Your latest batch of cookies spread out too much. Those crinkle cookies didn’t crackle. The bottoms of the cookies keep burning no matter what you do.
If you’ve ever experienced any of these, this post will help you. Many of the questions below troubleshoot chocolate chip cookies and other drop cookies, but the tips and tricks will also apply to cut-out cookies, gingerbread, and even crinkle cookies.
Why Did My Cookies Spread Out in the Oven?
When cookies spread and come out too flat, it’s often because the butter was too soft or melted. It could also be that the recipe doesn’t have enough flour. Cookies also tend to spread too much if the cookie sheet is hot or when using a silicone baking mat.
Solution: Most cookie recipes call for room temperature butter. This means you can easily indent it with your finger, and it should not feel greasy or melted. Many cookie doughs actually benefit from chilling in the refrigerator before baking; even 30 minutes makes a noticeable difference!
Be sure to measure your flour accurately. If you’re baking several batches, don’t forget to allow the cookie sheets to cool completely between batches. I'm a big advocate for silicone baking mats, but some of them are so nonstick that cookies spread more than they would with parchment paper or directly on the pan.
Why Didn’t My Cookies Spread Out Enough?
When cookies don’t spread out enough, either there was too much flour or not enough sugar in the dough. Flour adds structure to batters, and adding too much prevents the cookie from spreading. Sugar tenderizes, reducing the gluten structure in a batter. If the ratio of flour and sugar is off, the cookies won’t spread correctly.
Another culprit could be the temperature. While the majority of cookies bake well directly from the freezer, some cookie recipes won’t spread enough if they’re baked frozen.
Solution: Measure the flour correctly either by using a kitchen scale or by using the fluff-and-scoop method. Fluff the flour in the container, use a spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup, then level it off with the back of a table knife. If you’re planning on baking cookies directly from the freezer, double check to see if it is recommended in the recipe you are using.
Why Are My Cookies Too Crisp and Thin?
If your cookies come out too thin and crisp, it may be because there was too much sugar, especially white sugar, in the dough. A higher ratio of white sugar makes crisper cookies, whereas a higher ratio of brown sugar makes chewier cookies.
Another possible cause is the temperature of the butter or batter. If the butter is too warm, the dough will spread out more, resulting in flatter, thinner cookies. The cookies may also be overbaked.
Solution: If you prefer a thicker, chewier cookie, look for recipes with more brown sugar than white sugar. When mixing the dough, make sure the butter is room temperature, but not too soft or melted. If you have time, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking. Chewy cookies should be removed from the oven when they’re still slightly underbaked; they will finish setting on the baking sheet out of the oven.
Why Did My Cookies Come Out Cakey?
When cookies are too cakey, there are two main culprits: too much leavening (baking powder or baking soda) or too much egg. If there is too much baking powder or baking soda in the dough, the cookies will rise too much when baking, creating a cakier structure. Eggs also promote a cakey structure in cookies.
Solution: Reduce the amount of baking powder or baking soda slightly. Make sure to use the same size eggs that the recipe indicates. An extra-large egg weighs about .25 ounces more than a large egg. If the recipe calls for large eggs, but you use extra-large eggs instead, you’ve increased the amount of egg by 13%. That’s more than enough to significantly change the properties of a cookie dough.
Why Did My Cookies Bake Together?
Drop cookies will spread in the oven, and if they’re spaced too closely on the cookie sheet they may fuse together.
Solution: Space the cookies further apart on the baking sheet. Well-written recipes should indicate how much space to leave between each cookie, but a good rule of thumb is to leave about 2 to 3 inches between each cookie. You can also try lining them up in staggered rows.
Why Are My Cookies Burnt on the Bottom?
If your cookies keep burning on the bottom batch after batch, it could be because of the baking sheet. A dark-colored cookie sheet retains more heat and can over-brown cookies. It could also be because the oven is set too high.
Solution: Use a light-colored cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. The light-colored baking sheet won't over-brown your cookies, and the parchment paper adds a little more insulation and ensures your cookies won't stick.
Why Didn’t My Slice-and-Bake or Cut-Out Cookies Hold Their Shape?
This issue is very much related to the question above about cookies spreading too much. If your cut-out cookies didn’t hold their shape, it is probably because the dough was too warm before baking. Other possible reasons that cut-out cookies lose their shape are if the butter is too warm when mixing the dough or if there’s not enough flour.
Solution: When mixing the dough, pay attention to the butter temperature specified. Some cut-out cookies call for chilled butter, rather than room temperature. Measure your flour correctly, either using a scale for the most accuracy or by using the fluff-and-scoop method. Keep the dough chilled throughout the whole process. You can even try chilling the cut-out cookies on their pans for 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
Why Are My Gingerbread Cookies So Hard?
While there is some debate about the best texture for gingerbread cookies, you probably don’t want them to break your teeth. If your gingerbread cookies are too hard, either there was too much sugar in the dough, or they were overbaked.
Solution: It can be hard to tell when gingerbread cookies are done because they’re already dark from the molasses. Gently poke the edges with your finger (carefully) or a spatula to see if they are firm and set. There might be some light browning on the edges. The middle should be dry but still soft to the touch. Try reducing the sugar in the recipe, or finding another recipe with a lower ratio of sugar to flour.
Why Didn’t My Crinkle Cookies Crack?
The cracks in crinkle cookies or molasses cookies occur when the top of the cookie dries out before the interior has set. The means that as the cookie expands, it starts to crack the dry surface. For this to happen, you need to dry the surface of the cookie by coating them in sugar, use sufficient leavening for the cookie to rise, and bake in a hot oven.
Issues with cracking usually derive from the sugar coating, not enough or expired baking powder or baking soda, or the oven temperature isn’t hot enough.
Solution: Granulated sugar is more effective at drying the surface than powdered sugar. Roll the balls of cookie dough in granulated sugar before rolling them in powdered sugar (if using). While baking soda will last almost indefinitely, baking powder loses strength over time. If you're unsure, test to see if your baking powder is still good. Make sure you preheat your oven for at least 10 to 15 minutes before baking.