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Volume II
October 31, 2003

Trouble in Cookie-Ville

Sometimes no matter how you try, those cookies just make you weep! Why are the overdone? Why are they tough? Didn't I follow the recipe? Lots of variables may be stacked against your cookie-baking success. Use this troubleshooting guide to help you minimize those variables and to put you on the path to happier times in the kitchen!

1. Cookies are hard, tough, and dry. a) Used too much flour.
b) Handled dough too much.
c) Overbaked.
a) Measure flour carefully; don't overmix the dough; avoid adding excess flour when shaping; brush away excess flour with pastry brush; chill dough so less sticky and easier to handle without added flour.
b) Chill dough so it will be easier to handle; minimize cookie scraps by using a variety of cookie cutter sizes; handle dough as little as possible.
c) Invest in an oven thermometer to ensure correct oven temperature. Cookies have to bake longer if the oven isn't up to the correct temperature and this dries them out. Bake like-sized cookies together to ensure they get done at the same time. Remove cookies from baking sheets ASAP as they continue to bake on the sheet.
2. Cookies are soggy and lose their shape during cooling. a) Underbaked.
b) Overlapped on cooling rack.
c) Moved from cookie sheet too soon.
d) Packaged while still hot.
a) Test cookies for doneness at the minimum time requested in recipe. Touch in middle, if spring back, cookies are done. If cookies collapse when touched, bake for a few more minutes. Check cookies every 1-2 minutes after minimum baking time to prevent overbaking.
b) Space cookies out to cool.
c) Let cookies set on pan for about 1-2 minutes before moving. Move them as soon as they can be lifted without tearing.
d) Don't store cookies until they are completely cool. Moisture builds up and will shorten the shelf-life of your cookies and make them soggy.
3. Cookies are burnt or over-brown on bottom.

(You can salvage some over-brown cookies by shaving the darker side off with a grater.)
a) Used dark-colored baking sheets.
b) Oven temperature too hot.
c) Overbaked.
d) Oven rack positioned too low.
e) Used thin cookie sheets.
f) Overgreased cookie sheets.
a) Invest in aluminum baking sheets; or cover dark sheets with aluminum foil or parchment before baking cookies; or reduce oven temperature by 25 F.
b) Invest in an oven thermometer to ensure correct temperature.
c) Bake cookies for the minimum time suggested by recipe. After baking, remove the cookies ASAP to prevent further baking on the sheet.
d) Move oven rack into center of oven.
e) Thin cookie sheets allow more heat to pass through. Line them with aluminum foil or layer a second cookie sheet underneath.
f) Grease sheets sparingly as requested by recipe.
4. Cookies are brown on top but light on bottom. a) Oven rack too high.
b) Used dark baking sheets.
c) Oven temperature too high.
a) Move rack down towards center of oven.
b) Invest in aluminum baking sheets; or cover dark ones with aluminum foil or parchment.
c) Invest in an oven thermometer. Lower the temperature of the oven.
5. Cookies stick like glue to the cookie sheet. a) Forgot to grease or regrease the cookie sheet.
b) Failed to remove cookies from baking sheet to a cooling rack.
a) Evenly and lightly grease the cookie sheets before each batch of cookies. If you don't want to fuss or for easy clean up, use parchment paper on the sheet instead of grease.
b) Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet ASAP, or you'll risk baking them right into your pan. If it's too late, unstick the cookies by returning the sheet to the oven for 1-2 minutes. Then remove the cookies promptly to a cooling rack.
6. Cookies spread too much during baking. a) Dough placed on warm/hot cookie sheets prior to baking.
b) Too much grease on the cookie sheet.
c) Dough may be too soft.
d) Too little flour added to dough, or too much liquid or fat added, or too much leavening added.
a) Completely cool cookie sheets prior to dropping on cookie dough. Run them under cool water if you're in a hurry.
b) Don't grease the cookie sheet unless your recipe calls for it. Then grease sparingly. Usually cookies with a high fat content do not need any extra grease on the pan. Cookies with little fat do need to bake on a greased cookie sheet.
c) Chill dough for 15 minutes, shape, and then try baking again. If shaped cookies are sitting on baking sheets awaiting oven space, place them in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
d) Measure ingredients carefully, leveling off with a flat knife. Add 2-4 tablespoons flour to the dough and bake a test cookie. Add more flour as needed to prevent spreading.
7. Cookies bake unevenly on the cookie sheet. a) Hot spots in the oven bake cookies unevenly.
b) Dough not of uniform thickness on the sheet.
a) Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Invest in an oven thermometer and test your oven's true temperature. Adjust oven temperature down by 25 F. if hot spots continue to be troublesome.
b) Roll, drop, and shape cookies to a uniform thickness and shape. Bake only like-sized cookies on the same sheet so all get done at the same time.
8. Dough is too sticky and soft too roll or press. a) Dough too warm.
b) Not enough flour added to dough.
a) Cover the dough and chill until firm enough to handle. Work with only one portion of dough at a time, keeping the other portions chilled until needed.
b) Measure flour carefully when making dough. If still sticky, add 1-2 tablespoons flour to the dough. Chill for 15-30 minutes. Roll dough out again. Dust work surface and dough with flour before rolling or use the waxed paper method. See Cut-Out Cookies.
9. Dough cracks and crumbles when rolled. a) Too much flour or too little fat or liquid added during mixing.
b) Dough is too cold.
a) Measure ingredients carefully when mixing dough. For crumbly dough, add more liquid. If you used small-medium eggs, add another egg yolk to make up for large eggs requested by recipe. Or add 1-2 tablespoons cream, milk, or water to the dough and mix well.
b) Let dough stand for 15 minutes at room temperature after chilling to warm up a bit.
10. Cut-out cookies become misshapen when transferred to baking sheet. a) Used plastic spatula to move cut-outs.
b) Dough not chilled enough or sitting out at room temperature too long.
a) Use a metal spatula to lift cookies to baking sheet. It can slide more easily under cookies.
b) Make sure you chill the dough per recipe instructions. As it sits out at room temperature, it will soften, so work quickly, using a small amount of dough at a time, to get the cookies rolled, cut, and onto the baking sheets.
11. Bar cookies are either under-done or over-done. a) Oven not preheated.
b) Didn't test for doneness.
a) Always preheat the oven for at least 10 minutes to achieve the correct baking temperature. An oven thermometer will assist you in knowing when the oven is ready for baking.
b) Test bar cookies for doneness by looking for firm edges. Insert a toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean, they are usually done (unless recipe states otherwise . . . or bars have fruity or moist filling.)
12. Bar cookies crumble. a) Cut before cooled completely. a) Cool bars completely in the pan. Cut right before serving.

* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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