You Should Never Skip This One Step When You Make Cookies

cookie hack

I’ll be the first to admit that patience has never exactly been my strong suit. So whenever I bake cookies and the recipe says to let the dough rest in the fridge before baking, I’m always tempted to skip that step!

But the only thing equal to my impatience is my curiosity, so I started to wonder what exactly resting the dough is supposed to achieve. So I decided to look into it, and I learned that this step is much more important than I ever considered it might be!

So today I thought I’d pass what I learned on to you, so we all have a better understanding of why this step is important. It seems that patience is indeed a virtue, especially when it comes to homemade cookies! :-)

3 Things That Happen When You Rest Cookie Dough Before Baking

cookie hack

1. Better Texture

When you place your cookie dough in the fridge to rest, it doesn’t just affect the temperature! While it rests, the moisture from the wet ingredients will continue to saturate the dry ingredients. This effect improves the overall texture of the dough.

This textural difference helps well-rested cookie dough bake and brown more evenly. It also helps ensure your cookies will have deliciously chewy insides and crisp outsides!

cookie hack

2. Better Flavor

In addition to improving the texture of your cookies, resting the dough can make them taste better too! Resting the dough is key to achieving that rich, somewhat butterscotch-y “cookie flavor.”

The flavor changes as a result of the way the ingredients begin to break down during the resting phase. This process contributes to browning and caramelization, which can both affect the flavor in a significant way!

cookie hack

3. Less Spreading

Ever wonder why so many baking recipes call for cold butter? It’s because the way butter melts has a massive impact on the appearance, taste, and texture of the final product!

If the butter melts too early, the dough will spread too much and you’ll end up with flat, crispy, and possibly oily cookies. Taking the time to rest the dough in the fridge can help you avoid most of these issues.

cookie hack

How Long Should I Rest Cookie Dough?

Many cookie recipes provide instructions about how long to rest the dough before baking, but it isn’t necessary to follow that guideline exactly. Chilling the dough for just 30 minutes is enough to make a pronounced difference, but you can leave them in longer if you like.

You can even leave your dough in the fridge for up to a day or longer! (For more on that, check out this blog post from King Arthur Flour that describes a single batch of dough evolved over a period of 10 days in the fridge.)

cookie hack

Which Cookie Doughs Should I Rest?

Most varieties of cookie doughs, including molded and drop cookies, will benefit from being rested before baking. With doughs that are particularly sticky (such as the dough for my favorite sour cream cookies), resting is crucial because it makes the dough easier to handle.

On the other hand, if the cookie mixture is more like a batter than a dough, it can typically be baked right away. This includes cake mix cookies, and any that need to be piped onto a tray.

[bonus_tips]Bonus Tip: Scoop Before Resting

  • Resting cookie dough in the fridge can make it harder to scoop out into individual portions.
  • To counter this, scoop and roll your cookie dough before putting it in the fridge.
  • Scooping freshly mixed dough is so much easier, and you’ll still get the benefits of resting the dough!
[/bonus_tips]

What’s your favorite cookie recipe?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Food & Recipes

  • I like your chocolate chip recipe too with the peanut butter cup in it. I didn’t know that manufacturers made some gluten free. I will have to look for that too!

  • I just copied your Sugar Cookie recipe to make 5 different kinds of cookies. I will try this gluten free, first with a smaller portion of the recipe.

  • Interesting. I don’t know if the dough would last in the fridge at my house. I did for awhile try making the gf cookies, but decided if l get a diagnosis I’ll have to. I wonder if this would’ve helped with the gf cookie recipes- some of the doughs were just awful to work with because of the texture.

  • Great point, Jillee, and I used to do just what you suggested, but you may scoff at how I did this.
    I used to buy refrigerated cookie dough, usually, chocolate chip cookie dough, so the dough was already cold.
    I would roll the dough into balls and bake. They were delicious, then ten or so years ago, my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease, and thus, can no longer tolerate the gluten in the flour.
    Being in my 80s with less energy than you have, and wow, you have energy and great recipes, many of which I can use with some accommodations for my husband’s gluten sensitivity, but this one I could not.
    So now I, moat often take the really easy way out and buy gluten-free cookies or if I hit a spurt of energy use a gluten-free cookie mix, and I have some that are made by Betty Crocker. When I make those someday, maybe spring will bring a spurt of energy, I will follow your advice regarding the refrigeration of the dough. Mil Gracias, for your great ideas.

  • Another idea is to not put the portioned-out balls of cookie dough in the fridge, but freeze them! I like to put them on a cookie sheet for the freeze, then transfer those frozen balls of heaven in a zippered bag. That way if you have a craving for a few cookies you can indulge without making 6 dozen. I used to do this all the time when I had an extra freezer in the garage (no longer, sadly!) , and it was just as easy to mix up two batches of cookie dough as it was just the one when I was doing my Christmas baking.

  • I make “cake mix” cookies often for the guys for lunch here on the farm. Cookies fresh from the oven and cooled a bit while eating the main meal are popular here. I often roll the dough into wax paper and refrigerate (or even freeze), so that each day I can pop a few in the oven. I just slice and form into balls.

  • I’ve always had a problem with cookies spreading too much and coming out very thin, or at other times never spreading out much (maybe after chilling the dough) and having to be flattened with a spatula mid-bake. I want them to be dense, chewy disks of uniform thickness but have almost never been able to achieve this. I did learn that using too much butter can contribute to spreading, but neither reducing the butter nor increasing the dry ingredients seems to help either. I do use whole-grain (soft white or spelt) flour, but I can’t imagine that this would make that much of a difference in how the cookies bake – or if anything they should be denser. Any other tips out there on how to achieve the ideal cookie?

    • Terry, I like soft and chewy cookies too. I substitute Butter Flavored Crisco for some or all of the butter. For peanut butter cookies I substitute plain vegetable shortening for the butter. I slightly under bake as well. If you leave your cookies on the cookie sheet to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack, they will continue to bake a little bit. For perfectly round cookies I use a small ice cream/mashed potato disher. You can find dishers at restaurant supply houses or Amazon. For very large cookies use a #20 disher. The larger the # the smaller the disher.

      • I do use a cookie scoop to make the little balls (although there’s always a “fringe” around the bottoms), and I usually have to let the cookies set up for a few minutes so I can move them as I take them out when they’ve just started to form a crust. However I haven’t substituted the butter as I prefer to stick with real ingredients. If anything I might try coconut oil. Leaf lard might work but of course the butter flavor would not be there.

    • Terry, I have the same problem. I’ve copied friends’ “no fail” cookies without the results they get. I think I’ve made every “Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Recipe” on Pinterest. I have manipulated the butter/shortening/margarine ratios, used more flour, adjusted amounts of baking soda/powder and cream of tarter. I’ve tried creaming the sugar/butter longer/shorter. I’ve also tried refrigerating the dough for hours. I’ve also adjusted oven temps and baking times. The cookies all taste good, I just can’t achieve that elusive thicker, chewy cookie! Alton Brown had a good show on adjustments you can make to manipulate your chocolate chip cookie dough.

  • The problem with me putting unbaked cookies in the fridge is that I do not like soft cookies – I like hard cookies – thin – hard cookies. So now I know what not to do. Thanks.

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