eating by itself.
Cooking chocolate and the chocolate chips you find in the supermarket baking aisle never taste great before baking, right? So stop right there. Put the packet down.
Semi-sweet chocolate chips are great because the dough itself is usually really sweet, so the slight bitterness of a higher percentage of cocoa works really nicely in a chocolate chip cookie. Chopping a good-quality chocolate bar into rough chunks for larger pockets of melting chocolate is seriously recommend for a choc chunk cookie.
6. Cream the butter and sugar
This is the process of beating softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This stage is essential to the quality of dough you produce. If you don’t cream for long enough, the butter may not have broken down sufficiently, resulting in large, almost translucent splodges of butter in your cookies once baked.
7. Beat in the eggs
Beating in the eggs takes more time than you think. Add the eggs gradually, beating really well between each addition. The eggs add volume, giving depth to your cookies. Beat well if you like them deep filled!
8. Fold in the flour
Folding in the flour/dry ingredients allows you to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Don’t be shy – this isn’t cake batter. Cookie dough is actually really forgiving. Put some arms into it to really mix everything evenly.
9. Add plenty of chocolate chips
This is the best part. Sprinkle over the magic – and be generous. They're chocolate chip cookies for a reason. Use your hands to mix the chips in; you may find it easier than using a wooden spoon.
10. Shape your cookies
Use an ice cream scoop to shape each cookie dough ball and transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment. Cover with cling film before chilling overnight, then bake straight from the fridge.
If you don’t have a scoop handy, don’t worry. Roll your dough into a log shape, then cover with cling film and chill. Slice into 2-3cm pucks before baking.
11. Chill your dough
You don’t have to chill your cookie dough, but it gives the best results if you chill for at least 24 hours in the fridge overnight. This develops the flavours and ensures each cookie bakes exactly the same.
12. Watch your bake closely
Choose your sugars wisely. If you go for a darker sugar, the baking time will decrease as the caramelisation process can result in a crisper baker. Keep your eye on the timer and always bake until colouring around the edges, but not in the middle.
13. Weigh your dough
Weigh your dough balls to whatever size you like (classically around 50g). It's also important that you turn the trays in the oven, as all ovens tend to have hot spots. Turn once or twice depending on the size of your cookies.
14. Adjust your baking time
This depends on your oven and the size of your cookies. As a rough guide, I’d say 12-15 mins depending on if your fan is on/off.
Enjoyed these tips? Check out our other favourite bakes...
Chelsie Collins was previously BBC Good Food's cookery writer and now runs London's first milk and cookie bar, Blondies Kitchen.
What's your favourite sweet bake? Leave a comment below...