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Cookies that Spread

sommersu's picture

Cookies that Spread (post #63441)

in

I noticed on another thread that Deanna mentioned that her cookies spread other than the Mocha Truffle Cookie...(my Mocha truffle cookie keeps its shape too)I have the same problem.
I've been making chocolate chip cookies as of late and I find some spread as into eachother while others keep their shape.
I was told that refrigerating for awhile might be the answer..however I know that there are seasoned bakers on this site and I would love some imput on baking cookies. Thanks!

edited to say Mocha Truffle Cookie


Edited 3/1/2005 10:59 am ET by suz

deejeh's picture

A couple of things that might be causing the cookies to spread:


The type and temperature of the fat you're using.  Shortening doesn't spread as much as butter.  If, like many of the folks on this board, you hate shortening and only want to use butter, then it's important to have the batter cool/cold when it goes into the oven.


If you're cooking a few batches of cookies, it's important to cool the cookie sheets before you load them with another batch.


Accuracy in measuring is important - too much liquid or fat, or not enough flour, will cause cookies to spread.


Over-greasing of the cookie sheets, or greasing when none is called for, will also contribute to the problem.


In Cookwise, Shirley Corriher has quite a lot to say about why cookies spread.  I'm at work and the book isn't but if you like, I'll take a look at it tonight and post a precis of her comments.


deej

DeannaS's picture

I'd be interested in what she has to say. Personally, I don't mind the spreading - it's how I _expect_ cookies to be most of the time. My shortbread cookies and stuff like that don't spread. It's just the standard toll-house-type creamed cookie batter concoctions that spread.

What I found interesting was that I always thought that it had to do with fat temperature (or at least partly), and since the fat is actually melted in the truffle cookies, I was kind of expecting some spread. But, I suppose it also has to do with fat content and type, and since the truffle cookies had less butter fat and more cocoa butter fat, that could be a major contributer to the non-spread.

The science of it intrigues me.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

deejeh's picture

Here's Corriher's list of cookie ingredients, along with a note about their influence on the cookie.
High-protein flour - makes cookies darker in colour and flatter.
Low-protein flour - makes cookies pale, soft and puffy.
Fat with sharp melting point, like butter - makes cookies spread.
Fat that maintains same consistency ofver a wide termperature range - makes cookies that don't spread as much.
Reduced-fat spreads - makes cookies soft and puffy.
Corn syrup - makes cookies browner.
Brown sugar and honey - makes cookies that soften upon standing.
Baking soda - makes cookies browner.


The things to know about fat are amounts of water in the fat, and its melting point.  Lard & shortening are 100% fat, butter about 81% fat, margarine about 80% and some "fake-fat" spreads have as much as 58% water.  The more water in the fat, the more the cookies will be soft and puffy and steam up to a fair height.  The lower the melting point of the fat, the more the cookies will spread.


Flour - High-protein flour absorbs more water, makes cookies drier and crisper and hold together better.  It also makes the cookie darker.  Low-protein doesn't absorb as much water, therefore cookies steam more and are soft and puffy.  Cake flour is chlorinated and slightly acidic, therefore cookies set faster and spread less. 


Sugar - type affects browning and crispness.  Corn syrup browns at a lower temperature than table sugar, and makes the surface of the cookie crisper.  Cookies with high table sugar content, low moisture content and no acidic ingredients will be hard and crisp, as the sugar crystallizes when the cookie cools.  Brown sugar is hygroscopic to a degree, so cookies made with it may soften upon standing.  Honey is very hygroscopic, and cookies made with it soften quickly upon standing.


Liquid and Egg - Less than 1 TBSP of milk, cream or water in a usual recipe provides steam for a little puff.  Too much liquid will cause the cookie to spread.  Eggs set in the oven and hold the cookies together.  Egg whites dry out baked goods.  Recipes need enough sugar to offset the drying effect of the eggs.


Baking Powder and Baking Soda - A small amount of BP (1 tsp per cup of flour) or BS (1/4 tsp per cup of flour) contributes to leavening.  BP does not neutralize acids in the dough, so cookies bake faster and spread less.


Those are the high points.  She goes on to give a master recipe that will make three different kinds of cookies - thin and crisp; soft and puffy; and something inbetween.  All she does is vary the type of flour and fat.


deej

DeannaS's picture

Very fascinating. I always use butter - hence some of the spread. And, I never add any liquid to my standard cookies. Maybe I'll try a T of milk or something some time, just to see what happens.

"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists." - Joan Dye Gussow

deejeh's picture

Yup, I use butter too.  I pretty much always refrigerate the dough for at least a couple of hours to reduce spread.


deej

sommersu's picture

Thanks for your comments..I do use butter...but what I find most bizzare is on 1 cookie sheet I get cookies that spread and cookies that keep their shape!! I have also started to wonder which cookie is the so called correct one!

UncleDunc's picture

>> ... on 1 cookie sheet I get cookies that spread and cookies that keep their shape!

