The Cookie Book: How to Make Creative Cookies

Rebecca Firth's THE COOKIE BOOK takes us from classics to jazz-hands creative twists, with lots of helpful tips along the way.

Kara Rota
5-minute read
Episode #215

Before we get started, let’s talk about some of my general cookie tips. I’ll repeat them throughout the book, because I think they guarantee cookie success, but these are our basics:

1. Read through a new recipe before starting to make sure you have all of the ingredients, equipment and the time needed to get it done. I can’t overstate the importance of this enough (and I’m the queen of ignoring this cardinal rule and paying the price, so don’t do it!).

2. Never overmix your dough unless I tell you to really mix your dough. Most cookie dough needs a gentle hand. To that end, I often recommend mixing until the dough is just barely combined and the last bits of flour have disappeared into the dough. 

3. Chill your dough. Sometimes I have you put the whole lump of dough in the fridge to firm up a bit. The longer it stays in the fridge, the puffier and tastier your cookies will get. Sometimes I have you put the dough in the freezer for a spell prior to baking. This helps the cookies keep their shape while baking. If you have a small freezer, consider putting them on plates. If I recommend these steps, don’t skip them. The cookies will benefit from this cooling off time. Conversely, there are a handful of cookies that don’t benefit from any fridge time, or can only tolerate a smidge.

4. Don’t swap out ingredients unless I give you options. If a recipe calls for bread flour, use the bread flour. Can we talk bread flour? It gives your cookie some structure and chew. You’ll love it. I promise. If you don’t already have some, go get it. And don’t swap another flour in its place. We’ll have more bread flour talk later...but you won’t get the same results if you change the recipe. End of story. 

5. But do swap...add-ins! If I tell you to add dark chocolate chips to your cookie dough and you love milk chocolate, by all means add the milk chocolate. If I tell you to add dried cherries to a cookie but you only have dried cranberries and you don’t want to run to the store, put the damn cranberries in. I don’t want you changing out of your pajamas unless you have to.

6. I often get asked how I get a consistent look with my cookies because, let’s be honest, buttery dough in a hot oven tends to do what it wants. But there are some things you can do to coax it into submission. As a general rule, I prefer to use my hands to roll dough balls rather than use cookie scoops. I prefer the way the resulting cookie looks. And yes, there is a difference in appearance. After making hundreds of dozens of cookies, I say this with 100 percent confidence. That said, some cookies, as noted throughout the book, were easier to make with a cookie scoop or with two spoons (this is usually the case with a damp dough), and I noted as such in those instances. However, I know that people are PASSSIONATE about their cookie scoops. And if that’s you—great! Knock your socks off. If you don’t (that’s fine too!), just measure out one cookie and then eyeball the rest based on the one measured cookie. Another key tip to follow: when the cookies first come out of the oven use the edge of a spatula to nudge any lumps and bumps back into place. This last note is perhaps my favorite in turning out a nice, spherical cookie.

OK, more tips and suggestions to come. I hope you discover new ways to make some of your favorites and your taste buds are awakened by new spices and flavors. I’m really glad you’re here. Let’s bake some cookies, shall we?


Ovenly has a recipe for burnt sugar which had me completely intrigued ever since I first laid eyes on it. I knew I wanted to mess around with it for a cookie, and I decided to create a super ginger-y cookie with it. But don’t be overwhelmed with the amount of ginger in here. I promise, it’s not too much. Unless, of course, you don’t like ginger in which case you probably shouldn’t be making this cookie. When making the burnt sugar, you aren’t actually burning it, just stirring until it liquefies and turns a deep amber. I’m already thinking of a million moreways to use it! MAKES 46 COOKIES BURNT SUGAR GINGER

  • 1 cup (192 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons (14 g) fresh ginger, finely grated


  • 16 tablespoons (230 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1½ cups (288 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (105 g) light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • ⅔ cup (160 ml) unsulphured molasses
  • 1 tablespoon (14 g) fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cups (408 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups (204 g) bread flour
  • 3 teaspoons (8 g) ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons (13 g) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons (5 g) cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

COOKIE COATING ½ cup (96 g) granulated sugar To make the Burnt Sugar Ginger, spray a rimmed baking sheet heavily with nonstick spray and set aside. Add the sugar and ginger to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and use your fingers to massage the ginger into the sugar. Turn the heat to medium high and constantly stir until the sugar liquefies, turns golden brown and no sugar crystals remain. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and use a spatula to spread evenly until it’s about ¼ to ⅛ inch (0.7 to 0.3 cm) thick. Set aside for 1 hour to cool and harden. Once cool, turn out onto a cutting board and cut into shards of 1 inch (2.5 cm) and smaller. Careful, they’re sharp. To make the cookie, preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and cover several baking sheets with parchment paper. In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix for 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs, one at a time, taking care that each one is fully blended before adding in the next. Make sure to frequently scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl so that everything is well blended. Add in the molasses and fresh ginger and run the mixer on low for 1 minute more, or until everything is thoroughly combined. Take the bowl out of the mixer and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Add this to the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined and you still see streaks of flour. Add in the burnt sugar shards, stirring until evenly distributed throughout the dough. To make the cookie coating, place the sugar in a small, shallow bowl. Roll 2 tablespoons (28 g) of dough into a ball and then roll in the sugar to heavily coat. Place on the baking sheet leaving 2 inches (5 cm) between dough balls. 

Bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven for 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet. 

Reprinted with permission from The Cookie Book by Rebecca Firth, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018. Photo credit: Rebecca Firth.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.