Saturday, April 05, 2008

Confessions of an unfit baker

Me: I can't find my hand mixer. Can I just stir cookie dough with a spoon?
Mom: Sure, we did that all the time before electricity.

Me: Is it ok if I melt the butter instead of waiting for it to soften?
Mom: Well, your grandmother always did that.

Two hours later:
Mom, why are my cookies all run together and flat as little pancakes?!

The horror!
(These tasted ok, they just looked ridiculous.)

Triple threat: run-together, flat, and burned.
(These had to be tossed.)

At least these are round.

I searched the internet and found that three things could make for flat cookies. I had done all of them.

1) Too much stirring.

2) Too much baking soda.

3) Melting the butter.

I took a plateful of the least stupid-looking ones to my meeting, and prayed that my friends wouldn't laugh. When I went to retrieve my plate at the end, I could hardly believe it. They'd eaten all the cookies!

Maybe their grandmothers always melted the butter too, and they were nostalgic for flat cookies.

Just don't tell Cookie Jill, ok?


Laura said...

If it's any consolation, your cookie misfortune was a great help to me! Last weekend my daughter and a friend made choc chip cookies that turned out even flatter and more burnt than yours. I had not been around to observe their technique, and they swear they followed the recipe. I'm betting on baking soda. And possibly the stirring.

Thanks for the tips!

Rhonda said...

I love flat cookies. They give the perfect balance of crispiness and chewiness.

I don't melt the butter, but I do beat it viciously before I begin, and my cookies usually look like your last photo.

mon@rch said...

I think these look great! Hmm I would eat them!

robin andrea said...

Great lesson! I had no idea that extra stirring or melted butter made such an impact. I'll remember that.

Rurality said...

Thanks Laura, glad I could help. :) I forgot to mention, I also read that using baking sode that was old might also do it.

Rhonda, I guess some people really do like flat ones better! I was comparing them with my Mom's, which are always perfect.

Tom, thanks, they tasted TOO good actually - I ate way too many.

RA, glad you don't have to learn the hard way like I did. :)

Floridacracker said...

My mom's tollhouse are thin and crispy (sounds better than "flat") and I love them.
They look delicious.

Maktaaq said...

My cookies look like that too. I had this great idea that I would bake cookies for all my coworkers and friends last Christmas; however, each batch I made was worse than the one before.

So much for my glorious plan. I was too ashamed to take them to work, so I tried eating them. They even tasted awful. Eventually I threw them out. I never let any sweet stuff go to waste, but my cookies...eeww. At least yours got eaten. :)

I wasted $75 in cookie supplies.

Cookie Jill said...

Shhhhh. I'm not really reading this! ;-)

The key to baking is, unfortunately, following ingredient directions to the recipe exactly. I wish it could be like cooking where you can toss in a pinch of this or a pinch of that on a whim..but..alas. Baking tends to be more of an exact science. There ARE times when you will have to the temperature outside...but, most of the time it is exacting. (Drives me nuts!)

Some cookies are simply not fluffy, puffy...they are flat. (some recipes note that...most don't) so past experience with the recipe is always good.

Also, the day's temperature always affects the way baked goods turn out. Flour tends to absorb moisture...even if it is just the moisture in the air! So, you tend to want to adjust a bit on the "liquids" depending on what the weather is that day.

You also don't want melted butter. Softened to the point where if you put your finger on the top, it will create a small little "dip" where your finger was. Liquid butter tends to be problematic.

Always mix the liquid ingredients first...butter, eggs then add any sugars. After those are mixed well, you want to mix in the flour. Mix until JUST BLENDED. Additional mixing makes the glutens in the flour unhappy.

Your cookie adventure sounded like a combo of all three you mentioned. (butter, soda, spoonage.)

However, the GREAT thing about cookies is, who cares if they don't exactly look like Martha Stewart's. If they're good...they're GONE! :-)

Rurality said...

FC, these were supposed to be Tollhouse cookies too. :)

Maktaaq, I really gnashed my teeth about the ones I had to throw away. I feel your pain!

Jill, thanks! I guess my butter was somewhere between what you describe and completely melted. It was still opaque, but it was pretty liquidy. Oh well I'll know better next time! Maybe I'll have found my mixer by then, too. :)

CatHerder said...

My sister is the CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE QUEEN. I ruin them everytime. So now, I just press the batter into a huge cookie sheet and cut them with a pizza cutter....they may not be beautiful, but they taste the same!! love your blog, i read it all the time

Rurality said...

Catherder, ooh good idea! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Alton Brown hosts a program on the Food Network called "Good Eats". He devoted an entire episode to toll house choc chip cookies, covering flat, cakey, & chewy. It's well worth watching to understand how to make each type & why they turn out the way they do.


Rurality said...

Thanks Ignatz, I will have to look for that!

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

The cookies look great! :) I chill my dough over night before I bake them.

threecollie said...

I have NEVER met a cookie I didn't like and those look just fine to me!!