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Why are my cookies flat???

shaebones Jan 3, 2009 10:01 PM

Chocolate chip cookies. Flour, baking powder/soda is fresh. Butter @ room temp, cookie sheets @ room temp, oven temp accurate. Have made them before w great success but last 2 or 3 batches come out paper thin and flat. Why are my cookies flat???

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  1. ipsedixit RE: shaebones Jan 3, 2009 10:24 PM

    It's most likely the flour -- have you changed to a different brand?

    Might want to consider using bleached all-purpose flour, which has a lower protein content. Better yet, try using high-gluten flour.

    Also, try chilling the cookie dough before putting them in the oven. Put it in the freezer for a 1/2 hour or so. This way the dough will spread out less when exposed to the oven heat.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      jlafler RE: ipsedixit Jan 3, 2009 11:22 PM

      Gluten is protein, so your two recommendations for flour contradict one another. I have been told that higher protein flour works better for chocolate chip cookies.

      1. re: jlafler
        ipsedixit RE: jlafler Jan 3, 2009 11:38 PM

        Sorry, my bad.

        I meant to say ... "bleached all-purpose flour, which has a HIGHER protein content."

      2. re: ipsedixit
        Karl S RE: ipsedixit Jan 6, 2009 07:55 AM

        For even better results, chill cookie dough for 1-3 days before baking. This was something our grandmothers' generation knew, and Cooks Illustrated demonstrated what it works even better than 1-2 hours (the dough gets properly balanced hydration - which takes considerable time to develop).

      3. g
        geppetto RE: shaebones Jan 3, 2009 10:34 PM

        This year I let the mixer beat / whip the butter quite a bit longer than my wife usually does and we found the cookies spread out more and were thinner than hers'. We were using the recipe on the Toll House chips package. She also thinks I am more 'precise' with the measurements. We used parchment paper this year for the first time. It won't be the last! It really made life easy when moving the cookies to the cooling racks and turning the cookie sheet around for the next batch.

        Alton Brown had a Food Network / Good Eats show where he described how to make thin, puffy, and chewy chocolate chip cookies. The recipes and a transcript can be found at http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season3/Cookie/CookieTranscript.htm wih the main Good Eats Fan Page at http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/GEFP/i...

        If everything was the same, I would guess something was old, or mixed longer than usual. Others with more experience may have a better answer and I would defer to their expertise.

        3 Replies
        1. re: geppetto
          allieeasley RE: geppetto Feb 16, 2012 08:45 PM

          We just tried the same recipe on the back of the toll house chocolate chip bag and they turned out all flat. Tried cooling, the batter, but it still didn't work. I suggest using any other recipe available! We looked for other recipes and salvaged the dough with an extra cup of flour (bread flour). Maybe adding a little less than a cup of flour would work too.

          1. re: allieeasley
            Ttrockwood RE: allieeasley Dec 11, 2013 07:46 PM

            Used toll house recipe for years- for not flat cookies the trick is 1/2 butter and 1/2 crisco. Yup. Seriously. Its free of transfat now.
            Gives a nice thickness but still chewy in the center.
            I've made hundreds of batches of them like this

            1. re: Ttrockwood
              chowser RE: Ttrockwood Dec 12, 2013 03:13 AM

              Read the label. It says "Trans fat free" on the can because they rounds down but there are trans fats in it.

        2. c
          cimui RE: shaebones Jan 3, 2009 10:50 PM

          i don't know if this is your change from prior batches, but generally the reason for my flat cookies is, as ipsedixit also suggested, the temperature of the dough. chill the dough for 1-2 hrs prior to baking and see how that goes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cimui
            nickblesch RE: cimui Jan 3, 2009 11:22 PM

            I had this exact issue a while back because I was mixing the dough on the counter above the dishwasher while it was running... /oops

            1. re: nickblesch
              dactyl RE: nickblesch Dec 11, 2013 02:05 PM

              Thank you! I just made a batch of snickerdoodles and the cookies were flat as pancakes. My dishwasher was running! Fortunately the cookies are still edible!

          2. j
            jlafler RE: shaebones Jan 3, 2009 11:20 PM

            Discussion here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

            "Another baker's dilemma is that chocolate chip cookies can turn out flat. Corriher suggests using an unbleached flour or a bread flour because they're higher in protein. More protein sucks in more water when they join together to make gluten, she says."

            5 Replies
            1. re: jlafler
              chowser RE: jlafler Jan 4, 2009 02:55 PM

              I've read that and it contradicted other things I've read about it, eg RLB on using lower protein flour:


              Ironically, RLB's answer agrees w/ Alton Brown (who consults with Corriher) on his puffy chocolate chip cookie which uses cake flour, an even lower protein flour than AP. I've tried using bread flour, based on what Corriher said, and ended up with very flat cookies, in a recipe I use often. I tried freezing and then baking the dough but it still spread. I think bread flour, mixed with melted butter, or very softened butter, makes a nice chewy cookie.

              Since the OP has made this recipe before successfully, I'd guess it's either that she's overmixed the butter and sugar or let the butter warm too long at room temp as gardencub suggested.

