Baking cookies isn’t an exact science, but it does require some basic tips and techniques to get the job done right. Take any cookie recipe you have (see below), apply these 7 simple rules to that recipe, and you’ll make the perfect homemade scratch cookies every time.
1) Use good, low-gluten, soft wheat flour.
2) Sift the flour once by itself, then sift it again with the other dry ingredients from the recipe. This will create the perfect lightness for your cookies.
3) The flakiest, best textured cookies are made using lard as the fat in the cookie recipe. If you don’t like using all of the lard for your cookies, try using half lard and half vegetable shortening. But never use vegetable oils in a cookie recipe.
4) Cool the bowl and the fat used, and work quickly to prevent the fat from melting. Each grain of flour should be covered with fat to prevent the gluten in the flour from being activated by water. If you turn on gluten, you’ll end up with a tough, thick cookie.
5) Buy a good cookie cutter that makes a nice clean cut. It should also allow air to escape (an open top), which gives the cookies a chance to rise well.
6) Pat the cookie dough once. Rolling the dough will harden the gluten in the cookie recipe, resulting in very heavy and dense cookies.
7) For even cooking, turn the baking sheet once during baking. If you are baking more than one baking sheet full of cookies at a time, change pan positions once during baking.
Before the invention of baking powder, cooks still used buttermilk in cookies. It would help them to rise. While it still works today, people are looking more for the flavor of buttermilk than its ability to rise in cookie dough.
Buttermilk cookie recipe
2 1/2 cups good soft wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of yeast
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
3 tablespoons lard, well cooled
2 tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup chilled buttermilk
Place the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet.
Sift the flour, then sift all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Using a large fork or pastry blender, stir in lard and vegetable fat until a dish is formed.
Pour in the buttermilk and mix the ingredients until a sticky dough forms.
Flour your hands and a pastry board or counter. Turn out the dough and knead it gently, only 4 to 6 times. Pat the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
Cut the dough with a 2 to 3 inch round cookie cutter or a round cookie cutter.
Move the cookies onto the baking sheet, arranging them so that they barely harden each other. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, or until lifted and golden in color (remember to turn the baking sheet halfway through cooking).
Serve the cookies hot and with butter.