Cookie Crumbles: The Most Common Cookie Pitfalls

Aug 31, 2018

I can’t make chocolate chip cookies. Well, I can make them. People just don’t want to eat them afterward. No matter the method, ingredients or elevation, my cookies always seem to turn out too … something.

Too crunchy. Too gooey. Too sweet. Too dry.

When I bite into a simple, yet delightful treat at a potluck dinner, I admit to harboring cookie envy: What do they have that I don’t have? Did I miss the lesson on how to make neighbor-crushing cookies during home ec class? Rather than requesting a recipe, I fight the urge to set up camp in their kitchens and draft a contract stipulating the instruction and reproduction of two dozen cookies before I leave.

All I want is a perfect chocolate chip cookie--for purely selfish reasons. One that is moist and dense on the inside while crisp at the edges. A lightly golden cookie that holds its own, balancing a smooth, blonde dough with pockets of decadent, melted chocolate. So, I set out to find the most common cookie pitfalls--or crumbles--with solutions for overcoming them.

Crumble one: Using the wrong recipe.

Solution: Find a recipe that fits your cookie ideal. If you prefer a chewy result, look for an ingredient list with more brown sugar or melted butter. Chewy cookies usually have a higher moisture content. If you crave a soft and cakey version, chilling the dough or adding shortening helps cookies retain their shape longer during baking. And, for those who prefer a crisp cookie--you know who you are--amp up the white sugar and keep the cookies small to encourage spreading. 

Crumble two: Overbaked cookies.

Solution: Bake them less. This sounds easy, but it seems cookies have a 10-second window. Take them out too early, they’re goopy--even dangerous. Too late, and they become drab and crusty with crumbly bits of chocolate. Experienced cooks recommend pulling cookies from the oven just before you think they’re done--when the edges and creases are starting to brown, but the center is still soft. I used to be concerned about this tip, until I realized it isn’t the undercooked cookies that will get me, it’s sampling the dough before they go into the oven.

Crumble three: Uneven baking.

Solution: Use a scoop for exact measuring and bake one tray at a time. America’s Test Kitchen recommends a number 20 size scoop for three tablespoons that yield a three-and-a-half inch cookie. Even rotating trays top to bottom won’t achieve one tray results. These tips go against my inclinations for free-wheeling and speed; but, if I’ve learned anything in the kitchen, it’s that you can’t rush a good thing.

And, I know I can get there--the ‘good thing’ for chocolate chip cookies. Otherwise, you’ll see me at your next neighborhood potluck, carrying my sleeping bag.