Scaling Your Cookie Recipes

What is scaling?

If you are going into the business of baking cookies, you’ll need to know how to do this. It’s the process of multiplying your recipe by many times to produce much more dough for many more cookies. It’s the difference between making enough dough in one batch to make two dozen cookies, or 2000 cookies.

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It’s Sunday night and you’re panicked. And no, it’s not because you still have to wait two whole weeks before Desperate Housewives comes back. You’ve got to bake an astronomical amount of cookies for tomorrow morning and you don’t know how you’re going to do it. If only you had a pastry chef tied up in one of your cluttered closets that you could pull out and put to work like those little cobbling elves in a certain fairytale.

*Be Patient* – When making large batches of cookies, the most important thing that you have to remember is not to rush You might be baking cookies for a couple of hours here, so you might want to get your coziest pair of slippers on and put on a kettle before you start. If you want each and every cookie to be perfect, you’ll have to remember that you need to let each and everyone of them have the right amount of time in the oven. Don’t skimp on the time or jack up the heat because you want to get it all done. I know that most of you have the patience to do this, so I’m not terribly worried, but if you do have a deadline, planning (like patience) is a fantastic virtue. Make the cookie dough ahead of time.

*Use Fresh Ingredients* – This is always an important thing to keep in mind. We’ve all heard it a million times; if you want a fantastic product, you have to use fantastic ingredients. Don’t rely on store brand to give you a gourmet result. Especially when you’re making large batches of cookies, and in turn making large batches of cookie dough, you need to remember that these ingredients are going to meld and sit for a little while before you bake them. The better and fresher the ingredients are, the better the last cookie you make will be, especially if you’re making 300 cookies.

*Don’t use as much leavening* – When you’re making a large batch of cookie dough, remember to scale down the amount of baking powder that you use. Here’s a fun experiment that we’ve all done at one point or another (either on purpose or on accident) Have you ever seen what happens when you add water to baking powder? Try it sometime. As bakers, we use baking powder to help our cookies rise a bit. When you put baking powder in your cookies, it reacts with the wet ingredients as soon as it comes in contact with them, creating tiny little bubbles that will result in a fluffy cookie when baked. When you make a large batch of cookies, those tiny bubbles will grow and grow until you’ve got yourself a thick cake batter. Generally, if I’m doubling a recipe, I don’t bother with scaling down the baking powder or baking soda, but if I triple it, and it calls for baking powder/soda, I tend to leave out anywhere between a 1/4 tsp and a ½ tsp. Although, that may be because I like my cookies to be a little more dense and chewy. If you’re scaling your recipe up by ten, only use 50% of the baking powder that you would normally use. Don’t worry, it’ll still rise in the oven. I promise. This is especially important if you’re not baking the cookies within close proximity to the time when you made the dough. Just remember that you’ll be letting the dough sit and in essence, “rise” before you cook it, so don’t let it rise to much. You don’t want cookie #1 to be perfect and cookie #300 to be a stiff cake.

*Watch the spice* – As a general rule, do not be heavy handed with spice or salt when scaling up a recipe These flavors will increase exponentially, and a good amount of salt at a normal recipe will taste like way to much in a recipe that’s been scaled up 10 times. Same goes with spices. These flavors will develop very much when you’re dough is chilling, and of course when it’s baking, so you don’t need to increase this very much. Generally, if you’re quadrupling a recipe, only triple your spice. If you’re scaling it up ten times, only use 60% the amount of spice you’re used to.

*Have Fun* – Like any other corny list of to-do’s I have to end on a corny note. When making cookies, you should never approach it as a chore. The most important ingredient that you will ever put into a recipe will be your love for what you’re doing. A cookie doesn’t taste as delicious if it’s just slapped together with no regard. Treat each of these cookies like it’s going to a food competition and you want to knock the socks off of those judges. Remember to love what you’re doing and even if you scale your cookie recipe wrong and it’s got about 7 times the amount of cinnamon that it should have, you’ll know that you tried and that next time, you’ll take it easy with the spice. Cookies aren’t about getting it right. Cookies are about living life well and treating yourself once in a while (or even twice or three times in a while.)

Happy Baking, folks.
Robin Carroll
Dolce Cakes

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