Another Chocolate Chip Cookie Problem: Once Flat, Now Puffy
(This is long. I'm so, so sorry.)
The chocolate cookie. So easy to make good. So hard to maike great.
I looked through some of the other chocolate chip cookie problem threads, but didn't find my answer there. Some of these threads included my own smug comments about my techniques for making chewy, thin cookies, which worked perfectly...until now.
I make cookies for a friend about once every four or five weeks. She likes flat, chewy cookies. Until recently, I've consistently produced that kind using this recipe (it's pretty standard).
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
12 oz chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375.
Roll into balls (about 1 tsp-2 tsp) and bake 8 minutes.
Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside. Melt the butter, and mix in the sugars. Let cool slightly, then mix in the eggs. Mix in the flour mixture, then add the chocolate chips.
The last two times I've made these, they've puffed up, with a thick texture and light color (as opposed to the nice caramel color I usually get); the last batch in particular seemed almost bready. Not what we want at all. I told my friend she could toss them, or just abandon them in the kitchen at work, but she said they were okay. They bothered me, though.
What could I possibly be doing wrong suddenly? Here are some possibilities:
1) I used to just bake them for about 7 minutes, check them, then decide whether they need another minute or two. I noticed that the bottoms of the first batch were always very dark, though, so the last few times I've made them I've been rotating the sheets after four minutes. Is that doing something to them...? (I don't see why, but I'm willing to consider everything.)
2) I only have two cookie sheets and don't really have the luxury of time to let the sheets cool down on their own before putting in the next batch. So I usually take off the warm cookies as soon as I can, cool the sheets by running them under cold water, drying them off, then putting on the next batch. I know my recent problems don't come from them being too hot, because I've seen what happens to the cookies when that happens (the bottoms get dark really fast and the tops kind of slide off). Is it possible it's too cold?
3) I don't have a kitchen scale so I measure by scoop and sweep. Does it sound like I got in too much flour the last few times? I would point to that immediately as the culprit, but it seems odd that it would have happened twice in a row, after a pretty long streak of getting it right...
Two other notes. a) I had to work really hard to get the eggs thoroughly mixed in the last time I made the cookies, possibly because they weren't quite room temperature. Could I have gotten too much air into the dough while mixing it? b) I noticed that the dough thickened as I was scooping out cookies, almost as if I had put it in the fridge.
Anyone have any ideas? I'm due to make another batch this weekend. (If anyone made it through all of this, that is. If you did, congratulations. You deserve a cookie.)
That sounds very strongly like the problem was too much flour, based on the observations that1) the result was bready; 2) you had to work hard to get the eggs thoroughly mixed. However in what sense did you have to "work hard"? Was the dough very stiff (it sounds like it)? Or was it so loose that the eggs just added additional fluidity and led to lumping?
There's a decent chance that you were using a different flour than usual - either a different brand, a different composition from the same brand, or possibly even just a different batch, but in any case one with more protein. This would explain both the bready texture and the thickening as you were scooping (due to gluten development)
There's also a chance that you mis-measured butter or the sugars - increasing the flour ratio.
Thanks to you both--I guess sometimes the most obvious answer is the answer. Probably too much flour.
By "work hard" to mix the eggs, I mean the yolks didn't break down--I would think that was due to them being too cool, and that work probably did add too much structure to the cookie.
Sigh. I guess I'll just be extra careful measuring the flour next time.
This is where weighing is better than scoop and measure. If the problem continues, let the dough sit in the refrigerator a few hours first to allow the flour to absorb the liquid, Oh, there's no vanilla in your recipe? Or have you been forgetting it (which would account for the difference, too). To bring the eggs to room temperature quickly, just drop them into hot water for a few minutes.
As the washing down the cookie sheet, you could also make the cookies on a sheet of parchment and as you slide the cooked ones off, you can slide the parchment onto the sheet. I don't bother to let it cool since it goes immediately into a hot oven.
Thanks for your thoughts--I know, weighing ingredients is much more accurate than scoop-n-sweep. Hopefully I will get a kitchen scale someday. I tried warming the eggs in hot water, but they were just really cold, and that only helped somewhat. I'll remember to take them out early next time.
I've been making this recipe without vanilla for quite a while. That's one of those things (along with parchment paper) that never quite makes the cut on my shopping list. Again, hopefully someday.
