Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
ShoeBox Oven

How to stop cookies from spreading?

Recommended Posts

I have a great french butter cookie recipe that tastes good, but is not performing (visually) as I intend it to. In fact all of my cookies are suffering from this problem. Basically my cookie is meant to come out solid and round but it is spreading out flat.

I have chilled the cookie dough.

I have frozen the formed cookie dough.

The butter has been at room temperature. Then I tried using the butter cold.

I've baked the cookie at the recommended 350 degrees and then at a lower temperature.

All instances have resulted in my cookie spreading flat. Though they are frozen and on room temperature sheet, the cookie still spreads. It is frustrating. So now I am thinking of using shortening. But then it wont be a butter cookie. Can you tell me how I should substitute shortening for butter (1 to 1)? And before I go the hydrogenated route, do you have any advice on how I can keep my butter cookies from spreading?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi!

Could you post the recipe? It might be ingredients or the mixing procedure as well.

Such a cookie could tend to spread if you incorporate too much air (whipping butter too much when creaming it for example) or when you use sugar crystals that did not have enough time to dissolve, etc.

Is it a European recipe that works well in France but not in the US (if that's where you are)? Many ingredients vary depending on the country. As weird as this may sound, flour is not the same as flour, confectioner's sugar is different too, butter as well, etc.

Please be as specific as possible and then we should try to keep them "butter" cookies!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My wife swears by using your thumb to put a deep indentation in the center of cookies before they're baked to stop them from spreading.

  • Like 1

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

here is the recipe:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup turbinado (unrefined) or granulated sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and light-brown sugar; beat on high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and mix to combine. Add flour and salt, and mix on low speed until flour is incorporated.

2. Roll dough into three 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

3. Heat oven to 350°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Roll cookie log in sugar, coating it evenly, and slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Place cookies on baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Using a cake tester or toothpick, make four decorative holes in each cookie. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool completely on wire racks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a question. Is the flour measured before or after sifting? According to Rose Levy Beranbaum (author of the cake bible and the cookie bible), if the flour is measured after the sifting it will most likely weigh 4 oz per cup. If the flour is measured before the sifting the weight will be 5 oz per cup. This is a 20% difference and could account for the spreading of the cookies. Before changing to shortening try measuring the flour before sifting and see what happens. Use the dip and sweep method of filling the measuring cup or for more accuracy weigh the flour. The weight of 2 and 1/2 half cups of AP flour is 12.5 oz according to Rose Levy Beranbaum. Hope this helps.


Fred Rowe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are a lot more experts here than me but I've heard that baking them at a higher temperature actually helps stop them from spreading. Something about the high temperature helping the outside of the cookie "set up" before it spreads too much... anyone know if this is true?

edited to add that I just compared your recipe to one I use and it's almost identical but mine doesn't use brown sugar, only granulated, and only a cup. I wonder if the molasses in the brown sugar would cause spreading? Also, my recipe has me bake at 400 degrees and they never spread.


Edited by CurlySue (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congratulations on weighing as well as measuring. Many times this can solve a problem and not enough folks do it. I think if I were trouble shooting this at home I would increase the weight by 20% and then bake some of the cookies at 350 and some at 400 just to see what would happen. And yes according to Carol Walter in her book "Great Cookies" in the section on troubleshooting, increasing the oven temperature helps prevent cookies from spreading too much. Again good luck and keep trying.


Fred Rowe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The melting point of butter is lower than shortening, so subbing shortening may decrease the spread of your cookies. There is a butter-flavored shortening but as you point out, it wouldn't really be a butter cookie if you used shortening.

Have you tried subbing cake flour for the AP flour? Cake flour is lower in protein so any moisture in the dough could evaporate more quickly possibly allowing for less spread.

You could also try adding a teaspoon or so of baking soda. The baking soda will "set" up your dough quicker so it may not spread as much.


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting the recipe. Aside from the previous ideas part of the procedure could also be adjusted:

  1.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and light-brown sugar; beat on high speed until fluffy,

  2.  Roll dough into three 1 1/2-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. 

 

In regard to step 1: How about just creaming butter and sugar until well combined, no butter lumps are left. Mixing until light and fluffy incorporates a lot of air. Airbubbles expand due to heat (like with bread rising in the oven for example) and can cause an otherwise flat cookie to spread.

In regard to step 2: I would definetely try to have them rest in the fridge overnight. Sugar has more time to dissolve this way and is less likely to contribute to spreading. Do your cookies have little specks in them after baking? Undissolved sugar crystals melt in the oven, sink through the soft "surrounding" ingredients and also cause spreading as well as uneven browning or "specks".

This is it for now, if none of these or the other's tips work, I will try to dive in deaper.

Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are a lot more experts here than me but I've heard that baking them at a higher temperature actually helps stop them from spreading.  Something about the high temperature helping the outside of the cookie "set up" before it spreads too much... anyone know if this is true?

edited to add that I just compared your recipe to one I use and it's almost identical but mine doesn't use brown sugar, only granulated, and only a cup.  I wonder if the molasses in the brown sugar would cause spreading?  Also, my recipe has me bake at 400 degrees and they never spread.

I agree with CurlySue. I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe I love that never spreads at 325 degrees. But when I add chopped up Heath bars to the recipe they spread horribly. So I experimented and found that upping the heat to 375 and using the convection feature in my oven helps the spreading problem.


"A few days ago, I heard a doctor talking on television about the dangers of stress. It can kill you. It can cause a heart attack or stroke. The doctor listed many ways of coping with stress. Exercise. Diet Yoga. Talk a walk. I yelled, "Bake cookies." I often talk to the television. I yelled it again and again. The doctor went on with his list of 12 ways to reduce stress and he never once mentioned my sure-fire treatment......"

