The Importance of a Base Recipe in Baking


Single cookie for The Importance of Base Recipes in BakingThis is a perfect base recipe for cookies as it can be adapted endlessly and can be put together in a matter of minutes.

When baking professionally a base recipe is not only desirable but necessary. It is impossible to have 40 chocolate cake recipes or one for every chocolate cake you ever made. We had about 6 but our work horse was the cake for the Espresso Fudge Cake.

We could combine endless fillings and finishes as well as baking the layers thicker or thinner depending upon what we wanted when we used a base recipe.

I first used this recipe in “My Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies”. I listed the following points that make this cookie a favorite.

The cookies shown in this blog are the Orange Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookie listed below.

  1. Use bread flour instead of all purpose flour. Bread flour is stronger and adds to the “chewiness” of the cookie.
  1. Use enough add ins. It is important as it helps hold the dough together in the oven and prevents it from spreading too much.
  1. Use half butter for flavor and half shortening such as Crisco which helps prevent the cookies from spreading. All butter allows the cookies to spread more in the oven, making a less compact cookie which is thinner and crispier throughout.
  1. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator overnight. It helps improve the flavor and the overall look of the cookie when baked. These cookies have a welcoming warm golden brown color with no under baked centers but remain chewy in the center.
  1. Double pan the cookies. This refers to placing one pan on top of another to slow down the heat to the bottom of the cookies making overbrowned or burned cookies a thing of the past.
  1. The cookies should be pulled from the oven while they are still puffy. They will deflate into delicious chewiness as they cool. I move them from the hot pan to a rack to finish cooling as soon as they are stable enough – usually within a couple of minutes.  If you happen to like crispy cookies just bake a bit longer.

Another thing I like to do is drop the cookies using a disher or scooper and freeze them. Since there are only two of us now, eating 40+ cookies in a few days isn’t a good idea. I didn’t say I couldn’t do it – I most certainly can – but Mike has to limit his sugar intake and I should! After freezing, it is then a simple matter to bake them straight from the freezer adding a minute or two to thaw while baking. Nothing like warm cookies for dessert!

Speaking of scooping, the size of the cookie can be changed from very small (#60 disher or scoop) to medium (think  #40 disher or scoop) to large (use a #20 disher or scoop). The time increases slightly as the size gets bigger. The smallest cookies will bake in about 10 to 12 minutes.  The medium cookies will take 12 to 14 minutes while the large cookies will take 15 to 17. Just don’t overbake them.Three cookie sizes stacked for The Importance of base recipes in baking

A note about the ingredients. I prefer to use chocolate chips in my cookies because regular chocolate chopped up will stay melty after baking. Chocolate chips are formulated to stay in chips and not melt after cooling. Many brands are made from which to pick.  However, it is your choice.

Generally speaking, I toast most of my nuts to deepen the flavor. An almond is good but a toasted almond is great.

Feel free to make up your own combinations depending upon what you like. Coconut, M&M’s, Reeses pieces, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, chocolate covered raisins – anything goes!

A base recipe is an important addition for any baking repetoire.

Base Recipe for Cookies – go here for how to photos.
2 1/4 cups bread flour (315 grams or 11 grams)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (114 grams or 4 ounces)
1/2 cup shortening (114 grams or 4 ounces)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces)
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups add ins of choice – see below for ideas or add your own

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line several baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until well combined. Add the eggs and beat well. Beat in the flour. Mix in the 2 cups of add ins.

Refrigerate overnight.

Bring to room temperature.  Drop the cookies with a #40 disher (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) onto the baking sheets. Double pan. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes until deep golden brown and set around the outside but still puffy and  in the middle.

Cool on the baking sheet just until firmed up then move them to a rack to finish cooling.


Orange Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookies– Add the grated rind of one medium to large orange to the sugar and butter mixture when beating. Combine 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee with the vanilla; add where the vanilla is called for.  Add 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted** macadamia nuts and 1 cup dark, milk, white or a combination of chocolate chips. This cookie appears in the photos.

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Add 2 cups of dark, milk,  white chocolate or a mix of chips.

Pecan Cookies – Add 2 cups coarsely chopped toasted** pecans.

Gianduja Cookies – Gianduja is a milk chocolate hazelnut combination from Piedmont, Italy. Use 1 cup coarsely chopped blanched toasted**hazelnuts and 1 cup milk chocolate chips.

Lemon Pistachio White Chocolate – Add about 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind, 1 cup toasted** coarsely chopped pistachio nuts and 1 cup white chocolate chips.

Cranberry Walnut Cookies – Add 1 cup dried cranberries (soften in hot water if hard*) and 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts.

Cherry Almond – Add one cup coarsely chopped dried bing cherries soaked in hot water* and 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted** almonds.