That's interesting about putting the dough in the refrigerator to let the flour absorb the liquid. I actually put cookie dough in the fridge when I DO want puffy, soft cookies. Would you bring it back to room temp after chilling it, before forming the cookies?
I mostly think it's just a bit too much flour. Reduce it to 2 cups. I can't comment on the melted butter thing because I use room temp. Also, don't overmix. Keep a light hand. I finish the batter by hand after gently mixing in the flour.
I don't think it's the egg temp. I use cold eggs all the time, no problem. I too only have two baking pans. After I take a pan out, I let the cookies sit a couple minutes, then remove them to the rack. The pan cools off as the cookies in the oven wind down to about two minutes.
Oven temp I use is 350. My chocolate chip cookies are crunchy on the edges, chewy in the middle. They spread when cooked.
My one secret, if you want to call it that, because it really isn't, is I use freshly-made brown sugar by combining white sugar with molasses. I think it adds more flavor and a bit extra moisture.
Here are some pix of my cookies.
Skippy check this out about chocolate chip cookies. You don't need to refrigerate the dough or warm the eggs. Of course you can if you want to, but it's not really necessary. Great chocolate chip cookies can be quite simple.
The pictures below are the ingredients I use (note the cold eggs), the dough - nice and soft, and the resulting cookies.
This is such a mystery to me, then. Cookies are somewhat forgiving. I was halving a recipe once, and was only supposed to put one egg in that mix, but screwed up and put in two. When baking, the cookies spread out a bit and didn't brown as well. But we ate them all. Kind of good in a way. So....I keep going back to the flour. I cant believe that it is as simple as weighing over volume measurement or any of the other subtle nuances. There's something wrong with the flour. Consider buying a new bag of flour and doing exactly what you did before!
I was having this problem recently and spent a good 2 hours researching possible reasons.
I made the same cookie recipe maybe 5 times over a few weeks and every time got different results--thin and crispy, thin and underdone, "regular," thick and chewy, thick and cakey. It was super confusing because I bake almost daily and have been making cookies the same way for years.
The conclusion/s I came to were variances in:
--Butter temperature--Two of those times I was in a rush and microwaved the butter (I know, I know). I cut it into small pieces and nuked it just til soft and not melted, but it was still warm and seemed to affect the sugar absorption/creaming and resulting cookies.
--Size of eggs--As someone else stated, I always buy large, but they still can vary so much.
--Overbeating--I feel like I've always beaten my cookie dough the same (since I started making cookies back in elementary school), but I think this was my main culprit in the recent cookie fails. Sometimes I space out while baking and think I was really overbeating.
--Flour measurements--I tend to spoon flour into the measuring cup, but sometimes get lazy and just dip it into the container. Unless a recipe calls for weighing, I don't bother. You can get a fairly cheap scale if you get a postal scale--mine measures in grams and ounces, has a tare setting, and cost me all of $10. I've had it for maybe 5 years and it's still going strong. Uses AA batteries, which I've never had to change. I know it's accurate because I also use it to weigh packages for my online business and it's never caused over/under charges for postage.
Also, I can't believe you've never bought vanilla! I now buy Nielsen Massey vanilla in bulk (I think it's a 40 oz. container?) because I go through it so quickly and it's so much cheaper than buying the little bottles. A good quality vanilla is essential to dessert recipes IMHO. Sometimes I just sit in front of the bottle and sniff it.
Good luck with your next cookie endeavor. Let us know how it goes.
I think it's the best vanilla. I've tried all of the supermarket brands, and just used McCormick for years. Then my mother gifted me a bottle of Nielsen Massey, as well as a jar of their vanilla bean paste (both from Sur La Table). I was hooked, and personally could very much taste the difference.
When it came time to reorder, I didn't want to pay the hefty price tag at Sur La Table for more. So I went back to trying other brands--all sorts of organic extracts and whatnot from the grocery store, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and mailorder. I got irritated with them not tasting right and started buying Nielsen Massey again.
Now I'm glad to have found the giant plastic bottle. I order it on Amazon and just refill the little glass bottle from SLT as needed. I keep the giant bottle in the cabinet when it's time to refill.
Personally I think it's the best tasting vanilla around. I use the liquid for most recipes, and use the vanilla bean paste for things like scones, cakes, frostings, or sugar cookies when I want vanilla bean flecks to be visible.
