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Cookie Troubleshooting Guide

Cookie-baking blunders making you feel crumby? Learn about 12 common conundrums, their likely causes and how to achieve the perfect batch of cookies every time.

Holiday-Cookie-Troubleshooting_final

Perfect Cookie:
The cookie on the left is slightly rounded on top and evenly golden brown. Flat Cookie: In the middle cookie, the butter was too soft or partially melted, the flour was under measured or the cookie sheet was too hot. Round or Hard Cookie: In the cookie on the right, too much flour was used and the cookie was over-baked.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Tough

Why?
  • Overworked the dough (especially likely with cutouts).
  • Added too much flour.
  • Used flour with too high of a protein content (e.g. bread flour).
  • Didn't use enough fat or sugar in the dough.
Fix It
  • Use a light touch; work with dough as little as possible once flour is added to avoid having the dough stiffen up as it is worked.
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Try substituting pastry flour for the all-purpose flour. Pastry flour has less protein, so it develops less gluten when worked.
  • Start by adding ¼ cup extra sugar or butter to the dough. Sugar and fat are the ingredients that make a cookie tender.

Problem: My Cookies Are Hard and Dry

Why?
  • Added too much flour.
  • Stored cookies improperly.
  • Overbaked the cookies.
  • Needed more fat or sugar.

Fix It
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Store cookies in an airtight container; freeze them for long-term storage.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy or bake a few minutes less.
  • Start by adding ¼ cup extra sugar or butter to the dough. Sugar and fat are the ingredients that make a cookie tender.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Pale 

Why?
  • Used an insulated cookie sheet.
  • Baked at low oven temperature.
  • Underbaked the cookies.
  • Needed more sugar.    
Fix it
  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum cookie sheet. It allows heat to melt the sugar and brown the cookie.
  • Increase temperature by 25 degrees. Extra heat helps cookies brown.
  • Bake a couple of minutes longer.
  • Start by adding ¼ cup extra sugar to the dough. Sugar is a key ingredient for browning cookies.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Crusty

Why?
  • Added too much sugar.
  • Overbaked the cookies.
  • Used a dark cookie sheet.
Fix it
  • Cut back sugar by ¼ cup or use brown sugar (which has more moisture) as a substitute.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes less, or reduce temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum pan.

Problem: My Cookies/Bars Are Too Gummy 

Why?
  • Added too much liquid/moisture.
  • Underbaked the cookies/bars.
  • Used too small a pan.
Fix it
  • Decrease egg amount (use yolk instead of whole egg or use 1 less egg) or add some flour.
  • Bake a couple of minutes longer. Cookies are done when the edges are firm. Bar cookies typically are done when a toothpick inserted in to the center of the pan comes out clean.
  • Make sure you're using the pan size called for in the recipe. A smaller pan will make the batter too thick for the designated baking time.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Dark

Why?
  • Used a dark pan.
  • Added too much sugar.
  • Overbaked the cookies
Fix it
  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum pan.
  • Cut back by about ¼ cup sugar to prevent overbrowning.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes less, or reduce temperature by 25 degrees.

Problem: My Cookies/Bars Are Too Crumbly

Why?
  • Added too much flour.
  • Dough needs more fat.
  • Didn't let cookies cool long enough.
 Fix it
  • Cut back by ¼ cup flour to start.
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Add 2 to 4 tablespoons more fat to the dough. Fat makes cookies tender.
  • Be patient and let bars cool completely before cutting, or cool cookies a couple of minutes longer.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Flat

Why?
  • Added too much fat or sugar.
  • Used all butter.
  • Baked at a low oven temperature.
  • Used room temperature/soft dough
  • Used a warm pan.
Fix it
  • Use half butter and half shortening, or reduce sugar amount. Butter and sugar make cookies spread.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes more, or increase temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Chill dough before using.
  • Place dough on cooled, clean pans to prevent early spread of cookies.

Problem: My Cookies Brown Unevenly

Why?
  • Made cookies with 
  • random, inconsistent 
  • sizes or thicknesses.
  • Baked cookies in an oven with inaccurate oven temperatures.
 Fix it
  • Use a cookie scoop to help make sure all cookies are the same size. Make sure cut-out cookies are the same thickness.
  • Check oven temperature accuracy with an oven thermometer.

Problem: My Cookies Always Burn

Why?
  • Overbaked the cookies.
  • Used a dark pan.
  • Added too much sugar.
Fix it
  • Check oven temperature accuracy, bake a few minutes less, or reduce temperature by 25 degrees.
  • Use a heavy dull-aluminum pan.
  • Reduce sugar amount to prevent overbrowning.

Problem: My Cookies Are Stuck to the Pan

Why?
  • Forgot to grease/line 
  • the cookie sheet or pan.
  • The cookies are delicate and contain a lot of sugar.
Fix It
  • Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
  • Line pans for bars with lightly greased or non-stick aluminum foil.

Problem: My Cookies Are Too Stiff

Why?
  • Added too much flour.
  • Baked dough immediately after it had removed from the refrigerator/freezer.
Fix It
  • Cut back by ¼ cup flour to start.
  • Spoon flour into a measuring cup, rather than scooping the cup directly into the flour canister. Scooping compacts the flour, which means you end up with too much.
  • Bring the dough to room temperature before baking.

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