May 1, 2011

got spreading cookies?

A couple of weeks ago my friend K told me sadly that she made the gluten-free egg-free ugly-but-good chocolate cookies, but they did not turn out! -- they spread too much and were very flat, and therefore baked up to be more crispy and chewy, and K belongs to that category of cookie-lover who much, much prefer her cookies chewy. I went back to the recipe and looked it over to see if there could be anything problematic with the recipe and did not find any.

Determined to have those yummy cookies once again, K braved the recipe once more, even chilling the dough in the refrigerator before baking-- only to yield the same spread-out, flat and crispy cookies. How frustrating! I decided to make those cookies and see what happens.

Oh, guess what?! I had the same problem! My instinct was that the butter was too warm. With the weather warming up, the butter came to "room temperature" much faster than before and I must admit the butter seemed a tad too warm when I used it. Room-temperature butter means you should be able to make an impression in the butter with your finger, but the impression should not stay. This, and more tips for successful baking can be found here, a very useful resource!

I also looked into Shirley O. Corriher's BakeWise and these are her suggestions for less spread in cookies:
  • decrease the amount of fat
  • use an egg for liquid
  • use cake flour (which is higher in moisture) 
  • increase the amount of flour
  • cut the sugar by a few tablespoons
  • switch from baking powder to baking soda
  • use unsweetened chocolate
  • use regular cocoa
  • use cold ingredients or chill dough before going into the oven (the cookies, not you!)
I recall there was a time when I did not bring butter to room temperature but always used them direct from the refrigerator. I read somewhere (can't remember where now, it's years ago!) that it is hard to ascertain "room temperature" and so the best thing to do is cut up the butter into small pieces, and then cream them till they are creamy. I think with the mercury rising, I am going back to this method!

I hope this information proves useful! It makes me really unhappy when a recipe does not turn out, especially when you are salivating after a cookie you knew you would enjoy. I hope these tips can avert many disappointments.

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