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Can You Solve My Cookie Conundrum?

Why do all of my cookies come out hard as rocks? Made "chewy" snicker doodles this weekend and they turned out like crackers. What am I doing wrong?

A little difficult to determine where you went wrong without being in the kitchen with you while you were baking. Here are basic tips and techniques for baking. Let us know if you find a solution!

find tips and techniques for perfect cookies after the jump

Plan ahead: Read the recipe thoroughly before you begin. Check to see you have all the listed ingredients on hand. Plan your timing for dough that needs to be refrigerated or rest before rolling/shaping, baking, cooling and decorating.

Too hot, too cold, just right:Oven temperature-use an oven thermometer and check the true temp, the dial and digital read out displays the setting not the actual temperature inside the oven. You may have to adjust-lower temp OR lower cooking time if oven is too hot.

Organize: mis en place (everything in its place), scale or weigh and measure all your ingredients. Use a scale and weigh dry ingredients like flour and sugar. To measure flour by cups, 1st fluff the flour with a fork, lightly sprinkle flour into measuring cup until overflowing, level with a light touch and a straight edge.

Measuring matters. Do not try and convert grams to ounces or the reverse without a scale. 8 oz of a dry ingredient measured by cup will not weigh 8 oz on a scale. Use liquid measuring cup with a spout for liquids and dry measuring cups (with straight sides and top) for dry ingredients.

Keep it clean: Clean equipment and tools and remove any residue, especially oils, from previous use.

Follow the order of the recipe, do not alternate or skip steps.

Use quality ingredients:
Unsalted (sweet) butter for baking
Unsalted nuts (very lightly toast nuts to bring out essence)
Pure (not imitation-which leaves aftertaste) extracts
Unbleached all purpose flour (it has a slightly higher protein content than bleached AP flour, can produce a slightly crisper cookie but has fewer chemicals)
Egg size, use the size recipe calls for (large or extra large)

Proper technique:
Sift flour: over the measuring cup in a large bowl when recipe calls for sifted flour. If recipe reads 1 cup flour, sifted, measure and then sift. If it reads 1 cup sifted flour, measure the already sifted flour.

Cream butter: light in color and very fluffy, takes 3-5 minutes with a stand mixer. Begin with butter at room temperature.

Cream butter and sugar: light in color and very fluffy, sugar completely combined with butter (not grainy), takes 3-5 minutes in stand mixer. Begin with butter at room temperature.

Beat egg whites: start with eggs at room temperature, make sure there is no fat, including egg yolk, in the egg whites or mixing bowl. Foamy whites are white and air bubbles are visible in the foam. Soft peaks hold a form but are very moist and will droop when lifted on whisk. Stiff peaks hold and keep a form when lifted on whisk.

Add sugar to beaten egg whites: gradually add sugar to whites as you mix, allow the sugar to dissolve a bit at a time.

Fold: combine two ingredients, usually with different weights. Place the lighter ingredient on top of heavier ingredient. Start at the back of the bowl, scrape a spatula down, under, over and back up the ingredients, repeat as you turn the bowl a quarter turn after each stroke. Be patient!

Don't over achieve: Mix ingredients until just combined unless instructed to mix longer, use low speed on mixer for control. Over mixed dough equals tough dough.

Bake right: Space cookies evenly apart on cookie sheet and with 1 and 1/2-2inches between them. Bake in middle rack when instructed, even if it means you can only bake one sheet of cookies at a time. Rotate front to back half way through baking.

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Multiple racks: place in upper third and lower third of oven. Change position of baking sheet on rack half way through baking, rotate top to bottom, front to back

Color key: Check cookie color as you near end of baking, if recipe says edges should be brown-go for light golden brown, the cookies will continue to bake inside after being removed from oven. Check the bottom of the cookie for color-if its golden brown its usually done.

Cool cookie: Remove cookies from cookie sheet 2 minutes after removing from oven (they continue to bake on hot sheet). Cool on rack.

Stay tuned: Next week we'll be sharing recipes and showing results from Chow Bella's Cookie Showdown.

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