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Why do my cookies go flat?

  • k

This has happened a few times: I bake the chocolate brownie cookies from Epicurious. In the oven, they puff up. They look great. I take them out of the oven, and about 5 minutes later they're flat as pancakes. It happens with other cookies, too. I've tried cooking them longer, but it doesn't seem to work and it dries them out. Any ideas about how to prevent this? Thanks.

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  1. If the butter is too melted to begin with, sometimes the end product will go flat. If the recipe says softened butter (to whip with sugar, eggs, etc.), it should be pliable but not at all weepy. A good description is that it's like Play Dough: you can bend it, but it doesn't really drip all over your fingers or bleed onto the wrapper.

    1. I keep the cookie dough in the fridge between baking batches. Also- I use four cookie sheets when baking- two in the oven, and the other two cooling off between batches. I also mound the cookie dough on the cookie sheet- makes for a smaller, "higher" cookie. Good luck

      1. Maybe you're mixing too much and incorporating a lot of air in the batter . . . which would cause them to puff up in the oven and then rapidly deflate, kind of like a souffle. My husband had this happen when he baked me a birthday cake (his first time), and due to his inexperience in dealing with batters, he mixed the hell out of it in the standing mixer! But it's the thought that counts and it still tasted good.

        5 Replies
        1. re: farmersdaughter

          I was going to say overmixing too. If you can get your hands on a CI Holiday Baking 2007, they have three pictures in there of cookie dough: undercreamed, properly creamed, and overcreamed. Apparently overmixing -- in addition to adding air -- also causes the butter to melt more. So even if your butter was at the proper temperature to begin with, it may not have been by the time you were done creaming.

          1. re: farmersdaughter

            I've been having the same problem with my cookies falling flat!

            I used to live in Brooklyn with a beautiful kitchen perfect for baking and cooking -- brand new oven, KitchenAid stand mixer, proper baking tools, large fridge. My cookies were always incredible! But now I'm living in the south of France and all the ingredients are different, and I'm using quite sub-par tools. I was starting to get really depressed about my flat cookies -- thought that it was a problem with the baking powder available here in France. I even brought baking powder back from London recently, and I'm having my mother ship some over from the US!!

            I'll get started right away on a new batch and try watching the butter temperature, mixing, and batter/cookie sheet temperatures.

            Thank you!

            1. re: sweetwell

              I have moved to Cyprus recently from London and originally from Chicago. When I moved to London I was able to make cookies and while not at fluffy as at home they weren't too bad. Since I moved to Cyprus all my cookies are flat. I have all the proper gear as in the mixer and baking tools. While I have, what I consider, a subpar kitchen, my utensils and appliances are all very good, so the only thing I can put it down to is the ingredients, which really baffles me. I think though I may have been over mixing so going to try to not mix quite so much and see if they turn out better.

            2. re: farmersdaughter

              I've never seen this happen with cookies though ...

              sweetwell, perhaps it's the tools? Can you quantify what's changed?

              1. re: foiegras

                It's hard to pinpoint exactly since everything has changed. I don't have any of my old tools or machines. I'm using a hand mixer instead of a KitchenAid stand mixer (I think this is the main problem), the oven isn't convection, and of course, all the ingredients are different as well...

            3. Check the expiration date on your baking powder and/or baking soda. Using expired product really changes the results.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Dee S

                That was going to be my suggestion.

                Cookies at my mother's house were always flat, & I've actually tried to replicate that effect to get Toll House cookies like they used to be :) Cutting back on the baking soda, adding it later in the process, and using a heavier flour (50/50 whole wheat) does the trick for me.

                So more baking soda and cake flour might have the opposite effect.

                1. re: foiegras

                  I just read today that more baking soda will cause the cookies to spread more and brown more.

                  1. re: javaandjazz

                    Well ... I am speaking from no reading, but many years of baking experience ;)

              2. It could be any of the things mentioned above! I have baked many a cookie; I did a cookie of the month club for Christmas presents last year, and have experimented a lot. Chilling your dough helps a lot... I also chill most cookie doughs after I've scooped them onto the cookie sheet or have formed them for at least 15 minutes in the fridge. I freeze a lot of my cookie doughs too, and just bake from frozen. I still have one particular cookie recipe that has given me fits and I can't figure it out... it turns out right every once in a while, but most of the time, they are a mess! Baking cookies is definitely a process if you try a lot of recipes!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Katie Nell

                  Thanks for your advice (actually, thanks to everyone who responded!). I'll try chilling, using less baking soda, and not mixing too much.

                  Meanwhile, your cookie of the month club idea is brilliant, and I may blatantly steal it.

                  Also, just out of curiosity: what is the recipe that you can't figure out?

