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embarrassing question- failure with cookies! why?

I am a decent enough cook to make lobster risotto with home made stock for lunch, but I never ever bake. Now that my toddler daughter is into cooking, I decided to make cookies for the first time. I went pretty basic- Nestle"s recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I cut the recipe in half as it produces 60 cookies, which i thought was too much. Besides that, I followed to a t (didn't add nuts).
The result is a disaster: the cookies never 'flatened', they took much longer than the 9-11 minutes to cook (more like 15), they are not crunchy, the inside is crumbly and sandy. what the hell? i thought 6 year olds succesfully do this!
So now my family's respect is on the line and I need to try again. any ideas of what is going on? The one thing I noticed was that the dough was a bittoo crumbly, not 'wet' enough
Any suggestions would be most appreciated by this hurt ego!

Ingredients
•2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•1 teaspoon salt
•1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
•3/4 cup granulated sugar
•3/4 cup packed brown sugar
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•2 large eggs
•2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
•1 cup chopped nuts

preheat oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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  1. Maybe you needed to cream the butter & sugars longer--they should be pretty fluffy, not merely well mixed. FWIW, when I used to bake a lot of cookies (no longer), I often had to bake them a few minutes longer than the recipe. Mke sure your oven temperature is correct, though.

    1. I've never had luck splitting cookie recipes in half. I think there is a way to do it, but the ratios aren't 1:1 so when you split it gets all weird.

      5 Replies
      1. re: corneygirl

        I don't know what do you mean, the ratios aren't 1:1.... I split cookie recipes in half all the time and it's fine. I don't think there should be any reason you can't halve any cookie recipe at all -- I've even been known to lightly beat and split a single egg. That really should not have been a problem.

        1. re: visciole

          I think perhaps what corneygirl was suggesting was that with baking you have to be careful when making fractions of a recipe, because while half the amount of butter might work for half of the amount of cookies, the leavening agents might not be able to be halved to produce the same results. Sure, it might not be the case with this particular recipe, but there are definitely a lot of instances where one is taking a risk if they hope to a half recipe of something baked by simply halving all of the ingredients in the initial recipe. Thanks!

          1. re: Laura D.

            Well, I believe you but will simply say that hasn't been my experience. Perhaps I haven't used a sufficiently complex recipe for it to have been an issue.

            1. re: Laura D.

              Thanks that is what I meant. I had this problem splitting oatmeal cookies - (an I'm sorry present for SO) Didn't want like 60 cookies for 2 people, I split a recipe that I had used before with good results and the halved recipe was terrible.

              1. re: corneygirl

                I agree with viciole - whatever happened to your halved batch of oatmeal cookies, I doubt that halving was the problem. For example, two sheets in the oven at the same time bake differently than a single sheet. I nearly always halve recipes for cookies, muffins, cakes, etc. and in 40 years of cooking have not had a problem with leavening or other ingredient ratios. Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio, illustrates the point that it's the ratios that are paramount in baking.

        2. I am so anxious to see the replies ot your question. I had the same flattening ill cookies when I made the famour World Peace cookies. I make cookies, all different and chocolate chip is one of them and they never have flattened like this. So, I am curious, there has to be a connection that would do this to a cookie. Such tragedy.
          This is a terrible photograph but you can really see the flatness of these.
          Do your cookies resemble these?
          http://www.flickr.com/photos/7220939@...
          I did use silpat, and I have had success with other cookies using it. An the World Peace are loaded with butter also, but I chilled the cookie mix then sliced them, so it's not that the batter was warm. This has bugged me for over 2 years now.

          So good luck! I hope you get an answer, I know how frustrating it is.

          4 Replies
          1. re: chef chicklet

            I don't have my recipe for the World Peace cookies in front of me (I have the book, though, so i am somewhat familiar with it), but I'm wondering if your butter was too warm. Assuming that this recipe involves creaming butter with sugar, I would guess that your butter was too soft before you mixed it with the sugar for creaming, which caused the spread in the oven. This has happened to me before too when I've let my butter soften too much. I don't know if that helps but given that these cookies have received such rave reviews it seems like you should try them again and see what you come out with.

            1. re: Laura D.

              Thanks Laura, its been too long, I really need to make these again. I also need to get the recipe from the book, I was using one from the internet at the time, it could of been wrong.... But to respong to what you said about the butter being too warm. I really couldn't say I remember that if it was or not, but I know that I had to roll it into a log, and then put it back into the fridge, and then I sliced the cookies off after the dough was chilled. OMG, I'd certainly love to know how to make these properly the next time. Yes, they did, in fact that's why I made them, they were all over the place at the time, and they were spoken of so highly. I did use really good chocolate too....

              1. re: chef chicklet

                chef chicklet, are you sure you didn't leave out your leavening agent? It is a cookie that spreads, but not like that ;)

                1. re: foiegras

                  You know it's possible. Again been two years so I can't recall what my exact movements were, could be that I did. I don't know if I'd like a cookied that flattens out like that. It was very tacky, meaning it stuck to one's teeth in a bad way.I hope I put in flour!~

          2. Since you said you don't bake, My guess is you might have measured the flour wrong. It sounds like you might have gotten too much.