Peanut Butter Cookies – Add 1 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter to the butter, sugar, etc. when creaming. Add 3/4 cup roasted peanuts at the end if desired.

*To soak fruit, cover with really hot water. Let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and pat with paper towels so excess liquid is not added to the batter.

**Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Depending upon the nut and the size it can take from 7 to 12 minutes. The nuts will become fragrant and be light to medium brown.

Yield: About 40 cookiesOrange Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookie for The Importance of a Base Recipe in Baking

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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18 thoughts on “The Importance of a Base Recipe in Baking

  1. Diane

    Thank you so much for sharing your “go to” base recipes. I truly enjoy and appreciate all of your posts and would love to know more of the recipes that you can always count on to turn out just right!

  2. Kim

    Once again you demystify how to get a chewy cookie. Defrosted my freezer last week and found a bag of bread flour…Now I know what to do with it! Plus love the tips about refrigerating dough. You are very thorough in your explanation. Love understanding WHY we do certain steps!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Kim – when I owned my bakery I always thought it was important for my employees to know why things worked so they would be better bakers and do a better job. I try in each blog to include information to make my readers more successful when making the recipe. Glad you found the bread flour.

  3. Fern

    Please help me. I keep getting double emails from you. I love your posts and am sometimes baking-challenged but 1 email per post is enough to keep me on track :)

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Fern – So sorry you are having this problem. Are you getting the post plus a notification that it has been posted or are you getting the entire post twice? I went onto my subscriber list and you are only entered once. Are you getting a heads up that one is coming? That comes automatically when I post a new blog. Can you just delete one immediately knowing a second is on the way. Has anyone else had this problem? Have no idea why this is happening.

  4. Rockyrd

    Another great post Helen. My one question is- does it matter to you if you scoop the cookie dough right after its mixed and then refrigerate it? I find that if I refrigerate a whole bowl of dough it has to be brought almost to room temp to scoop it. Guess I am always in a hurry and trying to save steps. Is it to save room in the fridge, so you don’t have to have lots of trays of dough balls?

    But I always do what you said and scoop the dough and freeze it on trays, when hard I put them in zip lock bags. It sure is easy enough to bake off what you want then. By the time the oven is preheated they are ready to bake.

    We like well baked crunchy cookies rather than soft types. My husband has been known to take the cookies out of the container and let them sit out on the counter to “stale” and get hard.

    One other remark. I have an older cookie book that has a basic recipe then there are add ons but then other methods are sometimes done to the dough. What always amazes me is how different they taste. Even the texture can be altered.
    One favorite is the plain same old dough calls for lime juice and zest to be added. The dough is rolled into a long snake, cut into pieces and then rolled in lightly beaten egg white, then dredged in a mixture of ground almonds and 10X sugar. Kinda messy but the results are amazing. They puff up and get a crunchy glassy outer crust. Wonder how this would work with your recipe here.
    As always thanks for the great recipes. I am going to apply for a mortgage so I can buy macadamia nuts and make that orange/macadamia/choc one. Wow that sounds great.

      1. hfletcher Post author

        I again – I just remembered you asked about scooping the cookies before the overnight refrigeration. Personally I think it is best to transfer them after mixing to a container. I use 2 quart Cambro containers with lids as they are compact and don’t take up too much space. By letting them overnight in the refrigerator, not only do they taste better but the flour is equally hydrated. Scooping and chilling would defeat this. Hope this helps.

  5. sallybr

    Great post, Helen! I shared in my favorite cooking forum, so that people will read it, I intend to have fun with your base recipe, following your tips for a chewy, perfect cookie

    I love the flavors you picked for this particular recipe

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Sally – I have already gotten viewers from the forum – so thanks for that. If I ever get the Brioche book finished (close but no cigar yet!), I have a cookie book featuring American and European cookies started. If I had 36 hours in a day maybe I could get more done.

      1. sallybr

        I would like a day with 72 hours! ;-) You have a bunch of fans in that forum already, they pointed me to your beautiful gelatin review after I posted this article. You do so much! I am in awe…

  6. Cathy Wett

    Thanks, Helen. I love your posts. A learning experience as well as reading the recipes make the experience much more fun. I can’t wait to try using a base since hubby sure likes cookies.

  7. cookinggram

    the information you shared with your members is simply astounding. I am only a home cook/baker. However, at times, have been asked to cook/bake for as many as 50??? the pointers you provided educated me in areas not previously known. thank you again and know I will be a happier baker from here on.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Being a home baker is exactly how I started out. I have a love of cooking and baking, surely gotten through my mother and grandmother. From their curiosity took over and soon it was a business. Cooking and baking for 50 qualifies you as more than a home cook/baker though. So glad I could add to your day and thanks for letting me know.

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