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.


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.


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.


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?