Maida Heatter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i freeze them a few days before baking and i use a convection oven.

i will beat to cream them instead of at the fluffy state and up the temperature.

i have a lot of cake flour at home, so maybe i will try that along with the baking soda suggestion.

there are no flecks in my dough. it is smooth creamy and light brown. thank you for the tips. if you have other suggestions please let me know.

i feel like i have a cookie monster in my kitchen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
i freeze them a few days before baking and i use a convection oven.

i will beat to cream them instead of at the fluffy state and up the temperature.

i have a lot of cake flour at home, so maybe i will try that along with the baking soda suggestion.

there are no flecks in my dough. it is smooth creamy and light brown. thank you for the tips. if you have other suggestions please let me know.

i feel like i have a cookie monster in my kitchen.

You state that all your cookies have this same spread problem. That seems to point to your oven. Since you are using a convention oven, is the fan on? Most recipe's baking temperature are for standard oven. The general rule of thumb is to decrease the oven temperature by 25 degree for convention. I am not sure this is a good rule. I would test your oven to make sure the temperature is accurate.

I would not use cake flour for cookies. It is a low protein flour that produces cakes with a very soft and delicate crumb.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i've tried the recipe in my convection oven (fan works) and my standard home oven. spread still persists. i'm not sure what to do at this point. i will go forward and only cream not fluff my sugar and butter and increase my heat to see if that will keep them from spreading.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm no expert, but what kind of a cookie sheet are you using, and how do you lubricate it? Maybe it's too dark, or buttered too much? Have you tried using a silpat or similar gizmo? Just throwing out a few random ideas here... :smile:


"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Come to my house... my cookies never spread enough. Sorry, that doesn't really help, but I'm interested in the thread so that I can do the opposite and get more spread.


Cheryl, The Sweet Side

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would say that the biggest issue is the amount of flour. Recipes can change. If the humidity is high and so on. I would add a tablespoon or so of extra flour and it should help with the spreading. I have a cookie plate on my menu. They are all of my Mothers and Grandmothers recipes so when I tried to make them in bulk I had to change them slightly. Try a little extra flour not much and see if that helps.


It is easier to change a menu than a growing season.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My choc chip cookies spread when I dont add the 1 T water to the dough. When I do add it, they puff up instead of spreading. Probably interacting with the chemical rising agent, which isnt in your recipe, so ... wildass blue skying here.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with big country. Add extra flour (works for me). Could also be the moisture in the brown sugar, so additional flour will help.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, read the whole thread. Reviewed the recipe.

I bake hundreds of dozens of cookies every week at my day job. (the cakes are just "on the side") :smile:

So, I think I can say......I KNOW cookies.

First, NO BAKING SODA! If you want your cookies to spread even more, use baking soda! If you don't , and that's what I'm reading here, DO NOT ADD BAKING SODA. Another property of baking soda: browning. Your cookies would probably get too brown also.

Also, ditto....no cake flour either. Use the all purpose. The low protein content of the cake flour will contribute to spread also.

I think Sugarnspice is right on with the overcreaming thing. Forget about light and fluffy.

Just beat your butter and sugar til smooth and well combined....no more than that. I make a lot of butter cookies....there's no reason you should have to resort to shortening. All my butter cookie recipes specify to cream the butter and sugars til smooth, not fluffy.

I'll bet that will solve your problem.

I'm no expert, but what kind of a cookie sheet are you using, and how do you lubricate it? Maybe it's too dark, or buttered too much? Have you tried using a silpat or similar gizmo? Just throwing out a few random ideas here... smile.gif

When you have a cookie that is high in fat, as this one is, you don't need to lubricate pans at all....if you do, you just invite more spreading.

There are a lot more experts here than me but I've heard that baking them at a higher temperature actually helps stop them from spreading.  Something about the high temperature helping the outside of the cookie "set up" before it spreads too much... anyone know if this is true?

Yes, it's definitely true, but you have to be careful about how high, or you end up with cookies with crispy overbrowned edges and nearly raw middles.

Let us know how your future attempts come out! :rolleyes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Come to my house... my cookies never spread enough.  Sorry, that doesn't really help, but I'm interested in the thread so that I can do the opposite and get more spread.

The cookies that this thread was started for are not like the "standard American Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Cookie" at all. No offense, I just don't know how to make my point. They are more like sugar cookies that are supposed to hold their shape or give in only slightly. Unlike traditional sugar cookies the ones above are meant to be very tender when eaten and just barely hold their shape.

Some of the tips above are great for drop cookies that could have a wide variety of textures and shapes.

Alton Brown, whose baking advice is mostly accurate in my opinion, had an episode of "Good Eats" where he covered "American Cookies". It is called "Three chips for Sister Martha". There he covered all changes necessary to transform (drop) cookie recipes from thin to puffy to chewy. Very interesting! Here you can find a transscript of the show. This might be helpful to increase the spread of your cookies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When you have a cookie that is high in fat, as this one is, you don't need to lubricate pans at all....if you do, you just invite more spreading.

Oooooh, I wanted also to shoot towards the parchment paper, saying that regular sugar cookie dough does not really need that and that the plain sheet pan would work too, but then I figured that it adds so much convenience in regard to clean up... Anyway, chefpeon is right about greasing the pan. Parchment and Silpat mat could also be a point, but for now I would "stick" :wink: with it!

Oooh, I think I will have to try the recipe myself... (For the sake of the butter and the texture of the cookies :rolleyes: )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you checked the accuracy of your oven thermostat?


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...