So you’re trying to troubleshoot your cookie baking.
Maybe you’ve got problems with your cookies being too flat, too cakey, too crumbly, too burned, too hard, or any other unsavory thing that threatens to turn your cookie baking delight into just you sitting sadly in your kitchen, surrounded by baking fails.
This is the ultimate way to fix cookie problems, with 9 of the most popular baking mistakes people make and what to do instead.
We’ll teach you how to recover cookies that are already ruined (they’re probably not ruined), as well as how to fix cookie dough so you have better cookies and how to use baking techniques and baking equipment to fix issues with your cookies.
From being out of a certain ingredient to only using salted butter to what the heck you do if your cookies are burned on the bottom, here are some cookie troubleshooting techniques.
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1. Problem: You’re Out of an Ingredient
Maybe you’ve gone to go and make your cookie recipe, only to find that you’re out of a key ingredient!
What do you do? People often wonder if you swap in certain ingredients for others in cookie recipes.
The answer for many ingredients is yes (but with the caveat that you may be changing the texture and taste), though there are a few ingredients that really just don’t have any substitutes like flour (sure, you can use different types of flour, but not leave out the flour altogether!)
At the end of the day, baking is a science, not an art, because it relies on certain chemical reactions to take place and the tiniest of ingredient changes can create a chain of different reactions (or non-reactions).
Check out the guides below, depending on which cookie ingredient you’re out of.
- Can you make cookies without butter?
- Can you make cookies without baking powder?
- Can you make cookies without vanilla extract?
- Can you make cookies without brown sugar?
- Can you make cookies without eggs?
- Can you make cookies without baking soda?
Must-Have Baking Tools (seriously)
- Silicone baking mats – I use this brand and my cookies slide right off without burning!
- a cookie scoop – get this one. It makes the perfect rounded cookies every time!
- silicone spatula – try this set. It’s the best way to get the most out of your dough and batters
- rolling pin guides – I use this one. Genius way to roll your dough out evenly!
2. Problem: You Only Have Salted Butter
Often, cookie recipes suggest using unsalted butter, and many people wonder if this is essential or if you can make cookies with salted butter.
Usually, salted butter is fine in cookies if you leave out the extra salt that the recipe calls for, and many bakers say they always use salted butter in a regular cookie recipe with no problems.
Check out our guide to salted butter vs unsalted butter in cookies to figure out if your cookie recipe is fine to use with salted butter.
3. Problem: You Don’t Have All-Purpose/Plain Flour
The most popular type of flour used in cookie dough is all-purpose flour (called plain flour in the UK).
But can you use other types of flour?
And what does that do to the cookies?
If you have another type of flour besides all-purpose flour for your cookies OR you want to achieve some different textures in your cookies (for instance, cake flour leads to cakey cookies while bread flour leads to chewier cookies), check out both of our guides about specific flour types and how to use these in your cookie recipe.
4. Problem: Your Cookie Dough is Too Sticky
Before you even go to bake your cookie dough, you might notice that it’s way too sticky to work with.
It could be so sticky that you can’t even shape it into balls for a “drop” cookie, or it might be too sticky to roll out if you’re trying to do a cut-out sugar cookie.
Often, you can fix sticky cookie dough by adding a little bit more flour, gradually, but there are other ways to fix it that you can find it our guide to fixing sticky cookie dough.
5. Problem: Too Much Butter in the Cookies
Butter is an essential ingredient in cookies, but it’s also possible to have too much of it.
If you find that your cookie dough has way too much butter in it, and is ruining your cookies, you have a couple of options.
Firstly, you could simply add a bit more flour, gradually, but you may then go the other direction and end up with a cookie with too much flour.
The best option is to calculate how much extra butter is in the dough and then add in ratios of all of the other ingredients to make a larger batch with the right amount of butter.
Check out our guide to what to do if you put too much butter in your cookies here.
6. Problem: Cookies are Too Cakey
Cakey cookies are sometimes the goal, particularly if you’re wanting cake mix cookies, but often people are trying to make cookies that are dense and chewy, not cakey.
If you find that you are making cakey cookies that don’t sink or become chewy and are too cake-like, check out our guide on how to fix cakey cookies.
Options include cutting down the amount of flour, decreasing the baking powder or baking soda, and banging the freshly baked cookies down on a kitchen counter on the baking sheet to make them flatter and more dense.
7. Problem: Cookie Dough is Crumbly
The opposite of the sticky cookie dough is the crumbly cookie dough, which can be almost impossible to make cookies with until you fix it as the dough won’t stick together enough to actually form into cookies.
Luckily, this can be an easier cookie dough fix, as usually it can be fixed adding a little bit of extra fat in like more butter or some oil (even if oil wasn’t in the original recipe).
Check out our full guide on how to fix crumbly cookie dough here.
8. Problem: Cookies are Tough and Hard after Baking
You’ve baked your cookies, and as soon as they cool, you find that they’ve gone hard.
Or maybe it’s taken a few days, but they have definitely lost their softness.
If you’ve already baked the cookies (ie, there’s no going back), you’re going to want to follow some of our tips on how to soften cookies after baking, including storing them in an airtight container with a slice of bread (trust us, it works), or putting them in the microwave with a damp paper towel over them.
The easiest way to fix this problem is obviously before baking, so check out our guide on baking the perfect cookies to see how to make soft cookies, but you can still recover them afterwards!
9. Problem: Cookies are Burned All Over
You take your cookies out of the oven and they’re burned!
On the top, on the side, on the bottom – all over.
Do you just dump them into the garbage can and start again?
Or can you save them?
From scraping off the burned parts with a grater to crumbling the cookies and turning them into an ice cream topping, there are a couple ways you can fix burned cookies.
Check out our full guide on how to fix burned cookies here!
10. Problem: Cookies are Burned on the Bottom
Sometimes, you can take the cookies out of the oven and find that they’re only burned on the bottom.
But still, burned cookies are no good!
If your cookies are burned on the bottom, there are a couple fixes like using a knife to scrape off the burned parts, cutting off the bottom of the cookie that’s burned, and even using a vegetable peeler to try and get those burned parts off!
You can also use a different type of baking sheet and some different baking techniques to help make sure this isn’t a problem in the first place.
Here’s how to stop your cookies burning on the bottom and fix them if they are.
11. Problem: Cookies are Flat
Flat cookies can be one of the worst baking disappointments if you’re hoping for cookies that are puffy and tall.
Check out our guide on how to fix flat cookies here, including tips like increasing the amount of flour, checking that your baking powder or baking soda is not expired, chilling the dough, and rolling the cookie dough balls into cylinders rather than balls.