They make a good addition to gift baskets or hostess gifts. I've converted several of my girl friends to Nielsen Massey as well.
Okay, done raving. I promise I don't work for them. But that's a great price for that much vanilla, I would give it a try if I were you. I've been noticing even cheap supermarket vanilla is quite expensive lately ($6.99 for 2 oz of McCormick at the grocery store last week?!) so I figure the "splurge" is well worth it.
Nothingswrong, I think you're right about the butter. That's key. I use room temp butter, not oversoftened and it creams well with the sugars, a major component of the cookie's texture.
I don't want to change the topic, but about vanilla. If you look at my ingredients picture for the cookies, you may notice I use Watkins brand double-strength IMITATION vanilla. There's no need to spend a lot of money on expensive vanilla extract for baking. Here's a REALLY good thread about the issue. Most imitation vanilla is made with vanillan which is actually quite good.
Yes, agree about the butter. Sometimes I forget to take butter out to soften and microwave it. And depending on how negligent I am at watching it in the micro, I've ended up with some sloppily melted butter.
Lately I've been experimenting with a CC cookie recipe that uses melted butter which is then cooled prior to creaming. It makes a very chewy cookie with medium thickness (not cakey) and I quite like it. But my favorite CCC recipe is my own, and uses room temp butter creamed with brown and white sugar, oat flour for half of the AP flour (ground oats in the food processor until powdery), and 3 types of chocolate (milk chocolate grated into the batter, semisweet mini chips, and chopped dark chocolate chunks). They are everyone's favorite.
As for imitation vanilla, I have never tried it, but I've always heard not to use it? I don't even see it at my grocery store, but I've read so many articles stating the opposite of what you said--imitation vanilla will definitely not yield the same results. Not to argue--I have no experience on the subject, but just saying.
As a young cook, I was influenced by the likes of TV cooks Martha Stewart and Ina Garten who remind viewers religiously to use "good vanilla." Then I was given a large bottle of Watkins and discovered for myself that what's called imitation vanilla is actually quite good, especially in baked goods.
I'm not putting this in the same league as vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans, just vanilla extracts. Try it sometime, grab a cheap bottle and see.
Here's an interesting theory as to why paying for real vanilla isn't worth it:
I find that imitation vanilla is quite easily distinguished from true vanilla, by an initial sharp, citrussy component. Real vanilla has a softer, more floral/dairy initial component.
But, I also think that once you've already stepped down by using extract, then the differences start to matter less. Extracts add their own flavour notes, thinner and somewhat sharper than the real vanilla bean. And the intensity is much lower, so that the amount you'd need to add to get comparable flavour strength starts to matter in recipe formulation.
In chocolate chip cookies I always use vanilla beans, their contents scraped and blended with the sugar (pod discarded), then allowed to sit for a while, partly for the flavour, and partly so that I'm not adding any more liquid (even if in extractives it would be a small amount. But to get the same intensity out of an extractive you'd perhaps need a fairly large amount anyway)
I agree with this. If I use beans, I almost always also add a bit of extract as well.
That's all interesting news above about imitation vanilla. Perhaps I should try it sometime, though I am pretty content with the flavor using Nielsen Massey, and don't mind paying a bit more for it.
Thanks for all the thoughts about vanilla. I understand you can find bargains, and I have read in some places that imitation vanilla is an acceptable substitute. Sometimes, though, that extra two, three or seven dollars just isn't around when you want it. I'm sorry. Maybe someday.
I love Watkins double strength vanilla. I was disappointed to find out its a blend of artificial and real vanilla. I must have tried 10 kinds since and nothing compares in cooking for me. I picked up a small bottle in the states and its not quite how I remember. Don't know if they've changed there formula in last 2 yrs.
Article: "Seeking the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" - Sunset magazine 1995
How to make either:
• Thick, Soft, and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Thin, Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Thin, Crisp, and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
• Thick, Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Link to old Sunset magazine article from 1995 in the Internet Archive (give it a minute to load article)
The current (April-May 2014) issue of Cook's Country re-engineers thick, chewy CC cookies--if you're willing to take a flyer on those.
(I apologize again--this is another crazy long post from me.)
