Cookie Making Demystified



Stained Glass Cookies

Be sure to see the recipe for “Stained Glass Cookies” at the end of this post.


Using an old hackneyed comparison, I suggest “cookie making is not rocket science,” which requires you to build a rocket, blend a mixture of fuel, ignite it, and watch your rocket fly away. No, cookie making is much more complicated than that. However, like any complicated procedure, the process of making cookies, reduced to its basic fundamentals, can “un-daunt” what seems an otherwise daunting task.


JW lectures on demystifying cooking making.

It’s not rocket science, it’s much worse…unless you learn a few secrets.

Many years ago a wise man told me: “Cooking is merely the timely assemblage of the proper ingredients.” That is as true now as it was when that wise man quoted me those many years ago.


For your convenience, I have broken cookie making fundamentals into 3 topics: Equipment, Ingredients, Assemblage and Baking. Okay, that’s four topics, but baking doesn’t really require any effort or action by the cookie maker. I mean, you just sit at the kitchen table and work a crossword puzzle, or if you are legally insane, a Sudoku puzzle, until the oven timer goes off. No harm, no foul.




The equipment needed for making cookies can probably be found in most any kitchen that contains an oven. However, finding those old cookie sheets might be a problem if you were not previously delegated a cookie making task. I suggest you look in the drawer under the stove. No? Then check that deep cupboard next to the sink. You’ll find them way in the back under the electric wok you haven’t used for 12 years, right behind the pasta making machine and deep fryer that you mercifully forgot you owned.




For sake of clarity, cookie ingredients can be further subdivided into three categories: Consistence or Body, Enhancements or Aggrandizements, and Adhesion or the sticky stuff that holds everything together.


JW flies to the moon.

Just to be clear, let’s not mix cookie making and rocket science, unless of course, we’re taking about my trip to the moon on Cookie Maker IV. Now, that was a blast.

A chemist might explain how all of these ingredient families come together to create a cookie. But that would be oversimplifying things and put cookie making into the rocket science category—not to mention making a mountain out of a mole hill.




The body of a cookie is usually derived from flour, but not always. It may also contain oatmeal, crushed cornflakes, shredded coconut, other “stuff”, or a combination of various ”things” with other stuff.  Really, when it comes to cookie bodies you are limited only by the poverty of your imagination.


Newton reaching for an apple.

Here’s Newton inventing a new cookie sensation.


These are the things that define a cookie: the chocolate to the chip, the peanut to the butter, the ginger to the snap, the fig to the Newton, etc. You get the idea. By the way, I thought Newton was associated with apples, not figs. As I remember the story, he was sitting under an apple tree when he got bonked on the head by a falling apple and he discovered the Newton (a.k.a. that unit of force in the meter-kilogram-second system equal to the force required to impart an acceleration of 1 meter per second to a mass of 1 kilogram). Shall I even bother to mention you can’t do all that with a fig? His cookie really should have been an apple Newton—no doubt about it.





The lack of proper adhesion in a cookie is the one and only reason that trite phrase regarding a cookie crumbling exists, and thrives. It doesn’t have to be that way. A cookie’s adhesion factor is often butter, either alone or in combination with, say, oil, eggs, milk or whatever else great cookie makers can think of.


Cookie making safety de-mystified.

Never underestimate cookie making safety requirements. Always wear the proper gear.

At the next meeting of the Cookie Makers Institute, I’m going to suggest their “Hall of Fame Panel” create a special “Adhesion Award” category.  That’s how important adhesion is!


There! I have unraveled the complex mysteries of cookie making. Now, let’s put today’s lesson to good use and bake some cookies.




Kid's will love these cookies.

Hey, they don’t call these “Stained-Glass Cookies” for nothing.

We’ll start with JW’s World Famous Stained-Glass Cookies.  On the cookie difficulty meter today’s cookies score a 75, approaching rocket science but not quite there. (Note, for those unfamiliar with the reference either to “JW” or “World Famous” I suggest reading a previous post on these pages entitled: JW’s World Famous Almond Crunch Cookies.)


Any well-stocked kitchen that has a refrigerator and cupboards is likely to have all the necessary ingredients for these cookies, with one exception: the “stained glass,” which is gum drops, our enhancement factor.


In my pioneer stage of Stained-Glass cookie making, I stopped at a local truck stop/mini-mart in search of gum drops. Not the best place to look for gumdrops I admit, but I needed gas too. For the wired truckers there was a large selection of packaged candy but no gumdrops…except for a big box of Dots, those filling-pulling, cavity-packing morsels of my Saturday-matinee-at-the movies youth. Nostalgia aside, the dots weren’t quite right for the cookies–too small. But they brought back memories.


At a grocery store I came upon a bulk candy section that was nearly as big as the donut aisle at Wal-Mart and would have made a diabetic blanch. And there I found gumdrops, big colorful gumdrops of every hue of the spectrum, each as big as a bank teller’s rubber thumb tip, without the little knobbies.


I'm cutting up my gumdrops.

This goes easier if you drop the cut pieces on a plate of sugar.

In the cookie instructions below, you’ll note a cup of gumdrops are cut into slices. The tricky part is doing this without adding parts of your fingers or thumb to the mix. I found kitchen scissors do a good job, but you’ll soon discover each slice tends to tenaciously stick to the scissors and each other. The adhesion factor running amok! After exhaustive research I discovered that sprinkling a plate with sugar and flopping each slice onto it, both sides, reduces the adhesion to a manageable level.  Good luck!





Gathering the ingredients.

I think I’ve got everything. No, wait, I need another egg.

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup soft butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

3 cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt



Whipping up the dough.

Start by mixing your sugar and butter. Then add the eggs and vanilla.

Snip 1 cup gumdrops into small pieces.


In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.


Next, blend in the vanilla and eggs.


As you go to measure the flour, lightly spoon it into a measuring cup and then level off the top. Stir in flour, soda and salt.


My dough rolled out.

Roll out the dough. If for some reason you find your dough isn’t sticking together, add a teaspoon or two of water and mix it in.

Fold in the gumdrop pieces.


Shape the dough into two 1-1/2 inch diameter rolls. Wrap the rolls in waxed paper and chill at least one hour (or overnight).


Here's a pan ready to pop in the oven.

Slice your cookies in 1/4″ disks and bake! You’re almost done.

When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350. Grease cookie sheets. With a sharp knife, slice the chilled dough into 1/4 inch disks and place on prepared cookie sheets.


Bake for 8-11 min. This depends on your type of pan and the actual thickness of your cookie dough.  Remove from cookie sheets immediately after baking and place on wax paper to cool.


Yield: 5-6 dozen cookies.


By the way, if you haven’t been mousing over the pictures during today’s lesson on cookie making, you may have missed a number of critical details.  ‘Till next time.


How do you take care of your tools?

Besides being “World-Famous” JW’s talents go far beyond cookie making.  If you don’t believe it check out his post entitled, “Tooling Around,” which offers some great tips for maintaining tools.


One Response to Cookie Making Demystified

  • connie says:

    We keep the rolls of dough well-wrapped in the refrigerator and then every evening just slice off enough to bake up for that evening’s desert, ensuring many days of fresh baked cookies,.


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