Baking a good cookie can test the skills of any home cook. But everyone has a different opinion about what makes a cookie "good." Some folks like flat, lacey cookies with a crispy finish, and some prefer puffy, cake-like cookies. (This writer prefers that elusive crisp-edged, chewy-centered cookie.) We're not here to tell you which one is better than the other; we just want to help you achieve your desired cookie result. Bake on!
Try this recipe: Chewy Sugar Cookies
Cookie Troubleshooting Guide
Q: Why are my cookies so thin and flat?
- Using all butter (instead of butter and oil or shortening)
- Baking at too low a temperature, used room temperature dough
- Too much liquid in the dough
- Placing the dough on a warm baking sheet
- Decrease the amount of butter and sugar.
- Use shortening instead of butter, or a combination of the two if you don't want to sacrifice that buttery flavor.
- Add an egg to the dough.
- Use cake flour or pastry flour.
- Use baking powder instead of baking soda; if your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking soda, you would use 3 to 4 teaspoons baking powder. Caution: This could result in an unwanted flavor shift.
- Try baking your cookies at a hotter temp—make sure your oven is accurate by purchasing one of these inexpensive oven thermometers!
- Always cool your baking sheet between batches. Hurrying this process will result in your second batch being much flatter than the first.
- Scoop your dough and chill the balls before baking. Many recipes benefit from an overnight chill, though even an hour will help.
Q: Why are my cookies so puffy and cakey?
- Whipping too much air into the dough while creaming butter and sugar
- Adding too many eggs
- Using cake flour (or just too much flour)
- Using too much baking powder
- That fluffy texture you want in a cake results from beating a lot of air into the room temperature butter and sugar, and it does the same for cookies. So don't overdo it when you're creaming together the butter and sugar.
- Use melted butter for a denser, chewier cookie.
- Play with the liquid ratio in your recipe. For added liquid without the leavening properties of eggs, try a tablespoon of water as a replacement for one egg.
- Use all-purpose or bread flour.
- Increase the sugar content slightly.
- According to the science geeks at Serious Eats—we love you!—baking powder yields a cakier cookie than baking soda. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon baking powder, you would substitute 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. But if you use baking soda instead, your recipe needs acid (like in buttermilk or brown sugar) to activate it.
- Bring your cookie dough to room temperature before baking.
Q: Why are my cookies so tough and hard?
- Using only white sugar
- Cooking baked too long
- Using too much flour
- Not enough fat in the dough
- Overmixing your dough
- Brown sugar—particularly dark brown sugar—makes a cookie chewy; white sugar makes it crispy. If your recipe calls for all white sugar and you want a fudgier result, try swapping out some of the white sugar for brown (go for half and half and adjust from there). You can also use honey or molasses for a chewier cookie.
- Try taking your cookies out when they're browning at the edges but not in the center. Leave them on the sheet for about 5 minutes to set completely, then remove them to cool on a rack. The result should be a chewier center and more pliable overall cookie.
- Reduce the amount of flour slightly.
- Add an egg.
- A greater ratio of fat (butter, margarine, shortening, etc.) to flour will result in a more tender cookie. Start by adding just a ¼ cup additional to your recipe. Melting the butter before adding it to the sugar will also up the chew factor.
- Scoop larger portions of dough.
- To keep cookies from hardening by the next day, store them in an airtight container immediately after cooling. Freeze to keep them fresh longer.
- To soften hard cookies after baking: put them in an airtight container with a few slices of apple or a piece of bread overnight. Microwaving a sad, stale cookie for 15 seconds or so can sometimes rejuvenate it, too!
Q: Why are my cookies not crisp enough?
- Cookies not baked long enough
- Using too much flour or the wrong kind of flour
- Too many eggs or other liquids in the dough
- Too high a ratio of brown sugar to white sugar
- Bake longer but at a lower temperature.
- Use all-purpose flour; it's higher protein content results in a crispier cookie.
- Use butter instead of shortening.
- Increase the ratio of white sugar to brown sugar, or use all white sugar. Using corn syrup will also help crisp up a cookie when it bakes.
- Decrease the amount of eggs in your recipe, or use egg yolks in place of whole eggs.
Ready to Get Baking?
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