Thanks to everyone for your ideas and comments. They gave me a lot to think about as I planned to bake a new batch of cookies.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that poorly measured flour and overbeating were the main reasons my cookies came out tough and bready the last time I made them. So when I set out to bake them last night, I (perhaps stubbornly) didn't want to stray too far from the recipe that had previously produce the fairly flat, chewy cookies I wanted...
...but of course I made some changes. Some were obvious--instead of scoop and sweep, I measured the flour by spooning it into the measuring cup, and I made sure my eggs were at room temp so I wouldn't have to work hard to break them up. I was intrigued by Trish's idea of making my own brown sugar with molasses, which I had only done in the past when I was out of brown sugar, but I didn't have enough molasses on hand, so maybe another time. I read the big Serious Eats article about chocolate chip cookies (hereafter referred to as SE), which I hadn't paid much attention to when it came out in December because at that time, I'm sure I probably thought, "My cookies are always perfect! I don't need to read this!" However, it was very interesting, with the kind of minutiae and testing that I love and wish I could do myself. I borrowed a few ideas from that:
- browning the butter
- beating the eggs with the white sugar before adding them to the brown sugar/butter mix
- lowering the oven temp (SE had it all the way down to 325, but I'm gutless and just brought it down to 350 from the usual 375)
Also, I felt bad after everyone's comments about my lack of vanilla, so I tried to think of a substitute. Vanilla adds liquid and conveys flavor, so I wanted to add something liquid. SE had recommended adding a little corn syrup for extra chewiness so...I came up with a teaspoon of molasses (I had that much!). It's liquid (though not as liquid as vanilla) and it's sticky and sweet, like corn syrup (though not as sticky or sweet), so I thought I'd try it.
Another change was inadvertent: I realized at the last minute that I was out of baking soda. Well, since I didn't want the cookies to puff much, I didn't think I'd miss the leavening, but I thought I'd read that baking soda helps with the browning process, so I just braced myself for paler than desired cookies.
Not everything went smoothly--I browned the butter, but wasn't sure if I browned it enough. When I left it to cool at room temperature, it solidified again, so I had to melt it again in the microwave. The first batch, baked at 350, didn't look great--pale (even paler than expected) and still puffy, so I chickened out and put the temp back up to 375 for the next batch. Those looked a little browner, which I liked, but were still on the puffy side.
For the last batch, I made two changes: a) I noticed that I had made the cookies in the two batches fairly small, so much that I wondered if there actually wasn't enough dough in proportion to the chips to spread out, so I made the last batch bigger. Also, as I described in my initial post, I had this obsession with cooling down the cookie sheets before putting on the next group of cookies (I honestly don't remember if I read this somewhere or if I came up with the idea myself), but some of you said I didn't need to do that. So I just put the last batch on the still warm cookie sheets as soon and put them in the oven. That batch came out flatter, though still not super thin. I'm not sure if that was due to the change in size or technique, but both are worth pursuing.
Since these aren't for me, I didn't want to pick out the best ones to try, so I just found one that was a little dark on the bottom and tried that. The results were very interesting--the edges weren't just crisp, they were hard and crunchy, like hard candy. That's too hard, in my opinion. Hmm. But the center was chewy and dense (in a good way), like a fudgy brownie, and that seemed promising. I'm not sure whether the texture of the edges was just due to the fact that I had a cookie that was a little overdone, or if it was due to one of the things I tried (the extra molasses? no baking soda? any ideas?).
The person I made them for hasn't tried them yet and she's probably too nice anyway to tell me if they aren't good. I attached a picture, but you probably can't tell much from it.
Thanks again, and I hope to keep experimenting.
And, since it always ends up getting posted in these cookie threads, I will share the Alton Brown chocolate chip cookie experiments transcripts: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season...
Scroll down to Scene 3 for "The Thin" cookie. Ironically, Alton says the more baking soda you use, the flatter cookie you'll have. So your experiment omitting the soda was not a good idea!
The Thin Cookie by Alton Brown
-2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon + a pinch of baking soda
-2 oz. whole milk
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
-1 cup white sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 cups chocolate chips
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Whisk together egg, milk, and vanilla and set aside to come to room temperature.
Cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Slowly add milk/egg/vanilla mix. Stir in dry ingredients, then chocolate chips.
Scoop dough in 1.5 oz. balls, placing only 6 cookies per sheet (to give room to spread). Bake on parchment lined sheets at 375 F for 13-15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.
