Common cookie problems and how to avoid them

They say baking is an art, but what it really is, is a science. With art you can learn a certain amount of skill but what you really need is talent. Baking is a world of measurements, so when the results don’t turn out quite as you had hoped, don’t be discouraged. Identify the problem, tweak the recipe and try again. To help you in your baking endeavours here are some common cookie problems and how best to avoid them.

cookie-problems-updated

In the picture above are six cookies. Five of them have a defect of sorts; the last one is beautifully baked. Either identify your problem biscuit by the picture or by the points below and figure out how to bake it better next time.

Problem #1: Flat, rock hard cookies

If your cookies look like the first one in the above picture, it’s probably because the dough contained too much sugar leaving your biscuit overly crunchy (as in don’t feed them to grandpa) and dark brown. They probably also got stuck to the baking sheet. Ease up on the sugar in the recipe.

Problem #2: Dry and stiff cookies

Did your biscuits not spread out as desired and taste dry and crumbly? You probably have too much flour in the recipe. The excess flour caused too much gluten to form, preventing the cookie from softening and spreading.

Problem #3: Dark and crispy cookies

If your cookies came out resembling the third one in the biscuit line up of shame, it’s likely that they were made from good dough, but either baked for too long or at too high a temperature. So, they probably came out of the oven too brown and too hard. Try removing your cookies from the oven sooner, or perhaps invest in an oven thermometer to check that your oven temperatures are accurate.

Sarah-baking-biscuits

Problem #4: Pale and soft cookies

These biscuits aren’t hard to identify from the batch. They were probably baked from a good consistency dough but ended up a bit under baked and raw on the inside. Either the oven temperature is too low or they were taken out too soon. When baking always keep an eye on your cookies and take them out when they’re golden.

Problem #5: Crispy on the outside, raw on the inside

If your cookies look like biscuit number 5, then you’re most likely looking at too much butter in your biscuit dough. That, or the dough wasn’t cool enough before baking. Warm cookie dough or excess butter will cause the cookies to spread too much, baking quickly on the outside but remaining raw in the middle. Next time, chill your cookies in the fridge for 10 minutes before you bake them. If the problem persists, use less butter.

Problem #6: No problem at all

This cookie is slightly chewy, full of butter and chocolate flavour and beautifully golden brown. It baked perfectly.

Hopefully these explanations have set you on the right track if you’ve been experiencing some cookie woes. Remember, practice makes perfect. Everybody’s kitchen equipment and ingredients are slightly different, so it might take you a few tries to perfect your cookies even if you have a great recipe.

choc-chip-cookies

Tips for perfect cookie baking

  • Leaving your cookie dough in the fridge overnight will make for more delicious cookies, plus the dough will be easier to work with the next day.
  • Watch your cookies very carefully while they are baking – you want to take them out at exactly the right moment, when they are golden but not hard.
  • If you like thinner, crisper cookies, reduce the amount of flour you use slightly.
  • Bake your cookies on baking parchment or on a Demarle Silpat Baking Mat. This helps prevent sticking and burning.

What are your most common cookie problems and how have you best avoided them?

Written by Sigrid Kenmuir

Sigrid is Yuppiechef's community manager and spends her time writing copy, Tweeting and scheming new ways to have fun. A fan of simple things, she loves cheese, cooking, coffee, and books. View more articles by .

Cooking School

8 Comments

  1. [...] and here is a great post on common cookie problems, which helps greatly when trying to resolve issues with the [...]

  2. [...] cookie looked somewhat like number 1 but your cookie should look like number 6. Kudos to yuppiechef who gives an analysis of what went wrong. He also gives beyond-the-obvious tips for the perfect [...]

  3. [...] what do you do if your cookie just doesn’t crumble the way it should? This post may well help you avoid cookie chaos in baking adventures to come. [...]

  4. my cookies are grainy, a little dry, and slightly powdery after some time; can you pl help?

  5. Tom birt says:

    My late mom used to make what she called Middletown Cookies (she got the recipe from a lady who lived in Middletown Ohio). She gave me the recipe but when I cut the dough it is too dry and tends to break apart. When she made them I know it stayed together. Here’s her recipe, can you help me fix it?

    1/2 c shortening
    1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
    3/4 c granulated sugar
    1 beaten egg
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 c chopped nuts
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 c flour
    2 tsp baking powder

    Mix ingredients, form into a roll and chill overnighting. Mom used to use a paper towel roll lined with waxed paper.

    Slice thin (about 1/4″) and bake @425 for 8-10 minutes, making 4 dozen.

    She states that to make a double batch you double all the ingredients except the flour, using only 3-1/2 c flour.

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hi Tom,

      We’ll pass the recipe on to our brilliant bakers and see if they pick up on anything.

      But in the mean time, if you haven’t done our free online baking course, The Art of Baking, (http://www.yuppiechef.com/cooking-school.htm) Sarah explains a lot in there about the ratios required in baking recipes, so perhaps that could help you figure out what’s a miss in your mom’s cookie recipe :)

      We’ll let you know if we figure it out on our side!

  6. Min says:

    Hi, I followed the instructions given on the website but I couldn’t get the right texture of cookie dough! My dough is not as dry as it seems to be, it’s still quite creamy texture/form after I add in all my flour:( may I know what’s the problem? Is it because I me to beat the butter and sugar until the sugar is totally dissolved?

  7. asia says:

    Tom birt i think you add too much baking powder…only half teaspoon will be enough.

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