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How to Make No-Bake Cookies

While technically not a cookie category in their own right, no-bake cookies are hybrid between a candy and a cookie.

They are made by mixing a filler (such as cereal or nuts) into a sticky binder. The cookies are shaped into individual treats or pressed into a pan and cut as bars, and then cooled to harden. Rice Krispies treats and rum balls are good examples of popular cookies that are not baked.

What sets these treats apart from other cookies is that they do not require the use of an oven.

No-Bake Basics

No-bake cookies became popular in the U.S. during the Great Depression when ingredients like eggs, flour, sugar, and butter were scarce.

The no-bake concept is simple: combine crispy, crunchy ingredients (nuts, oats, cereal, or cookie crumbs) with sticky, binding ingredients (marshmallows, peanut butter, honey, corn syrup, or melted chocolate.)

Most no-bake cookie recipes have just a handful of ingredients and a few simple instructions that involve melting together the sticky ingredients, stirring in the crispy ingredients, and then pressing the mixture into a pan or dropping it by spoonfuls onto wax paper. The cookies firm up after cooling thoroughly. The process speeds up even further when you place the cookies in the refrigerator.

Usually the only equipment required is a spoon and a bowl (or saucepan). Sticky ingredients can be melted in the microwave, allowing you to avoid using the stove top altogether.

No-Bake Means Easy

No-bakes are a wonderful introduction to world of baking homemade cookies because they are so easy, making these treats a favorite among first-time bakers, children, and with a group. Older children can even make them without parental supervision, so long as the recipe doesn't involve a stovetop. Another plus: mixing and measuring can be less exact, meaning that these treats more forgiving.

No-Bake Means Quick

No-bake cookies take a fraction of the time to prepare as their baked counterparts:  you simply measure, combine, and cool. They’re a wonderful option to making a homemade treat when you don’t want to spend a lot of time or when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

No-Bake Means Versatile

Once you've mastered a basic no-bake recipe, you can change the flavors by substituting or adding different ingredients: chips (dark chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, raspberry); dried fruits (raisins, dried cranberries, dates); nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts); and salty ingredients (pretzels and crushed potato chips.)

Even though no-bakes are simple to make, here are six tips to make sure yours not only taste delicious but also look fantastic.

No-Bake Cookie Recipe Tips

  1. Read the entire recipe before you begin baking. These cookies are mixed together quickly and it’s best to know the order of steps before you start.

  2. Assemble your ingredients in advance. Once you melt the binder ingredients, you must add the crispy items quickly before the sticky stuff hardens.

  3. Bring ingredients to a boil slowly using medium heat. You’ll allow the butter or margarine to melt smoothly and mix easily with sugar. Cooking at a higher temperature melts ingredients before they are completely mixed together.

  4. When boiling ingredients, allow sugar to dissolve completely before adding other items. Check the syrup by scooping out a tiny portion with a teaspoon. Make sure all sugar granules have dissolved.

  5. When the no-bake mixture is sticky, use the back of a greased spoon or a piece of waxed paper to press it into the pan.

  6. When making no-bake drop cookies, save on clean up by lining cookie sheets with waxed paper (rather than coating cookie sheets with no-stick spray.)

The Trickiest No-Bake Cookies

Stove top boiled cookies involve a combination of sugar, butter, and milk. The three ingredients must be boiled long enough for the mixture to firm up when cooled, but not so long as to cause them to get too hard and grainy. The key to success is to bring the mixture to a vigorous, uniform boil before beginning to count the time specified in the recipe.

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