Google Sugar Dot Cookies: Cookie Dough Spreading - Solutions Finally!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cookie Dough Spreading - Solutions Finally!

I have finally baked an entire batch of sugar cookies that didn't spread!



Is this issue solved forever or solved temporarily? Not sure yet. All I know is that this is the first time that I've baked cookies and every single one of them baked up perfectly. Nice, crisp edges and no spreading. I'm so thrilled!

I've written a few posts about this whole spreading thing. Trying to figure out what was going wrong. With each experiment / post, I've gotten closer to a solution.

The first post on this issue was about chilling dough. You can read it here.

Then I wrote a post gathering all of the tips I could find on how to stop dough from spreading. That one's here.

Then I put those tips into practice here and ran a whole bunch of experiments.

And last, but not least, I wrote a post about calibrating my oven here.

Finally I put all of that together and I've baked a perfect batch of sugar cookies! With each cookie sheet that I pulled out of the oven, I couldn't believe my eyes. Every cookie sheet, every cookie - no spreading. Wow. Unheard of in this kitchen.



So here's what I did this time to achieve no spreading. . .
  • Used bleached all-purpose flour . . .This was a shot in the dark. I always buy unbleached flour. I read somewhere that unbleached is better for bread making. I love to bake bread so I just always buy unbleached and use it for everything. It never occurred to me that it could affect any of my other baking. Maybe it should have.

    Somewhere in my cookie reading, I saw that it said to use bleached flour. That's when the light bulb in my head went off. It was sure worth a shot. Maybe this was a factor in my spreading. Maybe not.
  • Increased the amount of flour I had been using.
  • Started with cold butter . . . Before, I had been softening my butter. Sometimes I'd leave it out for a few hours. Other times just an hour or less. This time I decided to take the butter out, cut it into cubes and wait 15 minutes before getting started. I'm looking for something that works and that I can be consistent with.
  • Didn't over beat the butter and sugar . . .I beat it just until the sugar was incorporated. Nothing was light and fluffy about it.
  • Used less baking powder . . . I didn't omit it all together. I just decreased it.
  • Chilled the dough after rolling and again after cutting.
  • Used flour to roll the dough between waxed paper . . . I often use plastic wrap. I think they're interchangeable.
  • Floured the cutters with every cut.
  • Calibrated my oven to +20 degrees.
  • Baked in a cooler oven. 350 instead of 400.
  • Used my oven thermometer to be sure my oven was holding the temperature.
  • Put a pizza stone on the top oven rack while baking . . . This was a big ol' "doh" moment. If you read my post about calibrating the oven, I thought I'd need a third oven rack to use the pizza stone. Wrong! I put one rack at the top of the oven - pizza stone on top, oven thermometer hanging from it. The other rack was in the middle of the oven - just below the dangling thermometer. This is the one that I baked the cookies on. Could the pizza stone have helped with cold/hot spots and keeping my oven's temperature up? Maybe.

Maybe all of that's over-kill and I can do without some of the above steps. Just maybe I can remove only one variable at a time (like flouring the cutters) and I'll still achieve the wondrous state of non-spreading cookies.

I wish I knew for sure exactly what it was that made these cookies turn out this way. I'm betting that as I bake new batches, and possibly omit some of the above tips, I'll get a clearer picture.

Here's what I didn't worry about with this batch that I thought might cause spreading. . .

  • I didn't worry about over-crowding the pans. I baked 6 medium cookies per sheet or 8 smaller cookies. No problems.
  • I didn't worry about re-rolling. There was no difference between the cookies that had been re-rolled and the ones that hadn't. Actually there was no difference in the spreading. I did see some raised bumps on a few of the cookies that had been re-rolled. I think that had to do with using flour in the rolling and not kneading it back together fully. The bumps were like a flaky layer that raised during baking. Not a big deal to me. I'll take that over spreading any day.

Did I mention that I'm thrilled beyond belief?

So thrilled that I just HAD to show you each and every cookie in this batch?

Do you have spreading issues? If so, I hope that some of these tips will help you!




Edit: I JUST thought of something else different that I did with this batch. I used fresh dough. Often times I'll freeze my cut out shapes. In fact, lately I've been doing that a lot. I wonder if using frozen/defrosted in the fridge dough makes any difference. Experiment time again? You bet!

And one more thing...I just noticed that Bake at 350's sugar cookie recipe specifically calls for *unbleached* flour.

