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Skip Navigation LinksHome > Tips & Ideas > Expertly Answered FAQs

Expertly Answered FAQs

Have a baking question? Get an expert answer. Linda Stahl of HERSHEY’S Kitchens covers some common baking quandaries.

How to Bake

What is whipping?

Whipping is beating ingredients until aerated. This can be achieved by using a whisk, a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.

When preparing large batches of cookie dough, (more than just doubling) should all the ingredient measurements be consistent with the proportions of a single batch?

I typically only double recipes. There are recipe differences when you go higher than that. For example, a key difference between doubling and tripling recipes is that the leavening agent's effect diminishes over time. If you’re making large quantities of cookie dough, the time that your batter sits uncooked makes a huge difference in how the cookies turn out.

Why is salt added to cookie and cake recipes?

Salt enhances all flavors—savory and sweet!

Do I follow the same temperature setting for a convection oven when baking cookies?

Convection baking requires some minor adjustments to either the baking time or oven temperature. The radiating heat from the internal fan of a convection oven creates an evenly heated atmosphere that bakes and cooks food more efficiently.

To convert a conventional oven recipe for a convection oven, either drop the baking time by 15 minutes or decrease the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Which HERSHEY'S chocolate product(s) are best for dipping?

Any of HERSHEY'S Baking Chips are perfect for dipping! Simply select the flavor you would like and melt the chips using a microwave or a double boiler. Then you will be ready to dip your goodies.

Tools to Use

Do I follow the same temperature setting for a convection oven when baking cookies?

For convection oven baking, reduce the oven temperature listed on the recipe by 25 to 50 degrees F.

What type of baking sheet is best for baking cookies (e.g., flat, rimmed, nonstick, aluminum, light, dark, etc.)?

Medium-weight shiny aluminum baking sheets are best. The dark ones tend to brown the bottoms of your cookies too much.

Quick Fixes

My chocolate chip cookies always seem to get hard after baking. I follow the recipe, and they seem soft when coming out of the oven, but end up hard. What am I doing wrong?

To keep chocolate chip cookies soft after baking, do not overmix the dough or use too much flour. Bake your chocolate chip cookies on a shiny pan (not dark) for the minimum amount of time recommended. The center might look a bit softer, but let the cookies cool completely and you will have a soft center! Be sure to store them in an airtight container.

I would love for my chocolate chip cookies to be thicker or puffier. Is there a solution?

It all comes down to air, or lack thereof, when your chocolate chip cookies go flat. Here are a few suggestions to keep the puff in your cookies: 1. Keep the butter chilled and not too soft (as in, not to room temperature, as many recipes suggest), and cream the butter with the sugar only briefly, because colder butter will keep in the air bubbles better. 2. On that note, after you drop the batter on the cookie tray, try chilling the dough for an hour before baking, and keep the remaining dough in the fridge between trays. Make sure to use cool trays for new dough, not those hot from the oven. 3. Add a couple of extra tablespoons of flour, mixed in gently so the dough doesn’t become tough, for added puffiness. 4. Make sure your leavening agent (baking soda or baking powder) is not expired! 5. Use good-quality cookie sheets. This is non-negotiable. 6. Be sure your oven is fully preheated to the accurate temperature.

Why do my chocolate chip cookies sometimes go flat in the oven?

There are a few reasons this could be happening. My favorite trick for keeping cookies from going flat is to refrigerate the dough first, and be sure to use a cool pan. Dough spreads much quicker when it's warm, resulting in a flatter cookie. Another good tip is to check your baking soda and baking powder: If these ingredients aren't fresh, your cookies won't rise the way they should.

My cookies spread out when they are baking. What can I do so they keep more of their shape?

Trying adding a pinch more flour. Be sure to test a couple of cookies before baking the whole batch—that might help.

I was taught to always add baking powder as well as baking soda to cookie dough. However, I find that sometimes this makes them too crisp. I am adding about a half tsp. of baking powder, plus one tsp. of soda. Do you have a recommendation to avoid cookies becoming too crispy?

Well, I wouldn't use both leavening agents in a recipe, unless it specifically calls for them. Certain cookies can certainly withstand the use of both, but generally you should use one or the other. Baking powder does more leavening, helping your cookie rise, while baking soda neutralizes the acids in the recipe, creating tenderness while working as a leavening agent as well. Regardless of which you use—they won't cause your cookies to be too crisp—overbaking will do that! ;)

What to Bake

Is there a recipe for HERSHEY'S KISSES Chocolates baked inside the cookie dough?

I like HERSHEY’S KISSES Chocolate Chip Cookies. You can find the recipe here.

I want to make cookie dough ahead of time so I can cook them right before the holidays.
What do you recommend?

Making cookie dough ahead of time can definitely make holiday baking easier! Double-wrap your cookie dough in plastic resealable freezer bags to protect it. You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months. You might need to bake cookies a bit longer than recommended, so be sure to watch carefully so they don't burn.

Refrigerating & Freezing

How long can cookie dough last in the refrigerator?

Homemade cookie dough can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days if kept tightly wrapped. For longer storage, wrap and seal in plastic wrap, then place in freezer bags. Place in freezer for up to 3-6 months.

Can I freeze Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies and Candy Cane Blossoms Cookies with the HERSHEY’S KISSES Chocolates on top? If so, are there any precautions?

