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Troubleshooting Cookies

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In “The Science of Baking Cookies,” authors David Joachim and Andrew Schloss explain the various functions that each ingredient plays in a cookie recipe. This chart, which is based on that information, comes in handy when a batch of cookies doesn’t turn out as expected. To use the chart, think about which of the possible causes applies to your misbehaving cookies. Then follow the fixes to achieve your desired results, whether you’re going for cookies that are more tender and crisp or less puffy or pale. Also be aware that some problems may be caused by your oven. Be sure that it’s calibrated correctly and keep a thermometer inside the oven to double-check temperature accuracy.

The Problem: Too thin
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too much fat
  • Reduce your butter by 10%
  • Replace butter with shortening, which spreads less than butter
Too much white sugar
  • Substitute light brown sugar for half of the white sugar because brown sugar makes cookies puffier
The Problem: Too thick
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too much flour
  • Reduce flour by 15% or add 10% more butter
Not enough sugar
  • Increase sugar or replace half of brown sugar with white sugar, which spreads more than brown sugar
The Problem: Too crisp
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too much flour
  • Reduce flour by 15%
Too much fat
  • Reduce butter by 10% or replace butter with shortening, which makes cookies softer
Too much white sugar
  • Substitute light brown sugar for half of the white sugar because brown sugar makes cookies softer
The Problem: Too soft
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too little flour
  • Increase flour by 15%
The Problem: Too crumbly
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too little gluten
  • Use higher-protein flour such as unbleached all-purpose flour or use 5% bread flour
The Problem: Too chewy
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too little fat
  • Increase butter by 10%
Too little white sugar
  • Increase sugar by 10% or if using brown sugar substitute white sugar for half the amount because white sugar makes cookies less chewy
Too much gluten
  • Use lower-protein flour such as cake or pastry flour
  • Mix fat, flour, and sugar before adding egg
  • Mix dough for less time
The Problem: Too dense
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too much flour
  • Reduce amount of flour by 15%
Under-aerated
  • Increase or add a pinch of baking powder for more puff
  • Replace expired baking powder
The Problem: Too puffy
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too little sugar
  • Increase sugar by 10% or if using brown sugar substitute white sugar for half the amount because white sugar makes cookies less puffy
Too little flour
  • Increase flour by 15%
Wrong fat
  • Use butter instead of shortening because butter makes cookies less puffy
Over-aerated
  • Omit baking powder
Dough too cold
  • Let ingredients or dough stand at room temperature before baking
The Problem: Too browned
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too much sugar
  • Reduce white sugar by 10%
Too much baking soda
  • Reduce baking soda by half
The Problem: Too pale
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too little sugar
  • Increase sugar by 10%
  • Replace 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar with corn syrup
The Problem: Tastes bland
Possible Causes Fixes for Next Time
Too little salt
  • Increase salt by 5%
Too little sugar
  • Increase sugar by 10%
Lacks butter
  • Replace all or half of shortening with butter
Too little flavoring
  • Increase vanilla, spices, or other flavoring by 5%

 

 

 

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  • Quetzelle | 02/09/2015

    Great post, thanks!
    Questions ... what if you are "baking" with gluten-free flours, for example, almond meal or coconut flour, both of which absorb liquids and require more moisture, egg, etc. And "baking" at low temp, say 115F or 105F in a dehydrator for long time periods. Cookies came out thinner and tougher than I'd like, which would call for more sugar -- so would a low glycemic sugar such as coconut sugar work same as white or brown sugar? Would baking powder work the same at lower/longer temps as it does at higher temps, to give it more airiness?
    Thank you ... appreciate your insight ...

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