Oy. So many variables!

22 comments:

  1. Such an awesome bunch of posts you have been making. LOVE this. Thanks for sharing all of your tips, hints and helps with us,
    Susie

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  2. How do I follow the comments to see if you replied? :)
    Susie

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks so much Susie!

    You'll see a "subscribe by email" link just below the comment text box.

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  4. I don't see "subscribe by email",
    Susie

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  5. When I landed on this page just now I didn't see the link either. After I signed in to comment with my Google account and refreshed the page, the link appeared.

    Maybe that's why you didn't see it?

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  6. These all sound like great tips...glad to see that you have it figured out! I feel that this is going to be something I will always struggle with!

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  7. I can't tell you how happy I am that I seem to have it solved. I hope you don't give up. You can figure out what it is that needs to be changed. I think that adding more flour and getting my oven temperature right were the two keys for me.

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  8. Ok....so you've tried quite a few variables....I totally relate. Now I have one more for you....since you are using SugarBelle's recipe, it call's for Confectioners' Sugar. I've never tried Confectioners' Sugar in a sugar cookie recipe (but I do intend on giving hers a try soon)....have you tried testing the effect of regular sugar? Not sure what the conversion would be from confections sugar to regular sugar. Anyhow, I hope in your quest you'll try the recipe I posted on your blog dated 2/19/12--just for chuckles. I see you love this receipe, but just give this one a try. I'm going to try Sugar Belle's Chocolate recipe--everyone raves about it.

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  9. Hi again Maryann. I sure have tried lots of variables!

    Lately I've been using NFSC recipe.
    It's pretty much the same as Sugarbelle's but with regular sugar.
    http://cakecentral.com/recipe/no-fail-sugar-cookies

    I haven't had any spreading issues since this last experiment. Yay!

    I haven't tried SB's chocolate recipe. I've tried LilaLola's and Glorious Treats. They were both awesome!

    So many recipes, so little time!

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  10. This is the same recipe I've been tweaking... can you give the exact measurements of baking powdered and flour you used?

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  11. Hi Lisa. I've been using 3 cups flour and 1/2 tsp baking powder.

    I was using 3 cups flour before, but I think they were light. I weigh my flour now to keep it consistent.

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  12. I am trying all of your solutions for spreading. It's getting better, still not perfect, and seems to vary from batch to batch (same recipe). Must be my oven. Anyways, when I have cookies that have spread too much, I just re-cut them while warm and ice the tops and sides! Not ideal, but works in a pinch....

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  13. I know this is an old post, but I'm searching the web for non-spreading tips and came across your posts. I'm excited to try some of your ideas for my next batch. When you say you chill your dough - do you put it in the fridge or the freezer and for how long? Thanks so much!

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    Replies
    1. The freezer for about 15 minutes works. I usually just refrigerate. Twenty minutes or more - until it's no longer soft. You should be able to pick up the rolled dough or the cut out shapes - without it being floppy. It should be stiff.

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  14. Dotty, this is my first comment on your diary, so first I have to say...YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR!!! I sat down in desperation looking for any lifeline that would encourage me to keep baking after tonight (literally mid-baking. Obviously, not that it was going to do any good all my cookies were cut out in the fridge waiting to be baked. I was past the point of no return so-to-speak for this batch). Your "diary" was the very first link I came across when I googled "how to stop sugar cookies from spreading when baking" so with a sigh, click. Here goes nothing. **Now, I feel like I preface the rest of my post with this, I am SO grateful for EVERY SINGLE cookie blogger that takes the time to sit down and blog their amazing tips and techniques!! I feel like have gotten where I am (which is not far, but better than some after just 4 months) because of all of you and it is PRICELESS info.** Now back to my post about you and your, what I call "Stop The Spreading" quest. To post a tip saying, "chill your dough", or "don't over beat your butter/sugar" is wonderful (the other blogs I have read). But the fact that you took the time to post each and every detail of the quest was invaluable to me because it allowed me to compare what I was or wasn't doing, and going forward it will be much easier, in my opinion, to get to the end of my own quest sooner than if you had not been so generous with your information. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    I do have a question that you didn't address and may not have anything to do with it but you mentioned it in one of your posts (I think the list of tips you had compiled from various other bloggers). So, I just thought I would ask you. In regards to baking sheets, what do you use? Metal (light in color), dark/non-stick? I ask because I have been baking cookies, all sorts, for about 25 years and not to toot my own horn but I can bake up a mighty tasty cookie. However, I have only been making sugar/gingerbread/chocolate "rolled' cookies for about four months so I don't know how this will or won't, has or hasn't, affected (effected? to lazy to look up which one means what I'm trying to convey, but I'm sure you know what I mean, haha!!) my spreading problem. I use dark, non-stick baking sheets with parchment paper. So, I'm sure I will have to do an experiment or two myself, but again, you have done so much, I was just wondering which you use and if you have tried anything other than what you use now?
    I have another comment/suggestion, but I'm too longwinded for the "rules" of the blog, so I have to split this up into two posts, so please keep going to my next comment...