            Spoon flour into a measuring cup (NOT the liquid measure kind), and scrap level with something flat. Do NOT tap or shake to settle the four down.

            A few extra tablespoons of flour could make a difference.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Liz K

              From your description, that was my immediate guess too -- you forgot to half the flour.

            2. I can't specifically identify the source of your problem, but I'd like to mention that it is possible to over beat cookie batter/dough mixtures to the point that so much of the gluten in the flour is developed that the combined ingredients turn into something closer to bread than cookies. Mix the flour into your other ingredients just long enough to incorporate all of it into the other ingredients. I agree that you also need to cream the butter long enough to make it slightly fluffy; but don't overdo that either. When you cream the butter/sugar mixtures you're trying to incorporate air into it. But cream it gently so that you don't end up melting the butter with the heat of the beater blades. Start with ice cold ingredients and keep them as cold as possible.

              1. I just checked with my daughter on this. She's a more accomplished baker than I am (and is the sole baker of cookies and cakes at our house.) She told me to change the toll-house recipe by adding 1 tsp cream of tarter, change the flour to 2-1/2 cups, and the salt to 1/4 tsp. Her recipe sounds strange to me, but her cookies are good. She also said that your problem is much more likely to be your oven temperature and baking time than the recipe. The 375 degrees on the package is assuming that your oven temp is accurate. Ours runs 25 degrees hotter than it should. Even so, she bakes her cookies at 350 degreesF after adjusting for the error. Since she uses parchment paper under the cookies, she is able to pop the next batch right into the oven, but the pan is already hot from the previous baking and she has to adjust the baking time. Basically, you have to watch the cookies and take them out when they're done instead of relying on the timer.

                1. the solution for flat CC cookies is to chill the batter in the fridge for an hour. Mine stay fluffy and soft for days!

                  1. I've been baking since before I could read. I'm only saying this because, over half a century later, it's still an iffy proposition. One can follow directions, calibrate the oven, perhaps even dehumidify the kitchen (!), but the results may remain uncertain. Don't be discouraged and keep on baking.
                    I like Alton Brown's scientific approach to choc chip cookies. He addresses the various faction favorites, and you might find some tips to help you achieve your desired results within his different approaches. I don't follow his recipes to the letter, but I borrow substantially to formulate the kind of cookie I prefer to make:

                    http://www.foodnetwork.com/good-eats/...

                    Whichever recipe you favor, it's a good idea to make the full recipe (or double it) and freeze logs of the raw cookie dough in Pam-sprayed heavy duty tin foil. You can then slice and bake your own cookies whenever you choose. I recommend an insulated cookie sheet (a thin sheet is sure cookie death), using the middle rack of the oven, preheating the oven (I know, I never used to do this, but I do now) and using parchment paper (I prefer this over silpat). I cannot stress the importance of the insulated cookie sheet. If you never buy another thing for your kitchen, buy this if you intend to make cookies. You'll thank me.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mrsdebdav

                      Thanks everyone!! I will try again tomorrow morning and will keep all your recomendations in time. A question on the butter temperature: it calls for soften butter, but todao recommends ice cold ingredients. what is the best way to go about that? (men, this reminds why i am so lazy about baking! but now it's a challenge!)

                      1. re: adamandeve

                        You can't possibly cream ice cold butter. I mean, you can start with ice cold butter, but for it to cream it has to come to room temp. No disrespect to todao, but in this instance, as in most baking endeavors, you need all your ingredients at room temp. (Whipping cream is a notable exception.)
                        After the cookie dough is made, I would suggest you chill before baking (or freeze for "roll your own" - you can bake right from the frozen state - superior convenience!).
                        I know you said your cookies didn't flatten, but I actually think that's a good thing. My problem had been too flat, thin and crumbly cookies.
                        You can flatten out the cold/frozen cookies with a spoon, spatula or your fingers before baking if that's more to your taste.
                        And don't forget the insulated cookie sheet!
                        Best,
                        Deb

                      2. re: mrsdebdav

                        I haven't made cookies in years, so I can't figure out the specifics in this case. (Though I suspect that volume measures as opposed to weighing may be part of the problem.) But I like the Alton Brown suggestion. I used his book "I'm only here for the food" vol. 2, on baking, to help me with pie dough, and the technical information he gave solved all my problems. So that book may be worth looking at for what he has to say on cookies. Odds are that most local libraries have it.
                        Also, as a kid I often made the Nestle cookies, but at my Mom's suggestion I used only half the amount of chocolate chips the recipe called for. I think the results were more interesting.

                        1. re: mrsdebdav

                          Couldn't disagree more about insulated cookie sheets - they are horrible. Cookies won't brown and it's the browning that's responsible for most of the flavor in something like a sugar cookie or oatmeal cookie. A thin sheet will overbrown the bottoms - a heavyweight, solid aluminum half-sheet pan is a kitchen workhorse that has many uses and is universally recommended for cookies.

