Burned Bottoms and Mushy Middles: Your Trickiest Cookie Problems Solved

Cookies, Image by ginnerobot from Flickr’s Creative Commons Who doesn’t love cookies? There’s not much better than biting into a sweet, warm-from-the-oven treat — except when it’s too crunchy, burned, undercooked, dry or not quite right in any other...

Cookies, Image by ginnerobot from Flickr’s Creative Commons
Cookies, Image by ginnerobot from Flickr’s Creative Commons

Who doesn’t love cookies? There’s not much better than biting into a sweet, warm-from-the-oven treat — except when it’s too crunchy, burned, undercooked, dry or not quite right in any other way. When you spend several hours and money on ingredients to make cookies, less-than-perfect results are more than a little frustrating.

Sometimes the blame for burned or not-terribly-tasty cookies lies in circumstances outside of your control, like oven problems or a bad recipe. However, in many cases, a few adjustments to your cooking methods will ensure your baking is as delicious as you want it to be.

Burnt Cookies
Burnt Cookies

Hard or Half-Baked

Some cookies are meant to be crispy, but if you’re expecting soft and chewy and get dry and crumbly instead, there could be several possible culprits. First, don’t over-mix your dough, which can cause your cookies to be too dry. Mix only until everything is incorporated, and

carefully measure your ingredients to avoid adding too much flour and salt, which causes dryness.

If you find that your cookies are too brown or burned on the bottom, you’re probably cooking them too long. Check the batch at the lowest recommended cooking time, and if your cookies need a little more cooking, check them at one-minute intervals until they are done. Burned cookies could also be caused by an oven that’s too hot. If you consistently burn food, your oven’s calibration might be off. Use a thermometer to check the temperature, and adjust your baking temperature accordingly.

The type of pan you use can influence how brown your cookies get and how long it takes to bake. Darker pans can cause excess browning, so if this quality is a concern for you, used lighter-colored pans with matte finishes, such as aluminum.

Remember that your cookies will continue to bake for a few moments even after you remove them from the oven, because your cookie sheet is still hot. Move smaller cookies from the pan to a wire rack right away, but wait a few moments to transfer larger or cutout cookies to avoid breaking them. Keep in mind that using diet or non-fat products can also cause your cookies to fall apart, so you may want to use full-fat or regular versions.

All Bent Out of Shape

Misshapen cutout cookies are a common complaint among bakers. You wanted crisp stars or trees or gingerbread men, and to your dismay, you ended up unidentifiable blobs with missing limbs.

To ensure your cutouts are perfect, adequately chill the dough before rolling it out. Avoid working the dough too much, as the more you handle it, the warmer and stickier it gets. Use a spatula to transfer the cut outs to your pan so they stay intact.

Cutouts
Cutouts

If you’re making rolled or drop cookies, make sure each cookie is the same size, or you’ll risk some cookies being underdone and others overcooked. Most importantly, when you’re making multiple batches of cookies, allow the cookie sheets to cool completely between batches. Putting the dough on a warm cookie sheet will cause it to melt and your cookies to be thin and flat. To quickly cool a sheet, run the underside under cold water for a few moments to bring the temperature down.

Perfecting the art of baking takes some practice, but the results are worth it. Take your time and follow the recipe, and you’ll enjoy a batch of fresh-baked goodness soon enough.