If you’re whipping up a vat of edible cookie dough with no plans to bake any of it, feel free to grab a spoon and dig in as soon as you’ve switched off your mixer. But if you’re hoping to churn out batches of the best chocolate chip cookies ever (or some other cookie variety), there’s one step you shouldn’t skip before dropping clumps of dough onto a cookie sheet.
You need to let your dough spend some time in the fridge, first. There are a couple key reasons why this is important, which involve the shape, texture, and even flavor of your cookies.
As Taste of Home reports, chilling cookie dough gives the butter a chance to harden, which means it’ll take longer to melt once it’s in the oven. That way, your dough balls will spread out at a slower rate, producing compact, chewy cookies. Otherwise, you’ll get thin cookies with lots of surface area and less density than you might want. (And if you’re cutting cookie dough into specific shapes, forgoing refrigeration may result in unidentifiable pancake-like blobs.)
“In terms of texture, chilled cookie dough produces a more evenly golden-brown cookie with a crisper edge and chewier center,” Caitlin Haught Brown, a food stylist and recipe developer, told MarthaStewart.com.
That lovely golden-brown color occurs in part because refrigeration allows the flour to break down and your wet and dry ingredients to mix more completely. This process, according to Food & Wine, also produces more developed and decadent flavors.
As for how long to chill your dough, it depends on how much time you can spare. Leaving it in the fridge overnight is ideal, but an hour or even 30 minutes should suffice, too. If you’re in a major hurry, Food & Wine recommends bypassing the fridge and sticking your preformed cookie dough balls straight in the freezer for a good 15 minutes before baking.
[h/t Food & Wine]