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Top 10 cookie baking problems solved

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I got 99 problems but a bundt ain’t one.

I enjoy baking because it allows me to express my creative side while also working within a system. I also love that with every recipe many of the ingredients serve a purpose beyond adding flavor. Eggs help the cookies rise and hold all of the ingredients together. Flour provides structure and body to the cookie. Butter adds to the moisture and increases the smoothness of the cookie while helping it spread. Sugar adds sweetness and crispness to the cookie. Once you know how basic baking ingredients affect your recipe it’s easier to troubleshoot your cookie problems.

10. My cookies are dry and cakey. I hate that!

Back off on the flour! Sometimes it’s ok if cookie dough is a little sticky. If you’ve mixed in all the flour and it’s still sticky then try putting it in the fridge for 30 minutes. The resting time will also help the flavors continue to mix (remember how much better chili tastes the second day?). Also, don’t over mix once you’ve added the flour. Once the flour is completely incorporated into the dough you’re all set.

9. My cookies brown too quickly on the edges and bottom. What gives?

What color are your cookie sheets? The darker your cookie sheets the faster your cookies are going to brown because dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect it. Who knew paying attention in my 7th grade physical science class would eventually pay off? Most non-stick cooking sheets are darker in color. Your best bet is to avoid the non-stick variety and buy a quality set of cookie sheets that are a lighter color, preferably made out of aluminum. You’ll have to invest in some parchment paper (NOT wax paper) or silicone sheets to prevent sticking, but it’s worth it to solve the problem. If you’re using light colored sheets already then I would check the temperature of your oven with an actual thermometer to make sure the oven is cooking at an accurate temperature.

8. My cookies are soft for a few days but then they get hard. Boo-urns!

Most of you are probably aware of this trick, but in case you’re not, try putting a slice of bread in the cookie container. The cookies will actually absorb the moisture from the bread and soften up quite quickly.

7. My cookies spread too much and turn out really flat. What’s the deal?

Excessive spreading could be caused by a couple different things. The cookie sheets are too warm because you didn’t wait for them to cool down from the last batch you took out of the oven. Or, the butter used in the recipe was too soft or melted. Some recipes call for melted butter but in many cases those recipes also say to chill the dough for a while to counteract the softness created by the melted butter. Melted butter binds with flour in a different way than solid butter, so don’t use melted butter unless the recipe specifically calls for it.

6. My cookies won’t bake evenly. I just don’t get it!

Try baking only one sheet at a time. I didn’t take physics in high school so I can’t explain heat waves and their behavior. But, if you only have one sheet in at a time the oven can focus all of its “chi” on the cookies evenly. Also, all home ovens (except the ones that “so perfect she must be a robot” Kelly Ripa sells) tend to have hot spots, so your best bet is to rotate the cookies halfway through the baking time. I usually set my oven timer for half the bake time, rotate the sheets and then reset the timer for the remaining bake time. If you’re baking two sheets then make sure you rotate the sheets around and also switch them from top to bottom. Finally, make sure your cookies are uniform in size. I laughed at the idea of a cookie scoop but it really does help produce consistent, professional looking cookies.

5. I tried a friend’s cookie recipe and they don’t taste as good when I make them!

Well, food prepared for you by another person will automatically taste better. That’s scientific fact. However, if you don’t buy that excuse then I would double check the ingredients in the recipe. Using light brown sugar vs. dark brown sugar or two regular eggs vs. two jumbo eggs can make a difference. Brands also can make a difference. In the baking world the quality and consistency of ingredients does affect the end product.

4. Maybe doing 10 tips was a little ambitious.

Yeah, I think you’re right Amy. Take a break. Do you want me to get you a Ho-Ho Mint Mocha so you can power through the rest of these tips?

3. My cut out cookies always lose their shape when I transfer them on to my cookie sheets. I’m tired of decorating gimpy-looking gingerbread men!

Make sure the dough is chilled for a few hours before you begin to roll it out. Divide the dough into two or three smaller batches so when you’re rolling out some of the dough the rest of it can stay in the fridge. If your cookies are still looking “challenged” then the easy solution is to just roll the dough out on top of your cookie sheet, cut out your shapes and then remove the excess from around the cookies. Obviously you need cookie sheets without edges all the way around. Also, bonus tip, if you’re having problems keeping the dough even then go to the hardware store and buy two wooden 1/8″ dowels to use as a guide for your rolling pin. Once the dough is at 1/8″ thick the rolling pin will touch the dowels and you won’t be able to press down any further (see photo).

2. My cookies rise and look gorgeous in the oven but when I take them out they fall flat. *Throws hands up in frustration*

I know for my Noah Bedoah recipe I say to cream the hell out of the butter and sugar. That’s true when following that particular recipe. However for most “drop” cookies like chocolate chips and oatmeal just mix until the butter and sugar are combined. If you beat too much air into the mixture it will rise while baking but then escape after you pull the cookies out of the oven. Also, if your cookies are under done they will fall flat once removed from the oven. A cookie that is done should hold its shape if it’s meant to be a puffy cookie.

1. My cookies are hard but I want them to be chewy. Why is life so unfair?

Substitute some dark brown sugar in place of white sugar. The molasses in brown sugar adds chewiness due to its ability to absorb more moisture than white sugar. It’s important not to over mix your dough as that toughens it and adds unneeded air. And if the recipe calls for two eggs try doing one egg and one egg yolk. The whites of eggs increase the stiffness of your cookie. Finally, some folks are worried about an underdone cookie so they bake them longer than they should. It’s ok to take them out of the oven if they look slightly underdone because they will continue to bake for a few minutes while on the hot cookie sheet. If the cookies are small to medium sized just make sure the edges are set about ¼ of the way up and you should be good to go.

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So there you have it. All of your toughest cookie problems solved! If you have any tips or tricks to share for baking the perfect cookie feel free to share them in the comments section. I love learning what works best for other people!

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