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  15. I have a comment/suggestion that may or may not be helpful to you or any of your followers. You mentioned in one of your posts, chilling AFTER rolling your dough, I have been doing this since the very beginning due to something I read on Sweetopia's (http://sweetopia.net) blog (my apologies to Sweetopia as I would like to make her "name" a link to her site, but apparently since I don't have a blog I can't "create a link".)
    Sorry, I digress, you mentioned putting the rolled dough in or on the back of a cookie sheet when you put it in the fridge. Well, I only have 3 cookies sheets and a smallish fridge, so between food I have keep in it in order to feed my dear hubby, and the cookie dough, I needed to come up with a solution and did so all by myself, too, haha. I was kinda excited because I have never read this suggestion before (apologies if someone already has this idea posted somewhere, and I'm saying I came up with it, I personally just haven't read it before and thought it was pretty clever, LOL!). I bake every year for Christmas gifts and a typical Christmas between a very large family and church friends, neighbors, co-workers and the such, to be able to give several cookies per family/person, is about 30-35 dozen cookies. So my idea, sigh, sorry for being so long winded, is this: at JoAnn Crafts store (I imagine they have them at Michael's or Hobby Lobby I just happened to be at JoAnn when I bought mine), in the cake/cookie/candy section you can find cake boards. Everything from plastic, non-disposable to very cheap cardboard ones. I bought two packages (12 total, 6 per package) of the medium "fancy" ones, meaning they are cardboard, but the tops are shiny, laminated-ish (not sure of the word there). Any way, these are what I use to put my rolled dough and then cut out cookies on, in the fridge. I can have all 12 in the fridge at once and only use one shelf. Now I can easily roll/cut/bake all at the same time as I rotate the boards in and out at the various stages. Obviously, if you or any of your readers are blessed enough to have a huge fridge and numerous baking sheets no need to waste money on these. However, if space or being short on cookies sheets is an issue, for a package of 6 boards its like $6 or $7, but with a 40% or 50% coupon, its pretty a pretty cheap solution. And because they are "laminated" you can just wipe them down if need be and use and re-use them for quite a long time, I imagine. I have had mine since October and they show no signs of needing to be replaced anytime soon.
    Ok, if you have actually read this far, thank you for indulging me as I got all of my thoughts out. And thank you, again, for taking the time to do this blog with absolutely priceless info that is so helpful to us newbie cookiers!!!
    PS. I found myself just cracking up AND relating as I was reading the various posts of your quest ("Gorgeous. Exquisite. Things of beauty. I think I'll frame them and hang them on the wall. There aren't enough adjectives in the English language to convey my feelings for these cookies. I think I want to marry them."). If I can achieve what you have, we can have a double wedding, LOL!! An added bonus to reading your "diary"!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the lovely words! I'm glad my post might be helpful!

      I think that a shiny metal, heavy-duty cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat works best for cookies not spreading.

      The cake boards are a great idea for chilling dough! So you just stack them on top of each other? I might give it a try. Thanks!

      Ha ha. Glad you could relate to my crazy excitement the first time my cookies didn't spread!

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    2. Yes, you can just stack them on one another. Since the rolled dough chills first, when you cut them and re-stack them (if that's what you end up doing), since the now cut shapes were already cold, they are sturdy enough to handle the weight of the stacking. I have stacked as many as 6 and not even one ever got squished!!

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  16. Replies
    1. It dawned on me that I didn't mention that I put a sheet of parchment paper on top of the cut shapes, and the rolled in between two sheets of parchment (the sheets that I use to roll the dough out). Sorry, if that info was a "duh". I just thought I should mention it, when I was a beginner, that may have not been obvious, at least to me.

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