Follow this plan for better chocolate chippers

Here are steps to keep in mind when you’re making chocolate chip cookies:

■ Follow the recipe word for word. Small substitutions can have a big impact. For example, if you use baking powder instead of baking soda, you’ll get cakelike cookies instead of chewy ones.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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■ If you’re baking for someone with a food intolerance, find a tested recipe with the needed substitutions; don’t just wing it.

■ Use butter. Salted or unsalted, it’s up to you, but the recipe is designed for butter. If you need to use margarine or a vegetable oil spread, be sure to test the recipe with your selected brand before you have make it for public consumption.

■ Start with room-temperature butter: soft but not melting.

■ Refrigerate the dough before scooping and baking. Dough that’s too warm might not spread correctly in the oven. An hour will do the trick.

■ Don’t crowd the baking sheet. Leave enough space between the mounds of dough for the cookies to spread.

■ If you have any doubts about oven temperature, use an oven thermometer to make sure you’re at a true 375 degrees. At 350 degrees, the cookies will spread too much. At 400 degrees, they’ll brown too fast.

■ For more evenly baked cookies, bake only one sheet at a time.

■ When the cookies are almost done, hover by the oven door, checking on them. A cookie can go from perfectly baked to overbaked in a minute.

— S.W.S.

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