Most bakers have been there. They go to take a tray of cookies out of the oven, and they find that instead of nice cookies, they are flat and greasy.
Don’t despair. Here are some tips to prevent cookies from spreading too much and ways to avoid it in the first place.
It is so disappointing when you are excited to bake perfect cookies, but you open the oven to find a spreading mess on your cookie sheet. Luckily, there are some easy fixes when it does happen, and tips to keep it from happening in the first place.
If you are a member of any baking groups on Facebook, you have likely seen posts about flat, spreading cookies. Even experienced bakers using tried and true recipes have been having problems.
So don’t feel bad if you find yourself in that spot, you are in good company. Luckily, it usually comes down to one or two problems, and they are easy to fix.
Baking a Test Cookie
If you are at all worried about your cookie dough, there is an easy way to see what it will do. Bake a test cookie and decide if the texture is what you want.
Sometimes, you can look at a cookie dough and just tell that it is going to spread. It may look a little bit greasy or way too soft.
Every once in a while, cookie doughs look that way on purpose. Usually, a recipe developer will let you know that in the recipe, if it is the case, because it is unusual and may catch you off guard.
If it isn’t called out in the recipe, it likely isn’t right.
Even if the dough looks perfect, it never hurts to bake a cookie to see how it turns out. That way, if something needs tweaked, you only wasted the ingredients for one cookie instead of a whole tray.
Baking a test cookie is just like how it sounds. Follow the directions of the recipe to make one cookie.
Bake it as described and see how it looks. Not only will this give you a chance to fix the dough if you need to, but it will also help you zero in on the appropriate bake time for the cookies.
Most recipes include a range for bake times because everyone’s oven is a little bit different. So are their preferences for cookie doneness.
Baking one cookie by itself gives you a chance to get it just right before you bake whole trays full of cookies. Plus, it gives you the perfect excuse to taste test a cookie!
Why Cookies Spread
Usually, cookies spread for one of two reasons. They are temperature and flour content.
Therefore, the two easiest ways to fix overspreading are either chilling the dough or adding more flour. Deciding which will work best comes with a little bit of experience.
As you bake more, your intuition will kick in, and you will know what happened in previous bakes.
If your cookies are spreading and the dough is warm, try chilling it for at least a half hour. Even if the recipe doesn’t call for chilling, sometimes that is all it takes.
Baking from cold dough allows the cookies to set a bit before the butter is completely melted. This keeps them from being puddles of goo on the pan.
If the dough is already cold, but the cookies are still spreading, more flour is likely the way to go. Unless you measured your flour by weight, there will be variances in the exact amount that went into the dough.
Your cup of flour is going to be a little bit different than my cup of flour. Usually these tiny differences don’t matter too much, but sometimes they do.
Luckily all you have to do is stir in a little bit more flour to stiffen up the dough. Start with a few Tablespoons and keep going until your test cookie turns out how you would like.
More Tips for Thicker Cookies
Don’t over soften your butter. It should be soft enough that a mixer can get through it, but not so soft that it looks greasy or wimpy.
It’s best to bake one tray at a time, on the middle rack. This allows for the most even baking.
When rolling cookies into balls, make them taller than they are wide. They don’t have to be perfect spheres. Making taller balls of dough means you will have thicker cookies.
You can freeze balls of dough and bake from frozen. Baking frozen cookie dough is a surefire way to make thicker cookies.
Make sure your cookie sheets are completely cooled before you put more dough on them. Putting dough on hot pans will start melting the butter before the cookies have a chance to cook.