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Baker and cookie-dough maker Kristen Tomlan of DŌ in New York City is joining TODAY to teach us expert techniques, troubleshoots the top five cookie-making mistakes and share a few of her favorite cookie recipes from her new cookbook, "Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share." She shows us how to heat-treat flour at home so you can safely eat "raw" cookie dough and make mouthwatering treats like her traditional chocolate chip cookies, magical unicorn cookie dough, layered cookie cake and peanut butter-packed cookies.
How to Heat-Treat Flour
You can easily heat-treat flour in the microwave or oven — it just takes a little time and technique.
1. For this, you'll need a microwave-safe bowl, all-purpose flour (or any grain), an instant-read thermometer and a spatula. You can choose to either heat your entire bag of flour (why not?) or just treat what you need for a single recipe. If you are heating just enough for the recipe, add an extra cup in there to be sure you'll have enough!
2. Place the flour in the bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval. Stir well to make sure none of the ingredient burns (microwaves have those tricky hot spots).
3. Use an instant-read thermometer to test the grain in several places to make sure it has reached 165°F throughout. If you get a lower reading in one area, just stir and heat for an additional 30 seconds until it's all ready!
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread more flour than the recipe calls for onto a baking pan (something with sides). Then follow a process similar to the microwave method by stirring the flour and checking the temp at 2-minute intervals. Make sure to check a few different spots in the pan to confirm you're safe. If flour sticks to the bottom or sides of the pan, that's OK! Leave it there … you heated more than you need for the recipe, anyway.
2. Don't scrape stuck-on flour into your measuring cup for dough or cookies, as it creates small clumps that will add an unpleasant texture. Remember, soft, fluffy flour = rich, creamy dough.
3. Flour needs to cool completely before use. It will take about 30 minutes (patience is tough!). You can place the pan in the fridge and let it cool there if you're in a rush. If your flour is really clumpy, your oven might be too hot or your microwave might have hot spots. Don't worry — you can break it up with your fingers, vigorously whisk it in a bowl or sift the flour and discard chunks if necessary.
Baking the perfect cookie can be tough. I get it. Even after giving your dough major TLC, you can end up with a cookie fail. Let me guess — you followed the recipe, just as it said. You did your very best, but they're still not flawless. These are the troubleshooting lessons I've learned from baking thousands of batches of cookies at home and in the DŌ kitchen. With these tips, you'll be mixing up cookie dough like a DŌ Pro in no time!
Too much spreading.
- Chill your cookie dough! The colder the dough starts out, the thicker the cookies will end up.
- Never use hot baking sheets. Your cookie dough will start to spread the second it hits the pan.
- Heavy-handed on the butter? I know, it's good, but make sure your measurements are precise. Cookies with too much fat can't hold structure.
- Temp too low? If your oven says it's 350°F but it's lying and it's actually 300°F, your cookies will slowly spread instead of quickly bake.
- Put down the PAM! Use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to keep your cookies from sticking. Cooking spray can be absorbed into cookies, causing them to loosen and spread.
They didn't spread at all.
- You might have mismeasured the flour. Flour is the most commonly mismeasured ingredient in baking. Always fluff your flour and then scoop it into the measuring spoon and level it off to make sure it's just right.
- Maybe you over mixed? Did you get distracted and leave the mixer going for too long? You might have over activated the gluten, which will cause tough cookies that are best for the trash!
- Did you over-bake by accident? Check your oven temperature and time. Pull cookies out when they are just barely golden brown — they will continue cooking on the sheet while it's hot!
The bottoms are brown.
- Did you use a dark baking sheet? Try a lighter one and line it with parchment paper or a non-stick silicon mat.
- Is your oven rack too close to the bottom? Just move it up so it's closer to the middle or top!
The batch didn't bake evenly.
- Rotate, rotate, rotate! Most home ovens bake unevenly. Try rotating the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the bake time. If you're baking two sheets at once, rotate their rack placement too — move the bottom to the top and vice versa.
- Use a cookie scoop. When cookies are different sizes, they have no chance at baking evenly. Come on, your hands can handle the workout!
- Try turning on the convection setting. That fan in the back will help to evenly distribute the heat. Plus it can speed up your baking time, win, win!
The cookies look blah.
- Check to make sure your leaveners aren't expired or old! Have they been sitting in your cabinet for the last two years? Might be time to get some new ones! You should get new leaveners every six months! Or, you can test to make sure they are still active. Place baking powder in water and it should fizzle. Try mixing baking soda with vinegar and if you don't get that volcanic explosion from your fourth grade science fair, you might need to get a new box!
- Did you swap out baking powder for baking soda thinking it wouldn't matter? Wrong! Baking soda and baking powder are used intentionally! They react with other ingredients in the dough. For example, baking soda is a base, so it needs an acid in the recipe to react with. Without the acid, it can't do its job!