Don't forget its not how they taste straight out of the oven but the next day.
Id go for a Demerara sugar over making your own.
Size will have a big impact. So will greasing your cookie sheets. There all pretty much non stick now but don't be tempted to grease. Also chilling the dough can make a nice spreading but not to much cookie.
Looks like a huge batch. Scale back and do your tests with smaller amounts. You'll get there. They look great.
Yes that is real brown sugar. Mixing in molasses...ive tried it I don't really like it. Its still like your using white sugar. You get different results when using a true brown unrefined sugar.
It started with me researching the difference between Canadian sugar and American. I know we use beet sugar more and they use sugar cane. Wondering how the difference would effect something like esp a cookie.
I recently bought some of those latin sugar cane pucks. Cant wait to use those and see how they taste.
As everyone else has said, don't do many changes or you'll never know what caused what. I'd say the fudgeiness resulted from 1) no baking soda so it didn't rise and 2) molasses--you essentially used all brown sugar by adding it. I like using molasses/white sugar for brown sugar. You can essentially make it as dark as you want and don't need light and brown sugar.
Since this recipe has worked for you in the past, I'd go back to it and try to be more accurate. Then, if it doesn't work, start making one change at a time It's a lot of cookies but that's not a big problem!
Keep on keeping on Skippy! You'll get there! Here's my recipe. Give it a whirl sometime. Slideshow here for reference: http://patriciagay.wordpress.com/2014...
PJ’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons white sugar PLUS 3 Tablespoons molasses
¾ cup white sugar - very scant
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 ½ to 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips -or mixture of milk chocolate and semisweet
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar and the molasses with a fork. Use your fingertips if necessary to combine well.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, combine the butter, ¾ cup white sugar, and the fresh-made brown sugar and beat just until smooth; do not overmix. Scrape bowl. Add water and vanilla and stir on low until just combined. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat on low until just combined. Scrape bowl.
5. Add the flour mixture (half at a time) and mix on low till almost, but not quite, combined. Remove from mixer and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula to finish combining. Fold in chocolate chips.
6. Spoon heaping tablespoons of dough onto parchment-lined baking pan, leaving 2 inches between them, as cookies will spread.
7. Bake for 10-13 minutes until brown on the edges and still palish/light brown in the center. Cookies will darken as they cool. (In my oven the cookies take about 10 ½ minutes to bake). Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for two minutes (so they are firm enough to remove) then lift off with a spatula and finish cooling on a rack. Yield 3 dozen largish cookies.
Just checking back in to report on some awesome thin CC cookies.
I believe this is a Martha Stewart recipe. I have it written down in my "permanent" recipe folder, but usually am asked to make thicker, chewy cookies. Tonight I made these just to report back to this thread, and they were so good. I think I'll be making these most of the time from now on.
I brought them to a gathering with friends tonight and three people separately came up to me and said these were out of this world, and asked where I bought them.
The only things I changed were reducing baking temp to 365 after the first sheet so they'd cook through without browning too much, and the chocolate. I almost always now do a mix of hand-chopped chocolate in place of chips. I never would have bothered with this years ago, but it really makes CC cookies taste special. Milk chocolate in moderation and chopped very fine (or grated) is a great backdrop for chunks or streaks of bittersweet/dark and semisweet.
THIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
-1/2 cup butter, soft
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1 large egg
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-6 oz (about 1 cup) chocolate
(I used 1/3 finely chopped milk chocolate, and 2/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate)
Cream butter and sugars.
Beat in egg, then vanilla.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, then stir into wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate/s.
Bake only 6 cookies per sheet (about 2 tbspns. of dough) on parchment-lined sheets @ 375 F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown but not completely set in the centers. Let sit on sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks.
**Thin Chocolate Chip cookies are on the left**
I just ran across something that said old baking soda can cause flat cookies . . . and since you just said you just ran out, maybe that's the problem. EDIT: ugh, sorry, that's not your problem, is it? I don't know where my brain is today!
I'd say as soon as you buy new baking soda, you should make them the old sweep and scoop method -- your fingers might know the perfect ratio (-:.
It's kind of mysterious, though, that they still turned out puffy with basically no baking soda . . . .
If they still turn out puffy with the new baking soda, I'd say the next step might be to buy bigger eggs.