Yes, you can, but I wouldn't recommend it. When already-baked cookies freeze, they lose some of their texture. Chocolate can also "bloom" when it is thawed from a frozen state. (“Bloom” is the white filmy residue you sometimes find on chocolate. It occurs when some of the cocoa butter in the chocolate separates from the cocoa solids, usually when the chocolate is stored in a warm area.)
However, you can easily freeze the dough (wrapped tightly in plastic wrap) for up to 3-6 months and thaw it out anytime for fresh-made Blossom Cookies!

If I freeze cookie dough in advance, do I have to defrost it completely before baking? If so, how do I do that?

We freeze our cookie dough all the time! Simply drop dough balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet (like you were baking them, but they can be closer together), but then put the entire baking sheet in the freezer.

Once the balls are frozen solid (about 3 to 4 hours), transfer them to a zip-top bag labeled with the recipe name, date and baking info (like time and temperature).

If you have time, it's best to bake cookie dough after it's been thawed—even if that means simply running it under hot water for 10 minutes. However, if you need to bake frozen, simply leave the cookies in for 2-3 minutes longer.

Does buttercream frosting need to be kept refrigerated?

The easy answer is “No.” If you frost a cake with buttercream frosting containing butter and/or shortening, milk and powdered sugar, generally, it’s OK to leave it at room temperature overnight as long as it’s generally cool and out of sunlight or away from a heat source that can melt the frosting. You can actually leave it out for 3 days at room temperature.

However, if you made the frosting with cream cheese or whipped cream, or if the cake has custard or fruits inside that need refrigeration, then you should refrigerate. While refrigeration risks drying a cake, I actually do refrigerate my own cupcakes and cakes when I make them the day before an event, mostly to set the swirled and piped frosting well—not because of health concerns.

I also refrigerate decorating bags filled with leftover buttercream frosting, and let them set at room temperature to soften before using them again.

Substitutions

Is there a substitute for the peanut butter in the Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies?

Yes, certainly, you can use almond or cashew butter!

Do you have a recipe for sugar-free sugar cookies?

You can always substitute sugar for natural sweeteners like honey or artificial sweeteners.

Is there a substitute for cardamom instead of using a vanilla bean?

You could easily substitute in cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice for the cardamom.

What is the substitute for a baking chocolate bar when using HERSHEY'S Cocoa with butter?

To substitute for unsweetened baking chocolate, use 3 tablespoons of cocoa and 1 tablespoon of shortening.

Can I use Caramel HERSHEY'S KISSES Chocolates on Peanut Butter Blossoms rather than the Milk Chocolate ones?

Yes! Of course! You can use any flavor of HERSHEY'S KISSES Chocolates on top of Peanut Butter Blossoms.

Is it possible to substitute lowfat/fat-free cream cheese in any recipe?

Yes, you can swap it out in any recipe with similar results. However, when one of the recipe’s main ingredients is full-fat cream cheese and you swap it out for lowfat, you may miss the creaminess that comes from the full-fat ingredient. If you are only using a few tablespoons of cream cheese, it is no big deal to swap it out, but when making something like cream cheese frosting, you will want to stick to the real stuff!

In baking chocolate brownies, I use 1 package of HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips. If I melt the chips and pour them into the brownie mixture instead of adding the chips, what effect will it have?

By melting the chocolate and pouring it into the batter, you will create a brownie with a denser, richer crumb. For an ultimate brownie, add melted chocolate and then throw in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips for added texture and chocolaty goodness.

What is the conversion for using cocoa in place of semisweet baking chocolate? I know for unsweetened it’s 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon oil for 1 square—I just can't remember how much sugar.

I use 3 tablespoons of sugar. However, HERSHEY’S says you can use a combination of 6 tablespoons of HERSHEY'S Cocoa, 7 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 cup of shortening.

What is a substitute for brown sugar?

In baking, substituting sugars will work, but you should expect a difference in flavor. 1 cup of granulated sugar can be substituted for a cup of brown sugar. Or, for results more similar to the taste of brown sugar, combine 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons of molasses and 1 cup of white sugar.

What can I substitute for shortening?

You can use butter in place of shortening when a recipe calls for it, but the recipe may spread more when baking. Be sure the dough is cold before baking and think about doing a half-butter/half-shortening substitution instead of a full one.

Can you substitute Crisco or margarine for shortening?

In a pinch, you can substitute margarine for shortening. For every 1 cup of shortening in the recipe, you can swap in 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of margarine. Be sure to use a pinch less salt in the recipe when substituting margarine for shortening.

My family has made the HERSHEY’S Rich Cocoa Fudge recipe for years. However, now that I'm trying it, I cannot get it to turn out. While it is cooling to lukewarm temperature in the pan, it gets really hard like taffy. Do you have any tips to help?

Fudge is ever so tricky and often you need to make a recipe many times before you start to intuitively know when to heat, remove from heat or stir.

Are you letting the temperature get above 234 degrees? The fudge will start to enter into a harder boil stage when you creep toward 250 degrees. Or, are you turning the heat too high to rush to 234 degrees? If so, it will cook the mixture too quickly.

Be sure to use the soft ball/cold water test that the recipe suggests. That will tell you if the mixture is just right. It's also very important to not stir the fudge while you wait for it to cool to a lukewarm temperature. Fudge must cool slowly, and any agitation can speed the cooling, so do not disturb the mixture AT ALL while it is cooling to lukewarm.

Where can I find vanilla bean paste?

Vanilla bean paste can be found online or in specialty food stores. If you can't find it in a store, you can always use a substitute—simply combine pure vanilla with natural vanilla bean seeds in paste form. 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste equals 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.