                  1. re: Kagey

                    Thank you for saying it was a brilliant idea... the lady that originally got the Cookie of the Month Club membership at my S.O.'s family Christmas (she was not an immediate family member, a new in-law to the family) was less than thrilled! She said, "Oh, great! I'm a diabetic! What am I going to do with this?!" Didn't even bother to read the card aloud to everyone telling them that they were homemade cookies that would be sent to them every month for 6 months, so no one even wanted it!! Then, my future father-in-law saw the crushed look on my face, and proclaimed that he was stealing the gift back from her! (They play that stupid gift exchange game where you can steal from each other!) If she would have been nice about it, I certainly would have researched diabetic treats and the like, and made adjustments to the club, but whatever! Sorry for the rant... guess I'm still not over it! I did, however, give my S.O.'s grandma a whole year membership and she loved it! Whenever she heard something at the door each month, she would make her boyfriend get up to see if it was her cookies!! :-)

                    The recipe that I have trouble with is Martha Stewart's Lemon Drop Cookies. http://www.marthastewart.com/page.jht... I've made them probably a total of 6 times, and 2 of the times they've turned out perfectly, and the other times, they've been a complete mess! One time, they ran all over the place and made one huge cookie on the cookie sheet and some in the bottom of the oven... oops! My grandma absolutely loved them, so I would love to master that darn recipe, but haven't had very good luck. I e-mailed Martha, but just got a generic response about adjustments in baking, etc.

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      It's shocking that anyone would be that un-gracious about a thoughtful, homemade gift. But then, there seems to be one in every family! At least your grandma has the right idea.

                      I've never tried the Lemon Drop cookies, but they look lovely. I hope you get the hang of them. I've never had much luck with Martha recipes. I had one of her books but gave it away because the recipes didn't work out that well for me. In the end, it was a lemon merengue pie recipe that was the last straw. Good luck!

                      1. re: Kagey

                        I'm glad I'm not the only one who has problems with her recipes. I still enjoy the books because her recipe ideas and the pictures that go with them are great, but they often don't turn out like they do in her images.

                        1. re: Kagey

                          Actually, I use her recipes A LOT, but this is the first one I've had trouble with! I love her newish Baking Handbook!

                  2. Ask Alton Brown. He did a "Good Eats" episode called "Three Chips for Sister Marsha" on the three types of chocolate chip cookies: crispy, cakey and chewy and how to adjust the standard Toll House recipe for each.

                    (The short answer: Reduce baking soda, which makes the cookies flat. For cakelike, use shortening instead of butter and add cake flour. For chewy, melt the butter, add bread flour and use more brown sugar than white.)

                    Transcript here: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season...

                    1 Reply
                    1. When I make chocolate chip cookies, instead of using all butter that the recipe calls for, I use 1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco. My cookies do not go flat when I do this.

                      1. I have discovered two things in my many years of baking that make cooies flat. How you measure the flour is one of them, my cookies went flat from using the spoon and measure method, after years of using the scoop and sweep method, and the other thing I have learned, is to use medium or large eggs, not extra large eggs. Nothing flattens a cookie faster than too much egg.

                        1. Maybe someone can help me... I made a drop cookie with a white chocolate/cream cheese base, white chocolate chips and semisweet chips. The recipe called for macadamia nuts which I replace with chopped peppermint candy. The cookies taste wonderful but look horrible... they spread too much and some of them are crisp and others aren't. Did the peppermint just add too much sugar? Or should I chill the dough before baking?
                          thanks!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cgray481

                            The candies will melt, macadamia nuts will not melt- that is the problem. Chilling (or I would go one step further and freeze) will help to an extent, but it will never make a consistent cookie. Believe me... I've struggled with a lemon drop cookie recipe for years now!

                            1. re: Katie Nell

                              thanks! How depressing though. I might try it as a bar cookie and see if it works.

                          2. I have seen that problem before. It seems to be caused by the kind of flour used. Have you tried with other flours?

                            1. Kagey,
                              I was wondering if you ever solved your flat cookie problem? I've read about 4 different threads spanning the last 5 years and have tried every suggestion imaginable. I recently just posted a new thread asking the same question, hoping for additional ideas. I bake a lot my toll house chocolate cookies (deflating once out of the oven - they don't spread in the oven, cured that with chilled dough), has me really stumped.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dorymoments

                                I didn't read all the threads here, so I don't know if I'm double posting, but in my tollhouse I use 50% butter and 50% shortening. They never flatten.

                              2. Room temperature dough is going to flatten very quickly when it goes into a hot oven. Try freezing the dough for a couple of hours along with the trays before putting them into the oven. This is a great trick for preventing them from flattening. Pauline@thebettercrumb

                                1. Why use an ungreased pan? My cookies always stick? Any suggestions? My cookies go flat too. Barbara

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: RooneyR

                                    As for your cookies sticking, place the cookies on a sheet of parchment paper… it won't hinder the browning in any way. To prevent flat cookies, use fresh baking soda of course but also freeze your dough balls and the pans before placing in a hot oven. You can read more about this in my post about the world's best chocolate chip cookie at The Better Crumb. Hope this helps! Pauline