              1. re: chowser
                gardencub RE: chowser Jan 4, 2009 05:33 PM

                We should also ask what is room temp. Here in the northeast, in our 250 year old house, room temp in the winter means 60-65 degrees and in the summer could mean 95 on a really hot day. My room temp butter now is just barely softer than it is as it comes out of the fridge, but in July it is almost melted.

                When making bread dough, we consider that the traditional stand mixer (k-A) will raise dough temp 17-22 degrees from friction in a 5-8 minute mix/knead process.

                Just thought I would add this bit of useless info to the discussion.

                1. re: gardencub
                  chowser RE: gardencub Jan 5, 2009 04:13 AM

                  Not useless info at all. It's a good point. It makes a big difference--leaving butter out for half an hour in the summer vs. winter.

                2. re: chowser
                  PastryChefLish RE: chowser Feb 3, 2009 07:12 PM

                  Higher protein only means more chewiness. If you want cakey, use cake or pastry flour. Also, letting the dough sit for days will cause the leavening to expire (Rose Levy Baranbaum says baking soda and powder will expire within a couple of hours. The overbeating makes cookies spread. The temperature shouldn't affect the dough... Many recipes (like Cooks' Illustrated) call for melted butter, which actually results in a very well risen cookie (because the butter isn't in a solid form that can be whipped, thus incorporating air). I'm not sure why but it's getting oxygen whipped into the batter that makes them sprrreeaaddd. ;)

                  1. re: PastryChefLish
                    chowser RE: PastryChefLish Feb 4, 2009 11:53 AM

                    Letting the dough rest overnight, or longer, makes amazing cookies:


                    Protein makes absorbs the liquids and binds them and affects the spread of cookies. See link above for RLB.The temperature for butter does make a difference. With the CI recipe using melted butter, it releases water and makes it chewier which is why they do it. This is a good article on butter and the importance of temperature:


              2. manraysky RE: shaebones Jan 4, 2009 12:24 AM

                Baking the cookies from frozen dough will help them stay high. Granted, you might not want to wait when you're in the mood for cookies. But if you get ambitious and make a big batch, save some dough for later, scoop it and freeze it.

                A side benefit is that blobs of chocolate cookie dough are really good to eat frozen. :)

                1. g
                  gardencub RE: shaebones Jan 4, 2009 04:52 AM

                  try creaming your butter and sugar less, and using colder butter. Over whipping warms the butter too much and can cause it to spread more. Higher gluten levels will help keep cookies from spreading, as will dampening your flour a bit.

                  Shirley Corriher suggests that you add a tablespoon or so of water to the flour and mix it lightly before adding it to the creamed butter, sugar, egg mixture.

                  This water will start to develope nice long gluten strands, which will hold the cookie together

                  I use King Arthur AP flour, which runs a bit on the high side of protein content as AP flour goes and usually have no trouble.

                  Last week I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies that spread out horribly. I had walked away from the mixer while it was creaming the butter to answer the phone and when I got back the butter and sugar had turned into paste. I kept going and I got nasty cookies in return.
                  So, overcreaming can ruin a cookie...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gardencub
                    amazing grace RE: gardencub Jan 5, 2009 06:12 PM

                    I absolutely agree. Give a quick turn to your cold butter, sugar and vanilla. Over whipping at any stage will result in flat cookies. When you combine the butter/sugar/egg mixture with the flour mixture, again, just a few quick turns. Do not over mix here or you will again warm your dough which will result in flat cookies. Good luck. When you get those perfect, hot warm, soft chocolate cookies! Whew, yum, yum

                  2. todao RE: shaebones Jan 4, 2009 03:04 PM

                    Remember too that sugar, as an ingredient, is treated as a liquid. Again, the heat created in creaming the butter/sugar means the butter and the sugar will melt sooner than if they're cold when they hit the oven. The two hour chill, it seems to me, is the best immediate approach to finding a solution. I am not a flour expert but I've made Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies using AP flour since I was a kid and never had a problem so I'm not a supporter of the flour being a source for your disappointing experience.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: todao
                      amazing grace RE: todao Jan 5, 2009 06:14 PM

                      Forgot to say, parchmant paper is the only way. It will allow you to pull those cookies off the hot sheet fast and stop their cooking.

                      1. re: amazing grace
                        Steve RE: amazing grace Jan 6, 2009 11:26 AM

                        Non-stick aluminum foil works as well as anything. Cookies glide off easily.

                    2. JoanN RE: shaebones Jan 4, 2009 05:18 PM

                      Doesn't sound as though this is your problem, but it's worth noting that cookies on a Silpat will spread more than the same cookies on parchment.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JoanN
                        addicted2cake RE: JoanN Jan 5, 2009 05:20 PM

                        I definitely agree that overmixing the batter and not chilling the dough sufficiently can lead to flat chocolate chip cookies. I read, but can't remember where, that lecithin in chocolate chips can cause spreading. Not sure why this is. (???) Did you change your brand of chocolate chips? I get very good results with Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet chips. Just a thought. I'm not a flour maven so I must defer to those who know more about protein contents of different flours and how they affect spread. I always use King Arthur AP unbleached flour. It's been good to my chocolate chip cookies.

