How to make cookies; Cookie making basics; drop cookies with variations

Most cookies are classified as one of five types, depending on the way they are shaped: drop (from a teaspoon); molded (by hand or by cookie press); rolled; bar (cut into rectangles after baking); and refrigerator (sliced from a chilled roll).

For best results, measure ingredients level and preheat your oven for at least 15 minutes. Except for bars, use baking sheets-or turn baking pans upside down (high-sided pans don’t allow heat to flow evenly over the cookies). Grease the sheets with unsalted shortening or, for delicate cookies, line the sheets with foil.

Place the dough on a cool sheet and fill the sheet so that the cookies will bake evenly. (If the last batch won’t fill a sheet, use the reverse side of a small pan.) Place sheets at the center of the oven or higher and at least 2 inches from oven walls. As soon as cookies are done, transfer them to wire racks. Should they harden on the sheet, pop them back in the oven for a minute.

Drop cookies
This good, plain, basic recipe can be varied with additional ingredients. It makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch cookies. Preheat the oven to 400F Cream 1/2 cup butter or margarine, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 1 egg. Stir in 1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk (if you have none, add 1 teaspoon vinegar to milk). Sift together 11/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add these gradually to the creamed ingredients and mix until blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until a fingerprint barely remains when a cookie is touched lightly. Oatmeal-raisin: Reduce flour to 1 cup; add 1 cup raw oats, 1 cup raisins, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Chocolate chip: Add 6 ounces semisweet chocolate bits and 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Coconut-orange: Substitute 1/4 cup orange juice for the milk. Add 1 cup shredded coconut and 1 tablespoon grated orange rind to the dough.