                        2. Though it probably wasn't the culprit in this case, when baking you should make sure to have all of your ingredients at room temperature unless the recipe specifies otherwise. That being said, for this particular recipe not only would you want to use softened butter but you'd want your eggs to have been sitting out for a while as well.

                          1. If you noticed the dough wasn't right before you started baking, I suspect that is your problem. It's winter, so your flour may be very dry, but there's got to be more to it than that.

                            I don't halve the recipe, and suggest you don't either :) Are you sure you did it right? 3/4 would be challenging to halve ... and so is 1/4. I'm a very experienced baker, and I wouldn't do that. There is never a shortage of takers for good Toll House cookies ;)

                            You don't want to sift the flour for this recipe, but I suggest you stir to aerate before measuring. Did you level with a knife? You used proper calibrated dry measuring cups, not liquid measures?

                            The butter should absolutely be softened, but not a puddle (i.e., don't let it sit out overnight or all day--a couple hours is fine).

                            I would suggest you stick to the classic recipe for right now. Millions of people have made it successfully, and so can you :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: foiegras

                              Not to be too much of a noodge about this, but 3/4 is not hard to halve. It's 3/8, and 2T = 1/8. Half of a quarter cup is therefore 2T. Sometimes one wants fewer cookies so that one will EAT fewer cookies! ;)

                              1. re: visciole

                                Let me rephrase ... easy to get wrong (particularly for a novice baker), and tedious to carry out.

                                If you want a standard product, I would suggest not using insulated cookie sheets. I find that they change the texture of the finished cookie, and lengthen the baking time. You don't ever get the same result as with a standard cookie sheet--or that has been my experience. IMO what they're good for is for someone who's going to otherwise burn the cookies. All you need is an obnoxiously loud digital timer to prevent that ;)

                            2. Please don't take this the wrong way, anyone who reads it-- it's a completely friendly finger pointing at a problem I think I notice. You say your cookies did NOT flatten,right,? Yet one reply indicated the cookies were too flat. And they were too dry (both while you were mixing and after baking.) . So I don't see why adding more flour would help. And it would be impossible to cream butter and sugar if the butter was ice cold. These responses *do* indicate that the readers maybe weren't paying attention..
                              Which is *exactly* what I usually find is wrong when I flub a recipe--MY error. Human error . Pilot error. This recipe is very well known, surely made millions of times, so if you actually did everything right (including oven temps and no sabotage by a helpful toddler!) it's gonna work within pretty acceptable limits.
                              (When I find a mistake on my banking statement, it's always MY mistake too!)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: blue room

                                Here's a link to the Nestle recipe with the weights included. (But if you don't bake, you probably don't have a scale. I've been putting off getting one for years--maybe 2010!)

                                http://www.nestle.com/NutritionHealth...

                              2. Some suggestions:

                                - Chill your cookie dough before baking

                                - Don't overbeat the sugar and butter

                                - Calibrate and check your oven thermometer

                                - Replace the baking soda with baking powder (it'll produce a puffier cookie)

                                Good luck.

                                1. You say you never bake. Had the baking soda been in the cabinet/pantry for a while? With a toddler helping did stirring take longer than usual?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: lgss

                                    My thoughts are attention to room temperature eggs and butter, measuring flour properly, making sure your leavening agent(s) are reasonably fresh, scooping dough into equal portions before you freeze makes it easier than trying to slice logs with hard chips in the way. Fwiw, sounds to me as though the butter/sugar creaming was at issue.

                                    1. re: petitgateau

                                      I had a chance to check Alton Brown today. And his discussion of "the creaming method," which is how cookies are made, would seem to confirm petitgateau's observation. The essential points are: the temperature of the butter should be between 65 and 70 degrees; use a stand mixer with a paddle (not whisk) attachment; creaming until light and fluffy means that it increases in volume by about a third and that sugar granules are not visible in the mix but can still be felt if you rub some of the creamed mix between your thumb and finger. Creaming creates the air bubbles that the gasses produced by the leaven expand. If the bubbles are not there in the first place, the cookie won't rise. But the fact that it was so crumbly also suggests that you had too much flour, so weighing would help. One other detail from Alton Brown is worth mentioning. Don't add the eggs one at a time. If you do, the water in the white and the fat in the creamed butter tend to separate before the lecithin in the yolk can emulsify the fat. Instead, mix the eggs so yolk and white are combined, and then add the eggs in a slow, steady stream.
                                      You have me wanting to make cookies again, but I have pecan sandies in mind. But I won't get to that for a couple of weeks. Good luck.

                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                        I really do not believe that creaming can be the problem here. When I baked as a child this was the cookie we made most often. I have under-creamed and over-creamed and never, ever gotten a result like the one described. I am 99% certain the amount of flour/dry ingredients is the problem.

                                        I too considered expired leavening, but eggs are a leavening agent too. The fact that the dough texture was all wrong *before the baking began* I think is the essential clue.