Although every cookie has similar basic ingredients, including butter (or another fat), sugar, eggs, and flour, the method for making cookie dough can vary per recipe. We'll show you six important steps common to most cookie dough recipes. Use these tips, and your cookie dough recipe will turn out every time!
You'll learn how to look at an ingredients list to see if it will result in a cookie type that you love. If thin and crispy cookies are your favorite, chances are the recipe is made with all or mostly butter for the fat. If soft and cakelike is what you're looking for, the recipe probably uses all or mostly shortening.
Craving a cookie but don't feel like baking? Check out our Edible Cookie Dough recipe and more of our favorite no-oven-required desserts.
Butter and margarine at room temperature combine more easily and thoroughly with other ingredients in the dough. Allowing the butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes will bring it to the right consistency for mixing. It should be soft enough that you can make an indentation with your finger, but not to the point that it has started to melt. Do this whenever a recipe calls for softened butter or margarine. To speed the process, cut the cold butter into pieces.
Tip: Butter is best for baking cookies, but you can substitute margarine as long as it contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil. If the oil content doesn't appear on the label, check the calorie count. Margarines that have 100 calories or more per tablespoon contain 80 percent vegetable oil. Do not use products labeled vegetable oil spread, light or reduced-fat margarine, or diet spread.
Beat butter or shortening with an electric mixer until smooth. This ensures that the butter or shortening is sufficiently softened and mixes completely with the other ingredients, which eliminates lumps of fat in your homemade cookie dough.
Tip: The kind of fat used in a recipe can help make a cookie thin and crispy or soft and cakelike. Before continuing to read how to make cookie dough, think about what kind of cookie you want, and choose a recipe.
Beat in the sugar, baking powder and/or baking soda, and salt until the dry ingredients are combined with the butter. Continue to beat until the mixture lightens in color and consistency (this process is called creaming). Creaming incorporates tiny air bubbles into the cookie dough, making the cookies light and tender when you bite into them. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to make the mixture uniform. When all the ingredients are well combined, stop mixing. Overmixing can pop all the air bubbles you worked so hard to create, making the cookies more dense.
Beat in the eggs. If the recipe calls for more than one, add eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed after each addition until all of the streaks of egg have disappeared.
Tip: Many recipes for baked goods call for eggs at room temperature, just like the butter. If you're relying on eggs for some leavening in your baking recipes, eggs will incorporate more air into your batter if they are not refrigerator-cold. Let eggs stand on the counter for 30 minutes before using them.
Beat in as much flour as you can with the electric mixer. Some handheld mixers begin to strain when the dough becomes too stiff (you'll hear the motor slowing and working harder). Don't burn out the mixer; switch to a wooden spoon.
If you are using a stand mixer, you should be able to mix in all of the flour. Stop the mixer every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You should also be able to use the stand mixer to beat in oats, nuts, and/or chocolate pieces just until combined.
If you are using a handheld mixer, you likely will need to stir in the last of the flour with a wooden spoon or heavy-duty scraper. Stir in a little flour at a time to keep the flour in the bowl and not all over the counter. This also prevents pockets of flour from forming in the dough. Stir just until all of the flour is incorporated. If you overmix the cookie dough, the finished cookies may be tough. Stir in any remaining ingredients such as oats, nuts, and/or chocolate pieces.
Most cookies will take around 10 minutes per batch to bake, but check the specific cookie dough recipe you're following to make sure you bake the cookies the right amount of time. Times vary a bit depending on the ingredients and amounts. These chocolate chip cookies, for example, take 8–10 minutes per batch, while these oatmeal-raisin cookies can take up to 12 minutes if you're making larger cookies. These almond cookies are thicker, so they take a few extra minutes, while these sugar cookies do not.
We turn our classic cookie dough recipe into homemade chocolate chip cookies for a gotta-have-it treat. Grab a glass of cold milk, and enjoy.