Uneven oven temps? I notice that things brown faster at the back of my oven than near the door.

anneelsberry's picture

Might also depend on the type of cookie sheet you are using.  I have the best results (less spreading) on cookie sheet that has air sandwhiched between the two metal layers using parchment.  An old dark cookie sheet will get hotter faster and result in more spreading.

Somebody put a stop payment on my reality check!

Somebody put a stop payment on my reality check!

KathiM's picture

The one that gets eaten.

KyleW's picture

I use all butter in my CCC, but I use it pretty much right from the fridge. I have found that letting it sit and come to room temp, as most recipes advise, results in cookies that spread all over the place. Using chiiled butter means that by the time the dough is mixed and ready for the oven the fat is at the right temp and I get a nice, controlled spread. As to the kind of pan, I use 1/2 sheet pans, with rolled rims, lined with a sheet of King Arthur's parchment paper. Just one man/s opinion :-)

 


There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness". D.Barry

 

At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

sommersu's picture

My CCC use 2 sticks of butter..I let them get to room temp...it looks as though there lies some of my prob. I will defenitly give it a try using colder butter...
Thanks for your tip.

TracyK's picture

Since it's much easier to mix the cookies when the butter is soft, I find it easier to make the cookies with soft butter, then refrigerate the dough overnight before baking. Seems to me that the overall flavor is better as well, but that could be wrong. :-)

sommersu's picture

Do you use the batter straight from the refrig...does it affect baking times?

Adele's picture

One problem with straight from the fridge is getting the batter from the bowl to the sheet, it's a tad stiff.  LOL  Bent spoon anyone?  Remember to give yourself time to let the batter come to room temp, just so you can manipulate it.


 I find it does taste better, letting the batter rest overnight.  Also superfining the sugar.  Charlotte Baker turned me on to that for brownies and now it's the only way I'll do it.


But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

TracyK's picture

Suz, I haven't noticed an appreciable difference in baking times... but I don't often use time to tell when cookies are done, I set a timer for the minimum time and then keep a careful eye on them. Especially for chocolate chip. I take them out of the oven when the edges are dry, they have puffed and begun to flatten, and I let them finish baking on the sheet for about 3-4 minutes, then cool completely on a rack. I have found that this gives me my preferred texture (a little chewy on the edges, but soft in the middle).


Adele, I get better results using cold dough, straight from the fridge. I either use a plastic ice cream scoop to dig out the cold dough, or if I have time I form the cookies while soft and pile the doughballs in a bowl, cannonball style, before fridging. They stick together a little bit after the fridging but it really simple to bake them!


Edited 3/2/2005 2:44 pm ET by Tracy K

deejeh's picture

Cookie Scoop - that's the answer.  Your local restaurant supply store has portion scoops in every size, or W-S has gorgeous (but expensive) stainless steel scoops from Italy.  Either way, they work really well with dough straight out of the fridge.


deej

sommersu's picture

The WS cookie scoops are quite beautiful..never did get to the price!
The salesperson said the scoop is the way to go for the most evenly sized cookies...mine tend to be all different sizes..although when I bake muffins, I use my icecream scoop..it works great.

deejeh's picture

I have a whole bunch (well, four) of them in various sizes.  They're much easier to use than a dessert spoon or a teaspoon or any of the other implements you might use to portion out cookies.  Of course, I'm ever so slightly obsessive about having them all the same size :)  I got three of the scoops at my local restaurant supply, and the fourth one at W-S.  I think the one from W-S cost more than the other three combined.


deej

Adele's picture

I actually used a cookie scoop too.  I found one in Target, I think it's a tablespoon, sure is great to use and now I want a smaller one.  I think I kept hitting the chips- or I was impatient, or both.

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

But, but, it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!

KyleW's picture

It may be easier to mix softened butter by hand, but my mixer seems up to the cold butter test :-)


Cookie scoops rule! I use them for all my drop cookies. I buy them from King Arthur and they don;t seem too expensive. THe cheap ones always seem to break at the wwrong time.


 


There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness". D.Barry

 

At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals.

sommersu's picture

It looks like I must own a cookie scoop..never realized that till today!
I think I'm going to give refrigeration a try..but my only problem is that when I bake I want the cookies now!
So perhaps cold butter should be my first test..

deejeh's picture

I think it's Flo Braker who takes butter straight from the fridge, cuts it into small pieces and gives it a whirl in the KA to break it up a bit before she proceeds with the recipe.  If you do it that way, your dough is still pretty cool when you've finished mixing it.  But, I still think it's better to let the dough rest in the fridge for at least a few hours - IMO both the flavour and texture are better.


deej

doyenne's picture

Another way to do it is to pop your buttered, floured baking sheets in the freezer while you're mixing your ingredients.

 

Where is Monica Lewinski when you need her?

deejeh's picture

Yup, another good tip.  The one thing of value that I got from Nancy Baggett's cookie book was how she uses the freezer to cool dough quickly.  When making rolled cookies, I always pop the rolled-out dough into the freezer for 15 minutes before I cut out the cookies - no more misshapen cookies for me!


deej

UncleDunc's picture

>> ... pop your buttered, floured baking sheets in the freezer ...

Another good argument against side by side refrigerator freezers.