The New Bakers Dozen
Problem with Cookie Spread

The The Bakers Dozen: Problem with Cookie Spread
By Cam (Cam) on Wednesday, June 07, 2000 - 11:51 pm: Edit

Hi. I'm hoping someone can help me with a problem I've been having with a cookie recipe. For the first few weeks of using this recipe (it's a variation of a pretty basic chocolate chip) they turned out great. Nice height and browning. Crisp, but with a little center chew. The last few batches, however, have been disasters. They rise up a bit but then completely collapse before they're done and spread into each other. They end up looking like tuilles! I've tried a new box of baking soda, fresh eggs, switching from dark brown to light brown sugar or a mix of the two. Can anyone suggest what else I might look at? The only thing I can think that may have changed is we recently switched flour vendors. I can reprint the recipe if that might help. They're still tasty so my boss is selling them as "Chicago Flatties" (don't ask me why!!) and people love 'em, but it's driving me nuts! Thanks!

By momoreg on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 06:58 am: Edit

If your flour is the same strenth as it's always been, then it wouldn't be responsible for the spread. If you are measuring in cups and teaspoons,rather than weights, that can be throwing off your consistency. Also, I find a recipe that contains too much butter creates uneven looking cookies sometimes.

By W.DeBord on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 08:36 am: Edit

Usually when something like that happens I find I multiplied something wrong (too much butter?) or worked the proceedure incorrectly (should have melted and cooled butter, not used solid).

Could your temp. be off on your oven or your fan setting was on high not low? Bake on silpats, parchement or greased pan...did any of those factors change?

Personally, that much spread sounds like you have too much fat.

Different flour might change the texture a bit but it won't make them over spead like tuiles.

By Raine on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 06:45 pm: Edit

Are you steaming them by accident? Are they pale or take longer, a lot longer, to bake?

By Mikeh (Mikeh) on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 07:11 pm: Edit

I had a similar problem with cookies spreading when a person dumped a 10% gluten pastry flour into a bin that usually holds 11.5% all-purpose.

By d. on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 10:07 pm: Edit

Culprit could be too much baking soda. Baking soda also enhances spread in a cookie, and you're saying that they rise and then collapse, so that definitely could be the problem. Also, I completely agree with Momoreg about weighing your ingredients --- you'll always come out with a consistent product.

By Ramodeo (Ramodeo) on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 10:23 pm: Edit

That much extra baking soda would leave a bad taste, wouldn't it?

Is the recipe an all butter one? I believe a mix of butter and a hydrogenated fat - margarine or shortening can help minimize spread.

Is your dough a consistent temp when it goes into the oven? Some of my cookie recipes only come out perfectly consistently if I chill the scooped dough before baking. Ambient temperature in the kitchen can make a big difference in finished dough temps. A warm dough will melt down in the oven and spread, while a cold dough will hold it's shape long enough for the heat to set the outside, creating a firmer structure.

By Hans (Hans) on Thursday, June 08, 2000 - 11:34 pm: Edit


All things beeing equal and the only thing that has changed is the flour, than it has to be the flour.

Unless that is not the only thing that has changed.

Could also be that the shop temperature is different, oven runs colder/hotter, supplies are not at the same temperature as before, you mix longer/shorter, etc.

Too many variables.

Try to get some of the "old" flour and make a batch.
Then you'll know for sure.
Also, depending of where you are, the moisture content of the flour changes with the seasons.

Sincerely, HWK
C=-) Hartmut W. Kuntze, CMC, S.g.K.
" Die einfachsten Dinge sind sehr kompliziert " Morgenroete
For Chefs Only --

