Here are a bunch of tips I’ve collected from several old cookbooks that include helpful notes for baking, freezing, storage and a basic refrigerator dough recipe (with 9 different variations).
Lots here, enjoy!
- They should be uniform in size and thickness so use level spoonfuls for drop cookies, a sharp thin bladed knife for slicing refrigerator rolls.
- When trying a new recipe, it is helpful to bake a test sample first to see how much it spreads. If it spreads too much try chilling the dough or adding a little more flour to the dough.
- Do not grease the sheet unless instructed to do so. If the recipe does require it, do not use butter but just a light layer of unsalted shortening or non-stick spray. Too much grease causes the dough to spread and edges will be thin, crisp & may burn.
- Be sure to use a sheet without sides or with very low sides. If all you have are ones with sides, turn them upside down and use the bottom surface for baking.
- You can use a smaller pan such as an inverted cake or pie pan to bake if you don’t have enough dough left to fill a regular sheet.
- Place dough approximately 2″ apart on sheet to allow for spreading while they bake.
- Arrange on the middle rack of your oven and only one sheet at a time for best results.
- There should be at least 2″ of rack showing around all sides of the sheet to allow for proper heat circulation.
- If they tend to burn on the bottom, raise the level of the oven rack or try placing another pan under the sheet.
- If the ones at the back brown faster than those in the front, your oven is hotter in the back than in the front. Try turning the sheet around half way during the baking time.
- If a recipe gives an approximate time, such as 12 to 15 minutes, check at the minimum time to avoid over baking.
- Practically all cookies should be slightly under baked. Take them from the oven while still a little soft, they’ll continue to bake as long as they are in contact with the hot pan.
- When ready to remove them from the oven, place in a single layer on a wire rack to cool. If you stack them on top of each other, they will stick together.
- Before baking another batch, cool and clean off your sheet. Hot sheets melt the shortening in the dough causing it to spread.
- Drop Varieties: Chilling the dough before dropping helps to keep spreading to a minimum. You can keep dough in the refrigerator for up to one week (covered well) or freeze for later use.
- Shaped: When making shaped cookies, chill dough if it is too soft to shape. Flatten dough with a floured fork or bottom of a glass which has been greased and dipped in flour or sugar.
- Rolled: Dough can be molded into balls and flattened with bottom of glass which has been greased and dipped in sugar. Roll out small portions of dough rather than in one whole batch. Keep the remainder in refrigerator until ready to bake. Do not add scraps of rolled dough to fresh dough. Save and roll out together since these cookies will be less tender. Cut in squares or diamond shapes to avoid more scraps. To prevent sticking when rolling, use a pastry cloth and covered rolling pin. Roll with a light touch, you don’t want the dough to stick to the board or pastry cloth. Dough may be tightly covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Roll out and bake fresh as desired.
- Refrigerator: These spread very little, chill dough thoroughly before slicing. For quick chilling, place rolls in freezer for an hour. This doughs keep well in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, just slice and bake as needed. Slicing may be easier if you dip the knife in hot water and then wipe dry.
(Source: Most of this info found in an old Robin Hood recipe booklet)
Cookies should be thoroughly cooled before being stacked for storage. Crisp and soft varieties should never be stored in the same container since the crisp varieties will soften quickly under such circumstances.
- Store in an air-tight container. Sheets of waxed paper between layers prevent them from sticking to each other. A piece of cut orange or apple placed in the container will keep them soft. Because fruit molds, make sure to change frequently.
- Store them in container with loose-fitting lid. If they become soft, place in single layer on ungreased baking sheet and heat in 300°F. oven for 3 to 5 minutes.
How To Freeze
Frozen baked or unbaked cookies from your freezer have the same flavor and texture as freshly baked. Freezing unbaked dough takes less space and needs no special handling to prevent breakage. On the other hand, cookies baked before freezing are ready to eat within minutes upon removal from the freezer. Either way, they turn out superbly.
- Bake cookies and cool completely. It is best to store them in containers (bakery carton, cans, etc.) which will give them protection against the handling and bumping they may get in the freezer.
- Protect them by wrapping with layers of crumpled pieces of waxed paper. Separate layers of soft varieties with double thicknesses of waxed paper.
- Be sure metal containers have tight-fitting lids; give cardboard cartons an overwrap of foil or plastic.
- Drop cookie dough may be packed in bulk in any air-tight freezer container; when ready to bake you need to thaw dough only until it is soft enough to let you break off pieces. Or, you can drop by teaspoonful onto sheet 1/4″ apart, quick-freeze for 1 hour, then pack into containers using double thicknesses of waxed paper to separate the layers. This method eliminates thawing time; the frozen drop dough can be placed in the oven immediately.
- Shape refrigerator dough, wrap in foil or plastic bag and freeze. When ready to bake, simply slice off as many as you wish from the frozen dough and return balance of dough to freezer. The cut dough can be put to bake immediately.
- Rolled cookies should be rolled and cut for baking before freezing. Pack with two sheets of waxed paper separating each layer. These, too, can go from your freezer into the oven without thawing.
- Baked: Thaw in freezer wrapping at room temperature 15-30 minutes depending on how thick they are and number packed in each container.
- Unbaked Dough: Thaw in freezer wrapping at room temperature until dough can be handled; place on greased sheet, bake as usual.
Source: How To Freeze Foods Booklet (1950’s)
Basic Refrigerator Dough Recipe
Source: An old Five-Roses recipe booklet
Cream 2/3 cup butter. Gradually add 1 cup brown sugar and cream well. Add 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat well. Mix 2 cups pre-sifted flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; stir into batter. Use dough as it is or in any of the variations listed below. Shape finished dough into long rolls, about 2″ in diameter. Cover with waxed paper and chill until hard (about 1-2 hours). Slice thinly; place on ungreased sheet. Bake at 350°F. for 8-10 mins. Makes 5 dozen cookies.
(use 1/3 of dough for each variation)
- Orange: Add 1 1/2 TBS grated orange rind.
- Chocolate Nut: Add 1 square melted unsweetened chocolate for chocolate dough. Add 4 TBS chopped nuts.
- Lemon-Coconut: Add 1/2 tsp lemon extract and 2 TBS shredded coconut.
- Turtles: Between 2 slices of chocolate dough, place whole pecan (for head) and 4 pieces chopped pecan (for legs).
- Sandies: Bake a plain cookie. Dredge with (colored) powdered fruit sugar while still warm.
- Black & White: Use chocolate dough. Top with miniature marshmallow for last 3 mins. of baking.
- Jewel: Add 2 TBS chopped red and/or green maraschino cherries, drained well and 2 TBS chopped nuts.
- Pinwheels: Roll out rectangles of chocolate and vanilla dough, 1/8 inch thick. Place one on top of other and roll together.
- Almond: Add 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Before baking, top each with blanched almond half.