Troubleshooting: Cookies

How to solve everything from unevenly baked batches to the dreaded melted-together megacookie.

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PROBLEM 1: The last cookies always seem short on chips

SOLUTION: Reserve some morsels to add later

When chocolate chips, nuts, or raisins are in the mix, the last few cookies from a batch never seem to have as many of these goodies as the first few. To get around this, reserve some of the mix-ins and stir them into the dough after about half of it has been scooped out.

PROBLEM 2: Cookies don’t add up to the correct yield

SOLUTION: Use a portion scoop

When cookies are portioned out larger or smaller than the recipe directs, they may not produce the intended texture. To ensure consistent size and the proper yield, we use a portion scoop. (We keep many different sizes on hand for just this purpose. A typical cookie requires a #30 scoop.)

PROBLEM 3: Cookies keep burning on bottom

SOLUTION: Use a light-colored baking sheet and line with parchment paper

We typically don’t like light-colored bakeware since it doesn’t absorb heat as well as darker finishes, leading to spotty browning. But the cookie sheet is the exception. All of the dark nonstick cookie sheets we’ve tested consistently overbrown the bottoms of cookies. Light-colored sheets, on the other hand, prevent overbrowning but are prone to sticking. We get around this by baking cookies on parchment paper.

PROBLEM 4: Chewy cookies that aren’t chewy

SOLUTION: Underbake

To ensure a chewy texture, take cookies out of the oven when they are still slightly underdone, which often means they will droop over the end of a spatula. Crevices should appear moist and edges on smooth cookies should be lightly browned.

PROBLEM 5: Cookies run together

SOLUTION: Bake in staggered rows

When scoops of dough are placed too close together on the sheet, the cookies can fuse together. To ensure enough space between cookies, alternate the rows. For example, place three cookies in the first row, two in the second, three in the third, and so on.

PROBLEM 6: Unevenly baked batches

SOLUTION: Rotate during baking

The temperature in most ovens varies from front to back, top to bottom—even side to side. To prevent uneven baking, rotate the cookie sheet partway through baking so that the back side faces front.

PROBLEM 7: It’s hard to tell when dark chocolate cookies are done

SOLUTION: Press the middle

Most cookies, irrespective of texture, are done when pressing them lightly with your finger leaves just a slight indentation.

PROBLEM 8: Cookies left in oven too long

SOLUTION: Cool immediately on rack

If you become distracted and leave your cookies in the oven a minute or two too long, all is not lost. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, instead of allowing the cookies to set on the sheet, immediately transfer them to a wire rack, where they will cool more quickly.

PROBLEM 9: Overly crisp edges

SOLUTION: Briefly chill dough and don’t use a hot sheet

If your kitchen is particularly hot, the butter in the dough can start to melt, softening the dough and leading to overcooked edges. If the dough seems too soft, chill it for 10 to 15 minutes before portioning.

Putting raw dough on cookie sheets still warm from the oven can cause them to begin spreading, leading to burnt edges. Always allow baking sheets to cool completely before adding more batches. To expedite cooling, rinse warm—but not hot— sheet under cold tap water.

PROBLEM 10: Chewy cookies dry out too quickly

SOLUTION: Store with bread

To keep chewy cookies from turning dry and brittle, store them in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature with a small piece of bread (no more than half of a slice) placed inside.

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