People with limited kitchen space rarely miss having large appliances, except when they’re craving a sweet treat warm out of the oven. You may not have the room for a traditional range in your cooking space, but a toaster oven can take over for almost all the tasks an old-fashioned oven would do. This especially applies to baking a batch of cookies. Imagine eating warm chocolate chip cookies in your campsite on the beach or smelling the delicious scent of cinnamon cookies baking in your studio apartment. Compact, safe and convenient, a toaster oven is the perfect small appliance for baking cookies in small spaces.
The Toaster Oven Difference
At heart, toaster ovens are just small versions of traditional ovens, but with some slight differences and advantages.
- They take up less space in the kitchen.
- They give off less heat, keeping your kitchen cooler.
- They use less power, both to run the appliance and because you won’t have to run the air conditioner to cool down the house after a baking session.
- They cost a lot less money.
- They often cook foods faster.
- They’re portable, so you can use them in multiple places.
- There’s essentially no preheating time, so you save even more time before baking.
Toaster ovens aren’t the perfect addition to your kitchen, as they do have some disadvantages, but the biggest one is their size. You won’t be able to cook a Thanksgiving turkey inside one, and toaster oven cookies have to be baked in multiple batches. But if you don’t need large batches of food, a toaster oven can be the perfect baking appliance for your kitchen space.
Baking in a Toaster Oven
Using a toaster oven is almost exactly like baking in a traditional oven, with some small exceptions. Almost all toaster ovens come with a baking pan that fits perfectly on one of the interior shelves. There’s nothing special about this pan except its size. If you have any type of baking pan that fits the interior of your toaster oven, feel free to use it for any recipe.
Like any oven, toaster oven interior temperatures vary widely. Get an oven thermometer and check out the accuracy of your toaster oven temperature. Place the thermometer in the center of the oven; then set the oven’s dial for 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it heat for 10 minutes, and then pull out the thermometer and check the temperature on the dial. If it reads 400F, your toaster oven settings are accurate. If it’s higher or lower, adjust your oven temperature by that much when baking your batches of cookies.
You may be comfortable using parchment paper when baking cookies in a conventional oven. In fact, using parchment paper is often part of the baking instructions in cookie recipes. Not so with a toaster oven. If you read the fine print on almost every parchment paper box, you’ll see a warning against using it in a toaster oven. If your cookies need something between the dough and your pan, either bake them in a traditional oven or use baking spray or a silicone mat in your pan.
Don't cut a silicone mat to fit a smaller toaster oven pan. These mats have a fiberglass mesh inside, and cutting them can cause the fibers to get into your food.
When you’re ready to bake your cookies, don’t crowd the pan, or you may end up with one huge cookie rectangle. It’s likely you’ll have to cook more than one batch of cookies with almost any recipe. The key to successful batch cooking is to always use a cool pan. Either buy a second baking pan that fits your toaster oven, or rinse the pan with lukewarm water and dry it thoroughly before using it for the next batch.
Cookies Step by Step
Cookies may be the simplest dessert recipe you can make, and they’re universally loved. Who doesn’t like warm cookies right out of the oven? Even if you’ve never baked anything in your life, you can successfully make chocolate chip cookies that you’ll be proud of on your first try.
Place 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk these ingredients together. (You don’t need to use a whisk; you just want to combine them. A fork is fine.)
Place 1 1/2 sticks of room-temperature unsalted butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, or, if you’re using a hand mixer, into a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup of packed light brown sugar and 2/3 cup of regular granulated (table) sugar. Mix on medium-high until the results are light and fluffy. This is called creaming the butter and sugar together, and it will take about 4 minutes. Add one egg and beat the mixture until the egg is completely combined. Add another egg and do the same thing. As you’re mixing the eggs in, you might need to use a rubber spatula to scrape the ingredients down from the walls of the bowl to incorporate them back into the mix.
Once the butter, eggs and sugar are completely combined, add the flour mixture. Beat it on medium, only until the mixture is completely combined. Remove the beaters from the dough and stir in one 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with a plastic or wooden spoon.
Scoop the dough by large tablespoons onto your baking pan, placing them so they’re 2 inches apart. This allows the cookies to spread out while they bake. In most toaster ovens, you’ll have enough dough to make about four batches. Position your oven rack at the center of the toaster oven, and put the pan of cookie dough inside. Bake the cookies at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes. If you like soft cookies, take them out closer to 12 minutes. For crunchy cookies, leave them in the entire 15 minutes.
Allow the cookies to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking pan; then use a spatula to remove them and place them on a rack to cool. If you don’t have a cooling rack, a paper towel on a plate makes a good substitute. Make sure your baking pan is cool before moving on to the next batch of cookies.
This simple recipe is versatile enough to be turned into countless variations. Try cinnamon chips or butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips, or use chocolate chunks for a chocolate overload. Stir in broken pieces of pecans or walnuts for a nutty flavor addition. Skip the chocolate chips completely, roll the dough into balls, and dip the balls into a cinnamon-sugar mixture. You’ll create cinnamon snickerdoodle cookies, an old-fashioned childhood favorite.
Or, simply add your favorite ingredients to experiment with your own recipe. Dried cranberries? Raisins? Hazelnuts? Sprinkles? Go wild! At the very least, you can eat the results until you’ve invented the perfect cookie recipe, all in your tiny toaster oven.
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Victoria Bailey owned and managed restaurants for 25 years, from an award-winning gourmet bistro to a pre-hipster artisan coffee house. She's constantly following food and wine trends and has even created her own private coffee bean blend. Bailey's work has been published in a number of industry magazines, and she literally wrote the book (well, one of them) on opening a neighborhood pizza restaurant.