& get 200 points!
& get 200 points!
At the beginning of my cookie journey, I found a recipe that I absolutely loved taste-wise, but that had me ending up with amorphous blob-shaped cookies. Delicious, but not so pretty—but I didn’t know there were any other options! Every sugar cookie I had ever seen had been pretty similar, so I didn’t think anything of it. As time went on (and as I stalked cookie tutorials online), I realized that I could make some changes that would help my cookies retain their cutout shapes. So let’s talk about some tips and tricks for reducing (or eliminating!) cookie spread.
Temperature is so important in all aspects of the baking process, and not just as it relates to your oven temp. Keep an eye on these three things in particular if you notice that your cookies are spreading:
Butter consistency- Most recipes call for using “room temperature” butter, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your butter out on the counter for hours. Thirty minutes on the counter (less if your house is on the hot side) is more than enough. The goal is really just to be able to make an indent into the butter if you press on the stick with your finger. Very soft butter is one of the key culprits when cookies are spreading, so keep an eye on this one!
Hot pans? No thank you—If you are a home baker, chances are pretty good that you are baking batches of cookies back to back, using the same pans over and over. Whatever you do, make sure you let those pans cool down before placing new cookies on them, or that residual heat from your last batch can make your new cutouts start to soften and spread. Having at least 3-4 cookie sheets in rotation will help keep you from rushing to reuse a hot pan.
What you’re baking ON is just as important a factor. Consider these two thoughts when making your next batch:
Do you have good quality pans?—I know it’s tempting to buy one of those inexpensive 3-packs of cookie sheets, but I promise, investing in good cookie sheets can make a huge difference in your results. They don’t have to be super expensive, but there are a couple of thing to look out for: light-colored pans are better than dark, and heavier pans are better than super-thin, lightweight, flexible ones.
In addition to your tools, there are a few things you can do while putting everything together that can have an impact on whether or not your cookies spread:
What happens when you overmix the wet ingredients? Well, you incorporate a ton of air (and heat) into your mixture, and that can cause your cookies to rise and then fall, resulting in spread. You shouldn’t need to beat your butter/sugar mixture for more than a couple of minutes.
Don’t overload your baking sheets OR your oven. Especially if you have a standard home oven, it may not be up to the task of baking multiple sheets of cookies evenly. Fill your cookie sheet with cutouts, leaving at least 1” between them, and bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway if needed (rotating may not be necessary, depending on how your oven bakes).
If you are currently experiencing cookie spread, take a look at the items on this list and see if any of them apply to you. You never know—adjusting one thing in your process may make a world of difference in your end result! Good luck, and happy baking!
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