Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesday's Tips, Tricks and Tid-Bits ~ Cookie Troubleshooting

It's so incredibly easy for things to go wrong in the kitchen.  You measure in an extra 1/4 C flour because you don't properly level it off, you use baking powder instead of baking soda, you correctly use baking soda but it's not fresh, you didn't let your butter come to room temp.....the list could literally go on and on and on.

Baking really is nothing but a chemical reaction amongst ingredients to form your final product.  And I didn't exactly do too well in Chemistry 101 at UGA.  Let's just say it singlehandedly changed my mind about becoming a Pre-Pharmacy major.

You usually think of cookies as an easy option when it comes to desserts.  Or at least I do.  I mean, Pillsbury sells these things as break and bake and slice and bake and you always see 5 years olds baking them in the commercials.  So it can't be that hard to do these things from scratch, can it?  Well, usually not.  But even the most miniscule of common mistakes can result in a panicked trip to the local bakery for those cookies you promised to bring to the get together tonight because yours flat out flopped.

Below is a quick chart to help you with the trouble shooting.  The bad news is that by the time your cookies turn out like some of the ones below, you've already wasted part or all of a batch.  But the good news is that this handy dandy chart will help you know how to fix any issues you have in the future.

*The chart below is geared more towards chocolate chip cookies that call for the dough to be chilled, but I've still found it incredibly helpful when troubleshooting issues with other types of cookies.

Make sure to hop over to The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie for more details regarding that perfect cookie.  It's a phenomenal resource!

1.  This cookie is your default cookie by which to compare the rest.  It is the one that is considered to be the most "perfect".
2.  This dough was not chilled properly in the fridge and therefore spread more than it should.  You can tell that it's a little flatter than the rest.
3.  This dough contained too much flour.  The dough probably looked identical to the "right" dough, but the cookie turned out drier and denser and did not spread properly.
4.  This dough didn't have enough flour.  As opposed to cookie #3 it spread too much and cooked faster around the perimeter than it did in the middle.
5.  This dough was over-mixed, which is such a common mistake with cookies.  The texture and the color are off as a result.
6.  This dough was formed into too-small portions and therefore overcooked based on the recommended bake time.  Smaller portions are always fine, but just make sure you adjust the baking time accordingly.  Keep an eye on them! 
7.  Alternately, this dough was formed larger than the suggested portion size and therefore did not bake completely in the middle.  Again, make sure to adjust your baking times accordingly.
8.  This dough was baked in an oven with the temperature 25 degrees above where it should have been.  As a result the cookie baked too fast and turned out dry and overdone.
9.  On the other end of the spectrum, this dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too cool. The cookie turned out flat and didn't set up properly.
10.  This dough was still frozen when baked.  Freezing baked goods is always fine, but make sure you let them sit at room temperature for 15-25 minutes before sticking them in the oven.  This allows them to thaw just a bit while still remaining chilled.

BONUS TIP FROM YOURS TRULY:  A cookie that is done in the oven will end up being overdone in the end.  The cookies are still so hot when you take them out of the oven that they continue to bake just a bit afterwards.  You want them slightly underdone when you take them out so that they are perfect by the time they set up and cool.

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