Troubleshooting: Cookies


 I pretty much gave up baking cookies and biscuits because they never quite turned out right. Either they weren't chewy when they were supposed to be, they were too hard or they just crumbled in my hand. 
It's only really in the last couple of years that I've been able to start writing my own recipes because I finally started to get the hang of baking them! So, my fellow cookies lovers, I've put together this list, which I too will be referring back to, to troubleshoot any cookie problems we may have...

Cookie dough too sticky to roll: The dough is not thoroughly chilled or too little flour has been used. Add more flour or cover and chill the dough for another 15-30 minutes.

Cookie dough too dry: Too much flour has been used, add some water, milk or drizzle some vegetable on it until the dough has reached your desired consistency.

Cookie dough cracks when rolling: This happens when the dough it too cold. Cover the dough and let it sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to let it warm slightly.

Too many cookie dough scraps: If you start cutting the dough at the edge and work toward the centre and cut the cookies as close together as possible. If the dough scraps are enough, just make a small cookie or bake the ball of dough, it'll basically be a cookie ball!

Cutouts become misshapen when transferred to baking tray: Using a pancake turning can help with this. If your dough is particularly soft though, roll it straight onto the cookie sheet/baking sheet and chill the rolled dough. Then once it's chilled, cut out the cookies and transfer them onto another baking sheet.

Cookies not done in same time as recipe: Over temperatures can vary from oven to over, you can check the temperature of your oven with a thermometer placed in the centre of your oven to see if that temperature matches what is shown on the oven dial. You may need to compensate the difference. Or you may not be allowing enough time for the oven to preheat properly, always allow at least 10 minutes for the oven to heat up to the correct temperature. 

Crispy on outside, raw inside: This can be caused by warm dough or too much butter. Make sure you chill your dough properly or use less butter.

Burnt: This usually is caused by over-baking but can also be due to using a dark pan or because you've added too much sugar.Check you have the right temperature and haven't left them in the oven for more than was instructed. If it's your pan, use a heavy dull-aluminium pan instead. Or reducing the sugar content can prevent over-browning.

Stuck to tray: Did you forget to grease or line the tray? If not, the cookies may just be delicate especially if they contain a lot of sugar. Make sure you use baking parchment or grease the tray properly.

Break when removed from tray: Let the cookies cool on the tray first before transferring.

Flat, spread thin whilst baking: This could be because the dough wasn't properly chilled beforehand, the tray was greased too much, the dough was placed on warm baking tray. Also, butter makes the cookies spread if the dough is too soft before baking. If you aren't a vegan baker and are using dairy butter (I haven't had this problem with vegan butter), use shortening instead, or even half butter/half shortening can reduce the spreading. Adding one or two tablespoons of flour can help the cookies puff up more. Using cake flour instead of all purpose can also do this. Use baking powder instead of baking soda, or making smaller cookies can also reduce spreading. Using baking sheets can also help.

Brown bottom: Instead of using dark-coloured baking trays, use a heavy dull-aluminium pan instead.

Unevenly browned: Are your cookies uniform in size and shape? Or maybe its your oven, my oven used to be hotter on one side than the other. Next time be careful to roll out the dough and cut the cookies more uniform. If that's not the issue, then use an over thermometer to check you oven temperature. 

Too Airy: Shortening does this, use butter, or half butter/half shortening and be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before baking. It may also be due to too little sugar in the dough, increase the amount by 10% or use white sugar instead of brown. Another reason could be that it's due to the flour content, increase it by 15%. Or maybe it's down to the baking powder, lessen the amount or leave it out altogether. 

Pale: This could be due to under-baking, not enough sugar being used, the oven temperature being too low or because an insulated baking sheet. Using a heavy dull-aluminium sheet will allow the heat to melt the sugar, browning the cookie. Or increase the oven temperature, by 25 degrees, bake for a little longer or next time, add about 2-3 tablespoons of extra sugar to the dough.

Crispy: Either too much sugar was added, the cookies were over-baked or the cookie sheet/tray is dark. Next time, cut back the sugar by 2-3 tablespoons, check the oven temperature is correct or bake for a shorter amount of time. Or use a heavy dull-aluminium pan instead.

Wet: You likely don't have enough dry ingredients to counteract the wet, add more flour next time and make sure the dough is chilled properly.

Oily: This will be either due to the type of fat used, too much fat used or the cookie dough wasn't chilled for long enough before baking. Make sure, if you've substituted ingredients, you've done so properly. Adding more flour could help and next time, make sure you've chilled the dough for correct amount of time.

Too soft: Increase the amount of flour in the recipe by 15%.

Hard and dry: This could be because of too much flour, over-baking or more fat or sugar being needed. Make sure you add the correct amount of flour, spooning the flour can help this as it prevents the flour from getting compacted meaning you end up using too much. Add 2-3 tablespoons extra of sugar of butter (or whatever fat you're using), this will help soften the cookies. 

Too tough, stiff: The dough could have been overworked, once the flour is added, work with the dough as little as possible to avoid it stiffening. You also may have used too much flour or flour with a protein content too high for the cookies, using pastry flour may help. Another reason could by that not enough fat or sugar was used, next time add 2-3 tablespoons extra of sugar or butter (or whatever fat you're using).

Too dense: This could be due to too much liquid added, under-baking or the tray you used was too small. Add more flour, bake the cookies for a little longer or add more baking powder.

Not chewy: White sugar makes cookies crispier, using brown sugar will help make them chewier. Using baking powder instead of baking soda can also help. 

Too Crumbly: You may have added too much the flour, not enough fat or didn't let the cookies cool for long enough. Next time use 2-3 tablespoons less flour or add 2-3 tablespoons more fat. If they are falling apart, it is more likely to be due to the fat used, sometimes using non full-fat fats can cause as air and water has likely been mixed in to the product.. Make sure any substitutions are done correctly.

Goes soggy, loses shape whilst cooling: Be sure not to overlap the cookies or place them on top of each other when they're still cooling.

Goes hard very quickly: If you've followed the recipe correctly and are storing the cookies in an airtight container and they are still hardening very quickly, then place a slice of bread in the container with the cookies can help keep them soft (just like bread softens hardened brown sugar), change the slice every other day.

Happy Baking!



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