Do Your Cookie-Baking Skills Stack Up?

Make better cookies with secrets for success from Twin Cities culinary instructor Jason Ross—plus use your skills with his Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe


It’s hard to beat a chocolate chip cookie. The basic ingredients are mostly the same in all the recipes you see, but the ratio of those ingredients and how you prepare them can make all the difference in how your cookies turn out. You can raise your cookies from good to great with these tips and tools from Twin Cities chef and Saint Paul College Culinary Arts instructor Jason Ross, who created this recipe for Real Food. When you have skills in your back pocket, it can also make baking easier and more fun. Then, practice your new techniques with his take on chocolate chunk cookies and see how all your cookies can benefit from your newfound skills. A rainy weekend—or any weekend—is a great time to whip up a batch.

Cookie Do’s

Scrape the Bowl to Get Fully Mixed Dough: Do it after adding eggs, adding dry to wet, or wet to dry ingredients. Mixer attachments don’t quite reach the bottom and sides of the bowl, so parts are left unmixed. Use a rubber spatula to stir the unmixed parts back into the dough—and scrape the paddle attachment.

Chill Dough: It makes the batter easier to handle and gives the flour enough time to fully absorb liquid ingredients and make more cohesive dough. For the chocolate chunk cookie recipe here—and any soft cookie—bake from frozen. This will make a tender, crisp cookie that stays chewy. Keep cookie dough balls ready in the freezer during the holidays in case of a “cookie emergency.”

Finish with Salt: Just a few grains sprinkled on top of cookies will hit the palate first, bringing out a surprise flavor. Don’t use enough so you can see it—like a pretzel—rather just enough for a little salt secret.

Cool Cookies on a Rack: Cookies will continue to cook on a hot pan. Unless they are too soft or fragile to handle, lift them off the pans with a metal spatula and cool on a wire rack.

Color Cues: Pay attention to brown color, especially around the edges, and lighter color in the center. This helps determine a perfectly baked cookie. Since cookies are small, a little more or less time makes a big difference. If a few cookies on a tray are done, pull them off to cool and finish cooking the rest of the tray.

Rotate Pans Halfway Through Cooking: All ovens have hot and cool spots, so rotate pans to get even cooking across the tray. Be quick—you don’t want the oven to cool down.


Cookie Spread

The way cookies spread and thin has a big impact on crispness, softness and chewiness.

  • More creaming of butter and sugar will add more air and increase spread; less creaming, less spread and chewier cookies.
  • Lower temperature, even just a few degrees, slows cooking and gives dough more time to spread. Higher temperature will make thicker cookies since it firms up more quickly.
  • More sugar—especially syrupy sugars like honey, molasses or corn syrup—will spread more easily and make softer cookies.
  • Overmixing flour decreases spread and makes doughy cookies.

Must-Have Tools

Scoop: Use a portion control scoop instead of a spoon to avoid messy fingers and quickly and easily scoop balls the same size. Cookies will bake more evenly. Use it for ice cream too!

Digital Scale: It helps especially for measuring flour—the weight difference between cups of flour can be surprising. If you don’t have a scale, avoid compressing flour into the measuring cup; instead spoon it into the cup and level off with the straight edge of a butter knife.

Parchment Paper and Silicon Mats: These both work well and have an impact on cooking besides ease in cleanup: Cookies will spread more on a silicon mat and stay tighter on parchment. Parchment browns cookies a little more nicely, while silicon will yield slightly less crisp cookies. If I had to choose one, it would be parchment, but both have their place depending on the cookie you are baking. If using aluminum pans without either of these, try a little oil spray and possibly dust with flour if you have had trouble with cookies sticking.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes 20

The most popular cookie on any tray is the chocolate chunk. Give these a try using the bake-from-frozen technique. You will be amazed at the perfect ratio of crisp to chewy.

2 cups or 9 ounces all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus a couple pinches for finishing
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature soft, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups chocolate chunks

  1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. Use a table mixer or a hand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and stir together the sugars in a large bowl for about 30 seconds until combined.
  3. Add the butter and mix with the sugars on medium speed for about 1 minute until creamed into a smooth paste.
  4. In a small bowl use a fork to mix the eggs and vanilla.
  5. Add about 1/3 of the egg mixture to the creamed butter and sugar and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, cleaning the paddle too. Continue adding the eggs in thirds, and scraping the bowl, until the batter is smooth and fully incorporated.
  6. Add the flour and mix on low speed for about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl and make sure all flour is combined. Add chocolate chips and stir for less than 1 minute.
  7. Scoop dough into 2-ounce balls, about golf ball size, onto a sheet tray or plate, depending on what will fit in your freezer. Chill cookies until frozen solid (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). If you do not plan on baking all the cookies, transfer dough balls to a zip-top plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.
  8. Heat oven to 375°F. Arrange frozen cookie balls on sheet trays lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper, with 6 cookies per tray. Bake for 7 minutes until cookies are half cooked and starting to spread, then remove tray from oven and use a rubber spatula to gently press each cookie down a little, into about ½ inch thick discs. Sprinkle each cookie with just a few grains of salt. Rotate sheet trays and put back in oven to finish cooking another 7 minutes.
  9. Remove tray and check cookies for doneness—especially browning around edges and firm center. Add a few extra baking minutes if needed. Using a metal spatula, transfer cookies to cooling rack. Cool for at least 5 minutes and serve. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days, though quality will diminish each day, or they can be bagged and frozen for up to 6 months.

Nutrition info Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Per Serving): Calories 287; Fat 19g (Sat. 11g); Chol 56mg; Sodium 194mg; Carb 28g; Fiber 1g; Added Sugars 16g; Protein 3g


Hungry for More?

What Cookie Camp Are You In: Crispy or Soft?
Check out the sweet science of making the beloved chocolate chip cookie just the way you like it.

Cakey or Fudgy Brownies Recipes
Elements of science combine to create your perfect treat.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownies Recipe
These intensely chocolate, not-too-sweet brownie bites are a tasty marriage of chocolate and a hint of savory.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.