Cookie Clinic

BAKING: This Is Where Things Really Heat Up

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I wonder why my cookies crack after they bake.

ROSE B.: Cookies that are not meant to crack on the top may do so after baking or just toward the end of baking if they are overbaked. Because cookies are so small, they continue to bake on the sheet even after removal from the oven. Try baking them in less time.

If that doesn't help, use superfine sugar, or grind granulated sugar to a finer consistency in the food processor. The finer the sugar, the smoother the cookie.

All of my baked cookies go flat. I have had cookies that look great fresh out of the oven and then go flat in minutes, and I have had cookies go flat in the oven. I have an oven thermometer, I have tried hand mixing and have tried margarine vs. butter, to no avail.

ROSE B.: Use a lower-protein flour, such as bleached all-purpose flour. Unbleached flour has higher protein, which ties up the liquid, keeping it from turning to steam and puffing up the cookie.

Also, after shaping the cookies, refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes, or freeze them for 10 minutes if you have freezer space. That way, they can set in the hot oven before they start to spread. If that doesn't help enough, try increasing the oven heat by 25 degrees.

My cookies get too dark on the bottom before the tops get brown. What can I do?

RAEANNE H.: Double up your baking sheets to slow down the bottom baking, and remember to adjust the baking time (it may take longer).

MARCY G.: Use parchment paper and doubled-up baking sheets. That really solves that problem so nicely (and no need to buy any quirky baking sheets or weird bakeware).

Some directions call for placing a baking sheet under a pan of squares or brownies that I know won't spill over. Why?

MARCY G.: To promote even baking, even through the dense center. It also makes it easier to retrieve the pan from the oven.

When baking two sheets of cookies on two racks at a time, is there a rule of thumb about rotating them top to bottom and front to back?

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