                      2. monavano RE: shaebones Jan 6, 2009 04:14 AM

                        Chiming in on the Silpat vs. parchment paper and can say that parchment is the way to go. Silpats have such a low coefficient of friction that they spread like crazy. I made cookies one time-had only one silpat but wanted to make two pans of cookies. So, I lined one with Silpat and the other with parchment. Two very different cookies came out. The Silpats spread and got very flat, and the parchments were juuuuuuuust right!

                        1. MsDiPesto RE: shaebones Jan 6, 2009 08:07 PM

                          Great article on this in the NY Times from Dec. 16.

                          It noted that Cold butter’s ability to hold air is vital to the structure of baked goods. Ways of preserving the cold in butter are discussed, from not microwaving it, to not whipping it over medium speed when creaming are covered.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MsDiPesto
                            PastryChefLish RE: MsDiPesto Feb 3, 2009 08:05 PM

                            I agree, to some of that. In culinary school, we typically whipped as much air into batters as possible. However, in some cases- like with cookies- a lot of air will cause spreading. I personally think this is because there is more pressure (all these little air bubbles trapped within gluten chains which normally expand when heated in the oven to form a lovely crumb for cake) but no structure of a cake pan... so the cookies press out. It depends on the recipe, though. Gingerbread cookies requires whipping to the point of light color for optimum results. Thanks for the article :)

                          2. maria lorraine RE: shaebones Feb 4, 2009 12:03 AM

                            Baking soda makes thin cookies. More white sugar than brown sugar creates crispness. More brown sugar creates puffy cookies. Chilling your dough means it spreads less. Melted butter (instead of creaming butter) and bread flour creates a chewy cookie.

                            Here's a great source of info about what ingredients do what in terms of cookies.
                            It's a transcript from Alton Brown's Good Eats show on cookies with tips on how ingredients react in creating a thin or thick cookie, a crispy or chewy one. Great stuff:

                            1. Morganna RE: shaebones Feb 4, 2009 04:28 AM

                              There's an entire episode of Good Eats devoted to making chocolate chip cookies that completely explains why cookies come out flat and thin or puffy or chewy or what have you. I think it's called A Chip for Sister Marsha (at least it's A Something for Sister Marsha). It's an early episode. :) Very informative.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Morganna
                                maria lorraine RE: Morganna Feb 4, 2009 11:20 AM

                                That's my post above, Morganna. It's a great show, I agree!

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  Morganna RE: maria lorraine Feb 5, 2009 03:00 AM

                                  Oh, sorry, I missed it. Your post I mean. :)

                              2. k
                                KaraK RE: shaebones Feb 4, 2009 12:34 PM

                                I enjoy soft and chewy chocolate chips cookies, which are always on the thicker than thinner side. I tend to use ~30% less sugar (white+brown) than the recipe calls. Otheriwse i follow the toll house recipe exactly and it consistently comes out with soft and chewey and delicious cookies. So my input - use less sugar.

                                1. toodie jane RE: shaebones Feb 5, 2009 09:39 AM

                                  good discussion here of ingredients and dough techniques:


                                  1. m
                                    MamaWendy RE: shaebones Jun 19, 2010 01:46 PM

                                    QUICK FIX: ADD FLOUR! I just had this exact problem this morning after leaving the dough in the fridge overnight. I enjoyed reading all the chemistry about whipping and leavening and brown sugar vs white etc, but for a quick fix I find that incorporating an extra 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of flour per standard size cookie batch saves the current batch. I probably did overbeat the butter and sugar - didn't know it COULD be overbeaten. Dough was plenty cold when I baked so that wasn't a problem - but adding flour immediately saved the rest of the batch.

                                    1. o
                                      ovencookie RE: shaebones Dec 18, 2011 12:57 PM

                                      hi- yes i too have had this problem multiple times as recently as last evening. tried again this morning with the same chocolate chipe recipe. after mixing ingredients i put into freezeer to harden. it was not hardening. i took out and thought perhaps i should take portions as i am preparing to put onto cookie sheet and roll in more flour - which i did. i did not leave the flour on the outside of the spoonful but sort of worked into the dough. sure enough i put into oven and they actually raised. i did 6 at a time so that i could portion the flour as i saw fit. however, i am beginning to think that the past advise that i recieved about spoooning flour into the measuring cups was not a good idea - perhaps sliding the measuring cup into the flour is the way to measure.. what i do not was the addition of flour gave cookie more substance. and they tasted great. lpleasae comment as you see fit. thanks

                                      1. k
                                        kellg1289 RE: shaebones Oct 6, 2012 05:57 PM

                                        TOO MUCH BUTTER. 2 sticks is just too much, I always cut it down just a little bit. :)

                                        1. t
                                          thebettercrumb RE: shaebones Oct 23, 2012 07:32 AM

                                          My World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies are puffy every time! Try ice cold ingredients. Think about it... if you put room temperature cookie dough into a hot oven it's going to flatten at an alarming rate. Pauline@thebettercrumb

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