In the last few years, cookie recipes have been cropping up that harness the idea of building flavor and texture by letting things wait a little.
"I think you can taste a difference," says Sue Gray, manager of product development for King Arthur Flour.
The idea of letting cookie dough sit in the refrigerator for as long as several days came to my attention in 2008, when food writer David Leite wrote a story for The New York Times on his quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
He discovered that Maury Rubin of City Bakery in New York let cookie dough rest for 36 hours before baking.
After hearing that, Leite went back to the source, a 1953 cookbook by Ruth Wakefield, the originator of the Toll House cookie, and noticed that her recipe called for letting the dough rest overnight. Apparently, the step was dropped when Nestle put the recipe on bags of semisweet morsels.
After trying it, Leite decided it did make a difference. The dough was drier and firmer, and the cookies developed sweet, toffee-like flavors.
Making cookie doughs in advance is common in bakeries, says Megan Lambert, a senior baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C.
"You make a huge batch of cookie (doughs) and then you just pull from that." She does notice a little difference, she says, particularly a sharper flavor from the baking soda, which hasn't had a chance to mellow.
Even though doughs are commonly made in advance in bakeries, there's not a lot of research into the difference, says Gray of King Arthur. Studies usually are paid for by food companies, which are more interested in techniques that lead to efficiency, not flavor.
"So anything I say, I can't prove," she says. Still, she thinks something is happening with the flavor.
"There's so much happening in doughs," she says. "Anytime you make something, giving it some time for the flavors to develop, for water to become evenly absorbed, can't hurt."
The difference starts with the liquid in the egg, which hydrates the starch in flour. Giving the flour more time to absorb that liquid makes the dough firmer, but it also lets enzymes in the flour and the egg yolk break down carbohydrates into the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Separately, they taste sweeter and they caramelize faster when baked.
For dry ingredients, use dry-cup measures the flat rim lets you level them easier. To measure flour and sugar, spoon them into the cup until they're above the rim, then level off with the flat edge of a knife.
Don't add fresh dough to a still-hot cookie sheet it can melt and spread. The easiest way: Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper, then slide it off to a cooling rack and rinse the sheet with cold water. You can portion out the next batch of dough on parchment paper too, so it's ready to slide onto the cooled sheet.
Let butter stand at room temperature until you can just press a fingertip into it and leave a mark. To hurry it, cut the butter into 1-tablespoon slices. Don't soften butter in the microwave. The center may melt before the outside softens.
"Creaming" means to beat fat usually butter with sugar. Beat it long enough to make it light-colored and fluffy, which can take several minutes.