By Cam (Cam) on Friday, June 09, 2000 - 12:17 am: Edit

Thanks everyone for responding so quickly! I'm not using all weight measurements, but I wasn't before and they worked fine. Just so you know, I'm relatively new to baking and have inherited this responsibility by default, but have embraced it with relish. I love the science of it, but am in desperation of guidance! Here's the recipe (they are really good, when they work out!): 4c. ap flour, 4c. cake flour, 4t. baking soda, 2t. salt, 16oz. butter, 16oz. shortening, 5c. brown sugar, 2c. malted milk powder, 1/2c. hershey's chocolate syrup, 2t. vanilla, 4 large eggs, 10c. chocolate chunks. I'll check with the flour vendors and the too much butter/fat thing sounds like it's probably the culprit. By how much should I try to reduce it? I bake on parchment consistantly and I checked the oven temp and fan speed - all the same. They're not pale at all and are actually browning a lot quicker. We only have two kinds of flour here, ap and high gluten so a mix up may have occurred but wouldn't the difference be, well, different than what I'm experiencing? I've tried chilling the dough first vs. using it straight from the mixer with the same results in a minute or two baking time difference. It has been gradually warming up here with a lot of rain and humidity, but no sudden atmospheric changes. It's hot now and we don't have air conditioning (read: torture!) so if that is the culprit, I'm doomed until fall! Like I mentioned, I've used this exact recipe before with good results. I can't figure out what has changed or how to correct for it. Thanks everyone for anything you can suggest (and already have suggested)!

By Cam (Cam) on Friday, June 09, 2000 - 12:32 am: Edit

Hans, Thank you, too, for responding! I was typing when you posted so I didn't address your points. Most of the supplies are warmer with the gradual weather change. I used to let the butter come to room temp before I started, but after the first failed batch, I tried it with cold butter (shortening was always room temp). I creamed the fats to combine then added everything but the flour, baking soda, and salt which I mixed separately then added to the wet gradually. I'm still following the same process. Could the humidity increase really be the main problem?!? What can I do to counteract that? I will get some of the "old" flour and try that just to rule it out. The simplest things really ARE the most complex! Thanks!

By W.DeBord on Friday, June 09, 2000 - 07:55 am: Edit

No the humidity can't be making that big of a difference! I work with extreme humidity, it weighs you flour down causing you to add too much not less (so you'd have brick cookies not loose ones). None of your facts lead to a clear answer (butter temp.& room temp. aren't going to make that difference).

Just a crazy thought but occassionally there is some moisture in the bottom of your bowl. If you put your soda and salt in before your flour they might have stuck to the moisture before you mixed them, therfore staying in the bowl not getting into your dough?

P.S. I never premix my dry ingred. like most recipes recommend. It's a wasted step (Most of the time!) in a cookie recipe it's totally safe to skip that step (assuming you mix well).

By W.DeBord on Friday, June 09, 2000 - 09:09 am: Edit

You didn't list your oven temp.? If I get the time I'll try to make a small batch.

Also you said you only have 2 kinds of flour ap & high gluten but your cookie calls for cake flour...did you write that wrong?

By Cam (Cam) on Saturday, June 10, 2000 - 12:39 am: Edit

When I mix the dry ingredients together (in a regular stainless bowl) before adding them to the wet (in the mixer where I have creamed the fats together with the sugar and then added the rest and combined), I always put the flours in first and then add the salt and baking soda so if anything is sticking to the bowl, it's the flour. Yes, I did write the flour thing wrong. . . I was responding to Mikeh's response which refered to a mix up in dumping flours in the correct bins. The ap and the high gluten are in similar bins. I do have cake flour too, which, actually, I only use for these cookies so it's been the same bag of cake flour for 3-4 months. Could this be the problem?!? The oven temp in the recipe (when it has worked) was 300 in a convection. I've tried 325 and 350, adjusting for time in the oven just to experiment. Like I said, I'm a novice! Maybe I'm not mixing enough?!?! The recipe states "do not overmix!" I don't think I've changed procedure.....

By vbean on Sunday, June 11, 2000 - 02:42 am: Edit

I think that you aren't mixing enough. I work in a large hotel that makes lots of cookies. I always stress to mix the large recipes on speed one-this will take a long time. Too much air (higher speed= puffy airy cookies). Not enough mixing and everything falls apart.
I have a problem with your recipe- it needs to be by weight or it will be different every time. It has way too much fat ( you inherited this recipe is that right?). Take out the shortening and use cold butter.
Changing flour, OH BOY! Every vendor has flour that is different. You really don't know what is in there! Personally, I would have my flour vendor bake the cookies and have them explain to me why the properties of their flour was different. I deal with a vendor who could almost tell me where the wheat was grown. Other factors: malt powder and hersheys syrup

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