Yeah, well, sometimes I hate following recipes. How about you? There is certainly something freeing about cooking savory food where you can just make decisions by the seat of your pants and throw pinches of this, handfuls of that and a speck of the other thing into your saute pan and it comes out awesome. Of course, you can’t ever replicate it (unless you happen to have written down every blessed thing you threw in there), and when you try to it won’t taste the same. Baking is different. Baking is science (yay, science!) and therefore, doesn’t exactly work all that great if you just run by the seat of your pants, at least not as a relative newcomer to the game. Now, of course, if you are someone who has been baking for years and years with loads of experience, I bet you can get away with a little more flash and spontaneity, but in general – nope.
If you hope to be more of a creative baker, and create your own recipes, there is a great book out there called Ratio by Michael Ruhlman where he talks about all the underlying ratios that make recipes work (yay , science!) – you can check it out if you like.
Ultimately, there are underlying reasons that everything works the way it does, and usually (unless it is a terribly written recipe), the instructions tell you what you need to do for success, because if you don’t follow them, poof – they don’t work out as well!
I bet you’d like an example
So, if you have ever looked up recipes for roll out cookies, I bet you have seen the instruction at the end that says (and I’m paraphrasing),
“Cut as many cookies as you can and then roll out one more time and cut more cookies, but for heaven’s sake, don’t roll it out a third time!”
Ok, perhaps the instructions aren’t quite so hysterical, but you get what I mean.
I was making roll out cookies for my daughter’s teachers this week, for Teacher Appreciation Week – and I do appreciate them! – and so I was making a delicious recipe from Arty McGoo for Chocolate Chipotle Cookies. They are just to die for, by the way, deep and chocolaty with a hint of cinnamon and warmth from chipotle pepper. YUM. When I make anything with chocolate flavor – cake, cookie, etc. – I always use dark cocoa instead of the regular, I just prefer the flavor. I like the Hershey’s brand, because it is easy to find.
Anyhoo, I rolled out the cookies once, and got a nice result, smooth and nice edges. Happy place!
However, of course, I needed more cookies and had more dough. You can see that these cookies were shaped so that I couldn’t necessarily cut out all the dough without leftovers. So, I re-rolled the remaining dough and cut out more. Then, I did it again. I baked them all, and they all looked the same when they went into the oven but, look what came out:
Do you see those lumps?
Not pretty. Still tasty, but not pretty.
Ok, so now we know – the instructions of cut out as many cookies on the first roll out is for a reason. Now, if you’re making these for eating right away, and not decorating or giving away, or making for a customer, you’re fine. Do whatever you like, roll out, and roll out (it might eventually make the cookies tough, though). However, if you want to decorate them with royal icing or other smooth covering, you really don’t want those lumps in your cookies. So, maximize your cutouts, plan ahead, and happy cookie making!