Cookies or biscuit’s that have common problems. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but Baking truly is a science. That’s why I get more questions for Baked Goods than any other. Spreading cookies would have to be one of the most FAQ in Bake Club. I thought I’d share my answers here just in case you’re having problems too.
Enjoy, If I haven’t answered your questions, send some feedback. You may have an issue that someone else needs answering.
Chilling the dough before baking your cookies.
That’s the first answer I give to people that ask this question because more than likely it’s the cause of your problem. You require a little patience with some soft buttery cookie doughs. If you like soft buttery cookies, you need to make sure you have time for them. Here are some things I do,
I don’t turn my oven on until I’ve rolled up or rolled out my dough. Be patient, and if your oven’s not on yet, you won’t be tempted to pop them in, giving you a chance to rest them in the fridge.
Once you have your cookies in their desired shape, pop them in the fridge or freezer until they’re very firm. If your recipe is right for the job, your cookies will set in the oven before the butter gets a chance to spread them all over the place, but sometimes this isn’t the case. If this doesn’t work, keep reading, the following recommendations may help.
Bicarb or Baking powder can cause your cookies to spread
Make sure you measure these ingredients out correctly. They are so powerful you only need to use them in small quantities for most recipes, and if you go overboard, you’ll have problems. After baking a batch of cookies and they’ve still spread after correcting any other problems try using half the bicarb or 3/4 the baking powder your recipe calls for. Bicarb causes spreading more than baking powder.
Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find what works.
Measure your ingredients accurately.
Make sure you’re using the correct tablespoon measures we collect recipes from all over the world these days, you need to know what the standard measures should be for that particular recipe. We use 20 ml tablespoons in Australia, although when we purchase our spoons they could be Australian standard, Uk standard or USA standard, these are all different. So if your recipe is written for a USA audience their tablespoons are around 15 ml, you will need to make adjustments. My favourite are these stainless steel oval-shaped measuring spoons. Being this shape they easily fit into most jars and they go in the dishwasher.
What’s the first thing I do when I get a new recipe? I convert the larger measurements (cups + spoons) to weights. This way you have a repeatable formula and one that’s easily adjusted if need be. I’ve seen some recipes that call for 6 tablespoons of butter! What’s all that about? I ‘ve made this handy tool you can ” Download it for free. ”
I can’t stress this enough. Baking is a science. Most people can cook a roast or Bolognese, but some have problems when it comes to baking. When you’re baking, you need to be precise. All the ingredients do something, and if you get it wrong, it may not be what you expected. Too much flour will make your cookies dry and crumbly. Too much sugar and butter can make sugar cookies spread and lose their shape when baked. Think about the ingredients and what they do when they’re heated. For example, a little over 100°c, sugar turns to liquid, have you thought about that?
If you don’t have a weigh scale, get one. If you’re serious about learning to bake they’re an invaluable tool. They’re are loads on the market and you can pay as little or as much as you like. My only advice would be to purchase one that will weigh in 1 gm increments and up to 5 kg at the top end. Also, make sure its easy to wipe clean.
Oven temperature is important. Just because your oven says, it is 160°c doesn’t mean it is. In fact, in my experience, a lot of ovens we use in our homes are a bit out? To solve this problem purchase an oven thermometer that you can place in your oven to see what the temperature really is. They’re not expensive. If your cookies are baking in an oven that is too cool, they’ll spread before the other ingredients have time to set up in the heat. Most cookies are cooked at reasonably high temperatures to prevent this from happening. You may not want to slowly melt the butter and sugar before the other ingredients have time to set in place.
Your Baking Tray
Baking your cookies on a baking sheet that has been greased may make your cookies spread. At Bec’s Table we use USA pans, and in most cases, you don’t need to use anything on them. USA pans have a silicone coating that is the best non-stick surface I’ve ever used and they come in all sorts of shapes. If you don’t have a USA cookie sheet use a piece of baking paper or a Silpat mat when you bake, they’ll help the cookies hold their shape. Parchment and Silpats both work great. Make sure you’re using quality silicone, always check for the highest temperature rating. I have linked Silpat mats although there are others on the market I know the quality of these are brilliant, they’re used commercially. If you use them properly they’ll last you for a very long time indeed.
We use nothing but USA pans in the cooking school. Because they’re so popular, we have them in stock, at Bec’s Table prices of course. Once you use one, you’ll never go back. If you live too far away from us, check them out on the links I’ve provided. They’re a little hard to find in Australia but I’ve tracked some down.
What sort of tray should I use?
A flat cookie tray with no sides is the best for air circulation. If you don’t have one, just upturn a flat baking tray (with small sides) the base is flat. Like this!
If you only have one baking tray, and you need to bake two batches, don’t add your second load of cookies to a hot or warm tray. Run it under some cold tap water to cool it down fast, dry it and make sure it’s cool before you add your raw dough.
Re-rolling the scraps
Don’t overwork your dough and make it tough, this can make them tough but also make them spread. Rather than gathering up all your scraps, scrunching them up and kneading again, try placing them on top of each other in a flat pile. Roll them out without working them too much and refrigerate if they become too warm.
And if all else fails it could be, too much Butter, fat, or Sugar in the recipe.
Either choose another recipe or have a go at fixing the problem.
If this is the first time you’ve used a particular recipe, then you’re probably not sure how it’s going to react. In Bake Club, we find a lot of recipes that have been written poorly, but thankfully we fix most of them, so they’re problems are eliminated by the end of the Bake Club week of testing. Before we go on to this area if your recipe calls for melted butter try using room temp or cold butter and creaming it with the sugar first. This answer is in line with answer 1.
If your recipe calls for too much butter or fat, your cookies will spread, even if you pop them in the fridge or freezer. If you think about it, you know butter melts at a low temperature, this can cause problems if the butter starts to leak out before the other ingredients have a chance to set up. So try the fridge, freezer idea and if that doesn’t work, try adding 10% more flour. You may need more than this but start at 10% unless your cookies have dribbled off your tray.
My other recommendation would be to reduce the sugar. Sugar also melts when it gets hot, too much of this and your cookies will also spread. Try cutting it back. Start with a reduction of 10 % at a time till you get the desired result. Although sugar can be reduced by more than 10% if you like, your cookies will be less sweet, but they’ll still hold. White sugar can spread a little more than brown so you can try swapping it out, your cookies will take on a more caramel flavour.
Well, I hope that has answered some of your questions regarding this annoying problem.
If you’re nearby, you might want to join Bake Club?
Or too far to visit, check out our Bake Club ebooks. They’ve all the recipes we used in a specific season, plus notes and tips. You can find them on our ebook page.