This page is about common cookie problems and solutions.
Problem: Cookies always come out hard and tough, never seem to bake evenly, or are always too brown on the bottom.
Solution: To prevent cookies from becoming hard and tough avoid adding more flour than necessary to the cookie dough or batter. Also, avoid overmixing once the flour is added. Usually for any baked goods, the less you handle it the better. For even baking, be sure to shape cookies to roughly the same thickness. If you have a problem with your cookies being too brown on the bottom, avoid dark-colored cookie sheets. Instead, use heavy-gauge metal cookie sheets with a dull finish (aluminum is ideal). And if you still happen to get them a bit darker on the bottom then you would prefer, use an old style grater to 'shave' off the dark bottoms. This works great even for cookies with burned bottoms.
Problem: Cookies become soggy and lose their shape when you try to cool them.
Solution: Never overlap the cookies on a wire rack or place them on top of each other. This will cause them to become soggy and out of shape.
Problem: Drop cookies always seem too soft.
Solution: Straight from the oven, most drop cookies are too soft to handle. Let them cool for a minute before transferring them to a rack.
Problem: Cookies become hard right away, so your family doesn't like them as much the next day.
Solution: Placing a slice of bread in the cookie jar can soften cookies that are too hard. Change the slice every other day. A slice of bread will also keep soft cookies soft, just as it softens hardened brown sugar. You can also try putting the cookies in a plastic bag and seal the bag tightly. I find this works too.
Problem: Cookies always seem to spread too much when I bake them.
Solution: You may be greasing the cookie sheet when the recipe doesn't call for it or your cookie sheet may be too warm. Always cool a cookie sheet between uses. Easily done by running the bottom of the cookie sheet under cold water for a few seconds.
Problem: Cookies never seem done in the time the recipe suggests.
Solution: If the recipe says to preheat the oven, allow at least 10 minutes for it to reach the correct baking temperature. Also be sure to check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. To do this, place the thermometer in the center of the oven. If the temperature in the oven doesn't match the one on the oven dial, you may need to adjust your oven dial to compensate for a too-hot or too-cool oven. All ovens are not created equal and old ovens usually don't keep consistant oven temperatures. I know my old oven can be a nightmare at times temperature wise if I'm baking for most the day.
Problem: Over or under-cooked bar cookies.
Solution: To test bar cookies for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the pan. It should come out clean (unless the recipe specifies otherwise). Other cookies are done when they're firm at the edges.
Problem: Ending up with a bunch of dough scraps when you bake.
Solution: Always start cutting at the edge of dough and work towards the center, cutting cookies as close together as possible to minimize scraps. You can always try rolling the scraps together and cutting a few more cookies out of it. I suggest you keep these ones separate though just in case they are a bit tough or not just quite right but good enough to nibble on.
Problem: When transferring cookie cutouts from the cutting board to the cookie sheet, they always become misshapen.
Solution: Transfer your fragile cookies from the cutting board (or counter) to the cookie sheet with a large egg lifter or pancake lifter. If your dough is particularly soft, roll it right on the cookie sheet instead of a cutting board if possible and chill the rolled dough. After it's chilled, cut out the cookies and transfer them to another cookie sheet, spacing them properly.
Problem: Cookies always burned.
Solution: To avoid overcooking, check the cookies at the minimum baking time suggested in the recipe, and then watch them closely during their last few minutes in the oven. Also, after baking be sure to remove small cookies from cookie sheet first to the wire rack because they'll continue to bake on the hot sheet. As well, you may want to invest in an oven thermometer. It's quite possible your oven isn't cooking at the temperature it says it is. As well, the temperature on some ovens doesn't stay consistant if it's on for a length of time. Check the temperature to be sure it hasn't gone up with long use. You'll need an oven thermometer for this.
Problem: Cookies always seem to melt on the cookie sheet.
Solution: When baking cookies in batches, cool the cookie sheet to room temperature before placing more cookies on it. (You can do this very quickly by running the bottom of the sheet under cool water for only a few seconds.) A hot cookie sheet will melt the dough. If the recipe calls for greasing the sheet, regrease for each batch.
Problem: You like to give cookies as gifts, but they always get destroyed when your transporting them.
Solution: See my "Packing & Shipping Cookies Page". You can also check out my "Gift Containers for Cookies Page". And be sure to wrap cookies in a tight-fitting container as soon as they've cooled off. Line the container with waxed paper or plastic wrap, and place a thick cushion of crumpled waxed paper on the bottom. Then pack the cookies in pairs, back to back, with waxed paper in between. You can also wrap cookies in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Place the heaviest items on the bottom and arrange layers with waxed-paper cushions, including one at the top of the container.
Problem: Bar cookies always crumble.
Solution: To prevent bar cookies from crumbling, always cool them in the pan before cutting.
Problem: You are sending a holiday care package, but don't know how to pack it properly.
Solution: See my "Packing & Shipping Cookies Page". You can also check out my "Gift Containers for Cookies Page". Pick sturdy cookies that are "good travelers." Then wrap, package, and mail them as soon as they're cooled. Use a container with a tight-fitting lid that is only slightly larger than the contents. Line the container with waxed paper or plastic wrap, and place a thick cushion of crumpled waxed paper on the bottom. Then pack the cookies in pairs, back to back, with waxed paper in between. Place the heaviest items on the bottom and arrange layers with waxed-paper cushions, including one at the top of the container. Seal with strong adhesive tape. Place the container of cookies in a similar-size box and address the package with waterproof ink.
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