All About Cookies, Bars, and Brownies

Secrets to Successful Baking

Every batch of cookies or pan of bars you bake will be a success once you learn these few simple secrets!

Use either margarine or butter interchangeably in most recipes. They give cookies good flavor and crisp texture. Solid vegetable shortening, used in some recipes, makes a crunchier cookie. Tub, soft, whipped, liquid or reduced-fat or calorie butters or margarines should not be used because the additional air and water in them may result in thin, flat cookies.

Measure accurately with standard measuring cups and spoons. The correct amount of ingredients will help ensure that cookies and bars aren’t dry, crumbly or so soft that they spread too much during baking.

Heat the oven for 10 to 15 minutes before baking cookies.

Use shiny aluminum pans and cookie sheets. They will brown cookies lightly and evenly. Dark cookie sheets may absorb heat and cause cookies to over-brown on the bottom. If you use insulated cookie sheets, remember that cookies will not brown as much on the bottom and they may take slightly longer to bake.

Grease pans and cookie sheets with shortening. If the recipe calls for the pans or sheets to be greased, shortening works best. Butter tends to brown too quickly, and oils or spray-on coatings can sometimes cause sticking.

Place dough on cool cookie sheets. This will prevent the dough from melting and spreading before baking. Space them carefully to avoid unattractive run-together cookies.

Leave at least 2 inches around all sides of the cookie sheets or pans in the oven. This space allows the hot air to circulate properly. For best results, bake only one sheet or pan of cookies at a time on the center rack of the oven. If you must bake two pans at once, switch their positions halfway through baking.

Cool cookies or pans of bars on wire racks. Place cookies in a single layer so that air can circulate around them. Steam from the cooling cookies evaporates and prevents them from becoming soggy.