How to Tell When Your Cookies and Brownies are Perfectly Baked
Cookies and brownies come in different shades, textures, and consistency. Figuring out when they're done is equally varied so we've broken down how to tell when your cookies and brownies are perfectly baked.
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The secret to baking a perfect cookie or brownie is knowning how to tell when it is done. Every type of cookie has its own characteristics. Some are thick and chewy; others are delicate and crisp. And brownies come in their own range of textures; some are fudgy while others are cake-like and there is not just one test to determine doneness for each type of brownie. However, if you know the main characteristics of your particular type of cookie or brownie, you can find the right method to tell when it’s done.
Here are some baking tips and popular tested methods, sorted by type of cookie or brownie, so you can bake them perfectly every time.
Drop cookies are made with a soft, sticky batter that you "drop" on a cookie sheet with a spoon or scoop. Oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, and classic chocolate chip cookies are all drop cookies. These types of cookies change a lot during baking. First, the dough spreads. Then they lose that shiny, 'raw' appearance and the surface begins to look dry. You can tell they are done when their edges turn golden brown. The key is to be careful to not let the edges become too dark.
If the cookie is dark-colored, like a chocolate cookie or a molasses cookie, it’s hard to judge by color. You can tell when they’re done by checking the surface; it should look dry. You can also tell by touch — the edges should be firm (be careful not to burn yourself - a quick poke will do!). But the centers should still be a little soft because drop cookies firm up more as they cool.
Rolled Or Ice Box Cookies
Ice box cookies (sugar cookies rolled into a tube and sliced) and rolled cookies (often sugar cookies that are cut into shapes with cookie cutters and sometimes decorated afterward) are made with a stiffer dough. They usually don't spread much during baking. Just like with drop cookies, look for a dry surface and some color at the edges. But, unlike drop cookies, they should not feel soft in the middle when you touch them. Of course, if the cookies are dark colored, like chocolate sugar cookies or gingerbread, you have to determine when they are done by texture alone. It’s always a good idea to start testing cookies before the recommended baking time is finished.
The perfect shortbread cookie hardly takes on any color at all on top when it bakes. Shortbread cookies have many different names — pecan sandies, sablés, meltaways — but all have very lightly golden edges and a slightly puffed, dry-looking surface when they are done. They should be set in the middle and firm, but with just a little give.
These delicate, elegant cookies are very much in fashion. They do need a little bit of finesse. When perfectly baked, French macarons should have a flat bottom, a rough-looking, puffed edge, and a glossy dome.
Gluten-free cookies could use many different types of flours, but the blanket indicator for whether for whether or not a gluten-free cookie is done is if it's set. Look for some puffing, a dry surface, and some firmness around the edges.
A Tale Of Two Brownies
There are two basic types of brownies. Some people prefer chewy or fudgy brownies. Others prefer cake-like brownies. The kind of brownie you want determines how you can tell when it is done. There are a few methods to help you determine when brownies are done but it might be best to use a combination of indicators:
Because "the best" consistency of a brownie is subjective, finding the right internal temperature for your own perfect brownie texture can be done with a digital thermometer. 136 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which bacteria dies (like salmonella from raw eggs) but the brownie won't set until it reaches 144 degrees Fahrenheit, but 165 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended for most food, so anything above that is safe to eat. However, the internal temperature of a regular cake should read 210 degrees Fahrenheit for moist but not fudgy fluffiness. So: somewhere between 165 and 210 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect doneness for brownies, depending on your preference. The higher the temperature, the more cakey your brownies will be.
The baking time given in the recipe is another good indicator, but there are many factors that can affect baking time. Oven temperature is one of these factors; some ovens can run hot, and others cool. Wondering about yours? Get an oven thermometer and solve the mystery. Pan size is another factor; a large pan of thin brownies bakes faster than a small pan of thick brownies. The material of the pan also affects how quickly brownies are done - foods cooked in darker pans need less time in the oven. And don't forget the residual heat or carryover cooking, which means a pan of brownies continues to bake even after you take it out of the oven.
With brownies, looks definitely matter. When you peek in the oven, the brownies should be pulling slightly away from the sides of the pan. The brownie's top should have a dry-looking sheen. At the edge of the pan, the brownies should be slightly puffed, and in the middle of the pan, the brownies should be set, but not wobbly.
The Toothpick Test
Just like with cakes and cupcakes, sticking a toothpick into a pan of brownies is one of the best ways to tell when brownies are done if you don't have a digital thermometer. When you think they're ready, insert a toothpick in the center of the brownie pan. Remove the toothpick — if it’s coated in wet batter, the brownies still need baking. The toothpick should come out fairly clean with just a few moist crumbs. If you’re still not sure, you can slightly underbake your brownies and rely on carryover cooking to bring them to doneness.
There are thousands of cookie recipes and brownie recipes to choose from on Yummly! Crisp and delicate cookies or fudgy brownies, you can find the right recipe for what you're in the mood for right here.