sending out an S.O.C.!!!

5 Jan

{S.O.C. = Save Our Cookies!!!}

I have a problem. It seems that every time I bake cookies they simply do not turn out. I need to pick your brains in the hopes that someone will know what I’m doing wrong.

Here’s a little history… I like my cookies dense, chewy, and soft. I like a nice thick cookie with substance to it, not the flat, thin, crunchy variety. However, it seems for the past long while that whenever I make cookies they spread out, flatten, and end up crispy and crunchy and overly baked. What could be the problem here???

Let’s examine the issue with a recipe I used today: Chocolate Chip Cookies. (Recipe given to me by my sis-in-law Kim.) Kim had these cookies at Thanksgiving I believe. They were marvelous, and fit all of my cookie standards- thick, chewy, soft, yummy. I’ve typically used the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe on the bag (with poor results over the past couple years). I asked Kim for her cookie recipe, knowing that they could turn out terrifically. Today I made them, and while they did turn out better than my usual Toll House cookies, something still is not quite right. Let’s examine a few possible factors:

1. Ingredients. I followed this recipe to a T. I had all the ingredients on hand, and was careful to utilize the exact amounts called for. The only ‘change’ I made was that instead of using 3/4 of a bag of chocolate chips, I used about 1/2 a bag of choc chips and 1/4 bag of M&Ms. (Should that really make a difference? No.) Anyway, the ingredients I use are your run-of-the-mill ingredients that can be purchased at any supermarket. I know that butter could possibly be the issue. My butter came out of the fridge, but I softened it up by letting it set atop the stove while the oven preheated. This resulted in a nice, soft room-tempish stick of butter. My butter was purchased at SuperTarget. Are my cookies not turning out because I’m not buying butter from the Dairy Maid who churns her own butter from from her organically-raised grass-fed cow??

2. Mixer. Does the kind of mixer I use make a difference?? I’m too anti-clutter to house my KitchenAid on my miniscule kitchen’s counter; I’m too lazy to dig out the KitchenAid from the basement every time I want to mix something. So, I use a hand held Oster mixer. Just so you know.

3. Oven. I feel like my oven could be part of the culprit to this cookie dilemma. Perhaps it heats unevenly. Perhaps it gets too hot. Our oven is relatively modern- was purchased in 2004 when we moved in. It’s an Amana. It’s gas.

4. Oven rack placement. I feel this could also be the culprit. I have two oven racks in the oven. They are both spaced near the middle of the oven- not super high or super low. Our gas oven has a heating element on the top and bottom. Oh, and I don’t have more than two pans of cookies in there baking at a time.

5. Cookie sheets. Another possible culprit. My cookie sheets are 9.5 years old. They are just the plain metal non-stick variety. They have become quite dark and seasoned over time.

6. User Error. I could just be a baking idiot.

So, here’s what happened today. The recipe said to bake the cookies about 11 minutes. After five minutes in my oven, positioned at the higher of the two racks in the oven (which is the third notch down from the top), my cookies were already getting very brown on the bottom but still looked raw on the top. I left them in a few minutes longer (but less than the 11 minutes), and soon started to smell a slight odor of “burn.” I ran to the cookies and pulled them out to discover- SHOCKER- they were burned on the bottom. Pan #1 = Fail. The second pan was in the oven at the same time, only on the lower of the two racks (3rd notch up from the bottom). I wanted to make sure to not burn the bottoms of that batch, so I took them out as the bottoms were developing a nice golden brown color. Pan #2= Fail. The bottoms were a nice golden brown color, but the middles of the cookies were still basically raw. (Note- this is not a problem for me! But technically speaking, the cookie was not baked to perfection). Pan #3- don’t really remember. Somewhere between Pan #1 and Pan #2 in doneness. The last pan turned out the best (baked alone, on the upper rack.) The cookies spread out, but not too much. They were baked evenly through to a nice golden brown doneness. Soft and chewy.

So…??? Thoughts?? Was the dough for the final batch able to ‘sit’ and reach some level of divine doughness to produce a nicer cookie?? Please, help me solve this mystery!!!!

[Aside: Husband just walks in, grabs a cookie. Laughs and says “haha, you burned the bottoms again, hahahaha!!” To which I reply, BITE ME.]

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11 Responses to “sending out an S.O.C.!!!”

  1. Kris January 5, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    2 thoughts, one of which you’ve already identified, which could be the temperature of your oven. If you don’t have a thermometer in the oven, you might consider picking one up to verify that when you ask it to heat to 350, it actually is at that temperature and not hotter or cooler.

    Second thought, is the cookie dough. I’ve been jealous of pretty, round cookies for some time and have found the solution to be a quick roll between the hands into a nice ball shape. This has also elimated most of my problems with getting burnt edges.

    That’s the extent of my fairly small insight. Good luck next time around!

  2. kristi January 5, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    I swear the secret to good cookies is to use a wooden spoon!!!!! And butter makes a big difference too…. must be at room temp for several hours

  3. Ann January 6, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Anne I so feel you pain. A friend of mine always makes awesome cookies and mine are the flat spread out, over done kind you talked about. I use unsalted room temp butter, but I will try rolling into balls. My solution has always been to make bars. They work for me, and I don’t have to be compared to my friends awesome cookies. Keep us posted and good luck to you.

  4. Carin January 6, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    Cold dough, less spreading of the cookies, the warmer the butter, the more the dough will spread.

    Do you rotate your pans if you are baking two at a time? Do you bake more than one pan at a time?

    A good cookie sheet helps, I think.

    Get an oven thermometor to make sure your oven is at the right temp.

    Those are my tips..good luck!

  5. gina January 6, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    This is probably totally related to the recipe I use but I always add a little extra flour to my chocolate chip cookies. They don’t spread out so much and get so crunchy and the middle stays softer and more chewy. And room temp butter is a must. I’ve heard eggs should be room temp too.

  6. Katie January 6, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    I use crisco sticks instead of butter in my cookies and I think it makes all the difference. They turn nice and soft.

  7. jen January 6, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    I agree with Carin on the cold dough. Once it’s mixed, refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer – it’ll hold for a few days.

    I would also only bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack.

    I would also use it as an excuse to get new pans. I do cookies on my stoneware or my airbakes and have never burned the bottom.

  8. Susan January 6, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    Cold butter usually does the trick for me. But chilling the dough should have the same effect.

    try a mini muffin sheet instead – then they are perfectly round and thick (if that’s what you like)

    try only one sheet at a time.

  9. Mary B. January 6, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    I just read somewhere the other day that a possible contributor to spreading could be using baking powder or soda that isn’t replaced regularly (more often than annually, once it’s been opened) as it loses its rising properties over time.

    I, too, have the best luck baking only one sheet at a time.

  10. Jackson January 10, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Crisco, airbake cookie sheets and bake one pan at a time. I also use the Crisco recipe for Ultilmate Chocolate Chip Cookies. That usually works for me.

  11. Willa January 11, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Ditto what Jackson said about Crisco – or a natural shortening brand like Spectrum. It will produce a lighter and puffier cookie than butter because of it’s melting point.

    A higher ratio of brown sugar to white sugar will produce a chewier cookie that does not spread-out as much.

    And, as Jen mentioned, bake one cookie sheet at a time unless you are using a convection bake and rotating the pans halfway through the cooking time.

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