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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
2 eggs
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.)

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  1. 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.

    6 Replies
    1. re: AlexRast

      Agreed.

      Additionally, if you beat it extra long when putting in the eggs, you may have beaten too much air/structure into the dough.

      1. re: sandylc

        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.

        1. re: Skippy1414

          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.

          1. re: chowser

            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?

            1. re: Skippy1414

              The other reason to refrigerate-age the cookie dough is to develop flavor. The sugar melts, which causes the baked cookies to have a more caramelized flavor.

              1. re: Skippy1414

                No, bake from the refrigerator. I also make cookie dough balls, put on a cookie tray and freeze them. Store them in the freezer in a ziplock bag and bake cookies (from frozen) when we want.

      2. New eggs? Sounds like they shrank. I have the opposite problem. Bigger eggs, flatter cookies. I want some loft to mine.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MickiYam

          I was wondering about the eggs, too. I think it comes down to more dry to liquid ratio.

          1. re: chowser

            I know eggs can vary a lot in size. I've never seen a chocolate chip cookie recipe where they give the amount of eggs in fluid ounces. If I found that, I would measure them that way to make sure I was getting the correct amount of liquid.

        2. 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.

          http://patriciagay.wordpress.com/2014...

           
           
           
           
           
           
           
          2 Replies
          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            Thanks--I will try reducing the flour and see what happens.

            1. re: Skippy1414

              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.

              http://patriciagay.wordpress.com/2014...

              The pictures below are the ingredients I use (note the cold eggs), the dough - nice and soft, and the resulting cookies.

               
               
               
               
          2. Did you happen to use baking powder rather than baking soda?

            http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com...

            1 Reply
            1. re: souvenir

              There are not many things in life I can be sure of, but I am absolutely sure I used baking soda, not baking powder! (I take a moment here to congratulate myself on getting one thing right.)

            2. I've had this exact thing happen when I accidentally used bread flour instead of all-purpose. I hate to ask, because it is sort of like asking if there's gas in the tan when a lawn mower won't start, but is there any chance that you are using bread flour?

              2 Replies
              1. re: rudeboy

                Good guess, but I don't have bread flour, so that's at least one mistake I can avoid. Hooray!

                1. re: Skippy1414

                  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!