Here Are Common Cookie Mistakes + How To Fix Them

Your cookie recipe will not fail if you know these tips and tricks.

IMAGE Cat Altomonte

Cookies are a great introduction to baking. Cookies are fairly easy to make but it's also a common thing for newbie bakers and even experienced ones to make a mistake and mess up a seemingly no-fail recipe. That's because a no-fail recipe relies on the fact that you already know what you're doing. It doesn't take into account that mistakes can and do happen which can lead to failed recipes. 

That's why cookie recipes make the best kind of no-fail baking recipe. You will still, of course, need the right baking tools to make these cookies but if your ingredients are correct and you followed the instructions right, you should be munching on a still warm cookie within the hour. 

Of course, things can still go wrong. Avoid cookie disaster by taking some notes on the most common cookie-making mistakes and how to fix it: 

Slice butter when still cold so you can evenly make those cuts.
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1 The butter is not softened or the butter is too soft. 

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One of the most common lapses people make when baking is not softening the butter properly. The butter is either too hard to cream properly or too soft that it's practically melting in your bowl. Butter that's too hard can be left, covered, at room temperature to soften further before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. You may need around 15 minutes for this.

The too-soft butter, however, will need to stiffen up some before you can proceed. Pop the too-soft butter in the refrigerator for about 5 to 10 minutes and then test its consistency to see if it has hardened enough to be solid again but soft enough to cream. Once it's hardened up some, only then should you proceed with your recipe. 

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2 The butter and eggs are clumping and won't combine. 

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This happens when the temperature of your eggs and the butter are different. That's why ingredients are usually left to come to "room temperature"  since this will allow ingredients to mix well. However, it can also mean that you haven't mixed your batter well enough yet. There is a point at the beginning when it looks like the two mixtures—the butter and sugar mixture and the eggs—won't combine at all. Just keep mixing, and it will combine into a cohesive batter. 

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It must be noted though, that the most accurate way to measure flour is with a weighing scale.
Photo by Enrico Gutierrez

3 The dough is too thick or too thin. 

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Another big mistake people make is thinking that baking is like cooking and that ingredient measurements are not as important. Baking may be more scientific than cooking but it's also less forgiving of ingredient measurement mistakes. After all, you can't add more sugar or flour to something that is already baking in the oven. 

That's why measuring ingredients is important in baking, and how to measure these properly is a skill bakers need to learn and develop into a habit. Add too much flour, and you'll end up with a dough that's hard to work with. Add too little and your cookie will not have enough structure to hold its shape as it bakes. 

While the most accurate way to measure ingredients is with a weighing scale, here are a few articles about how to measure common baking ingredients: 

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Always remember to scrape the sides of the bowl so your batter is well mixed.
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4 There are globs of butter and pockets of flour in my cookies. 

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You probably didn't mix all the ingredients together well. Use a rubber spatula or silicone spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl while mixing so you know you've completely combined your ingredients together. This isn't just for baking as the silicone spatula, in particular, can be used for cooking, too, so it's a fantastic all-around kitchen tool.     

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5 The oven wasn't preheated.

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This isn't as a big a deal as some would make it seem. Just set aside what you're going to bake and let the oven preheat in the next 20 minutes before placing your batter in the now preheated oven. Just make sure that you have an oven thermometer to check that you're heating your oven to the right temperature.

What would make it a big deal is if you completely skip this step and pop your baking pan in the cold oven and expect it to come out perfectly baked in the time stated in the recipe. 

Bakers need to be patient since there are many lulls when baking, and this is one instance your patience will definitely be tested, especially if you've been anticipating biting into a warm chocolate chip cookie all day. 

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6 The cookies are underbaked.

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The one thing you should have to help you not underbake a cookie is a kitchen timer. Whether you're using your phone to keep time or have a separate timer to keep track of time, it's important to bake your cookies until the edges have browned and the centers are just set and a timer will help take out a lot of the guesswork involved.

If you do, however, find that your cookies are too underbaked, you can pop these back in the oven for another 5 minutes before checking again. 

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7 The cookies spread out too much. 

The biggest culprit of thin cookies is the butter temperature. While you should be working with softened butter, it shouldn't be too soft that it's about to melt or already is melted butter—unless otherwise stated in the recipe.

If you want your cookies to not spread out too much, chill your cookies for at least 15 minutes or even longer (up to overnight, if desired) until the cookie dough is cool to the touch. You may want to portion or form the balls before chilling so you can just place each chilled cookie dough ball on the baking sheet and pop in the oven. 

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8 The cookies are stuck together. 

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This is what happens when you don't place enough space between each cookie dough ball. Cookies need to be baked in batches and if you're impatient and want to quickly bake all the cookies by scrimping on the spaces each dough ball should be given, you'll end up with cookies that expand and merge with the cookie it has been placed beside. 

Baking requires patience and in this instance, unless you want to tear individual cookies apart, give each cookie some space so it can grow and expand and be its own little cookie. 

Perfectly cap off dinner by sharing this giant, warm chocolate-y cookie with your family!
 

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9 My cookies taste a little soapy. 

If you ever taken a bite of cookie and you get a burst of a soapy flavor, that's probably the baking soda you added to your dough mixture. You either didn't completely mix into your dough or you forgot to sift your dry ingredients and ended up with clumped up baking soda that didn't dissolve as you mixed. 

Simply avoid this by always sifting your dry ingredients before adding to the wet ingredients. Not only will your ingredients be well mixed, no cookie will ever taste soapy again. 

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10 The cookies got burned.

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You have a few kitchen gadgets and tools to help you with this cookie baking disaster which can save your cookie from being totally inedible. The first tool is a kitchen timer. Make sure you bake your cookies within the time stated in the recipe. You can be paranoid and check after 8 minutes instead of the usual 10 minutes, for example, especially if you're baking a recipe for the first time. 

If your cookies have already burned, you can salvage it! Use a grater and lightly "grate" the burned layer off your cookie bottoms. This is your last-ditch effort so you can still enjoy that seemingly ruined batch. No one else needs to know that this batch was a burned one.  

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11 The cookies are flat on the bottom but puffy on top. 

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The biggest culprit? A hot baking sheet. You probably became impatient and instead of allowing the baking sheet to cool completely after a batch was made, you immediately used it, thus a perfectly rolled dough ball started to melt on the still hot baking sheet even before it had a chance to bake evenly in the oven.

If you only have one baking sheet, use a large baking pan for the second batch so the baking sheet can cool before using. All you really need is a flat surface for the cookies to bake on. Other than this minor impatience, your batch of cookies should bake perfectly.

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Have we answered all your cookie baking disaster questions? If not, let us know what baking mistake you encountered so we can help you avoid any more wasted ingredients and get you on track to baking the most delicious cookies of your baking life. 

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Why not start with one of these delicious cookie recipes:   

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