As part of my job as a cook in a retirement home, I have to come up with some sort of “sweet treats” for the residents between breakfast and lunch, and between lunch and dinner. I usually bake some mini muffins for the morning break, and some cookies for the afternoon.
The problem is that I’m not a baker. “Cook” and “baker” are two different professions/skill sets, and I am unequipped in the “baker” department. So while I know what to do to correct problems with meals (entrees, etc.), I’m at a complete loss as to how to correct baking failures. The only “baking” I’ve done in a restaurant has involved using prepared mixes that are formulated for baking in a restaurant environment, i.e. Krusteaz buttermilk biscuit mix, Baker’s Choice basic muffin mix, etc.
My attempts at baking cookies from scratch are what’s giving me trouble. I have the Joy of Cooking cookbook, which has some excellent cookie recipes. I’ve gotten tired of serving the chocolate chip cookies, so I decided to try the Joy of Cooking snickerdoodles recipe today. I remember my mother baking snickerdoodles when I was a kid, and I liked those cookies (her recipe came from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, though, probably a 1960s-70s edition).
So I whipped up a batch of snickerdoodles, following the recipe exactly*. I’ve already discovered that baking scratch cookies in a commercial convection oven can be hit or miss, especially when using a recipe that was designed for cooking at home in a conventional oven. Fortunately, we have a conventional oven here (in addition to two convection ovens), and I decided to use that oven to bake my cookies.
Complete failure. The cookies, which should have ended up being about 1/4" thick and 3" in diameter ended up about 1/16" thick and 5" across :mad:
I checked the oven with my own, accurate oven thermometer (I don’t rely on employer-provided thermometers — employers are notoriously cheap). The temp was correct.
The only explanation I have is that I used *margarine instead of the butter the recipe called for. I would rather use butter, but this being a retirement home I’m forced to use margarine for health reasons.
Experienced bakers out there: Could the margarine-instead-of-butter be the reason these cookies failed?
Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible that I over-mixed the dough at some stage of the process.
I don’t have my cookbook at hand (I keep it at work), but the recipe went something like this (from memory):
In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt.
Cream together 1 cup butter and 1-1/2 cups sugar (I did this in our small commercial mixer). Add 2 eggs and continue mixing until well-blended.
Stir in the flour mixture until well-mixed. (I did this in the commercial mixer as well.)
Roll the dough into balls and coat the balls in a sugar-cinnamon mixture, and place on cookie sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes.
After 12 minutes in the 350° conventional oven, the “cookies” were the aforementioned flat things. They were still delicious, but not what I wanted.