Since I enticed you with over 40 gluten free cookie recipes, I figured I should offer some advice on how to correct your gluten free cookie crisis. This post will cover some of the difficulties that are encountered when baking gluten free cookies, and hopefully give you some ideas on how to improve your cookie baking. As more questions are asked, I will do my best to answer them, and built on this resource, so be sure to ask your questions, and check back here for more suggestions.
Do you use an oven thermometer?
- Most ovens are not accurate to the temperature you set on the dial, with many of them being 25-50 degrees F off. If your oven is baking too hot or too cold, your cookies will be baked too quickly or too slowly. This could result in your cookies burning or falling flat while baking. To remedy this, buy an oven thermometer (it doesn’t need to be an expensive one) so that you know what the temperature in your oven actually is. Test your oven temperature by setting the temperature, placing the thermometer in the middle of your oven, and allow it to stay there for 20-30 minutes. This will let you know if the area where you bake is too hot or too cool. If your oven is off, you know that you need to either lower or raise the temperature on the dial to meet the actual temperature. All ovens are different, and some can be downright temperamental, so take some time to figure out how your oven bakes.
Is your butter too soft?
- When a recipe calls for your butter to be softened, it is actually possible for your butter to be too soft. Taking your butter out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking is perfect. It allows the butter to warm up a bit, and for your fingers to just press into the butter nicely. If the butter has been out all night, and a even a gentle press on the butter leaves a large indent, your butter is too soft for cookies.
- But, there are always exceptions to ever rule. You can use very soft butter to mix your cookie dough as long as your cookie dough is to be refrigerated before using it, like for the Rolled Sugar Cookies. Since you will be bringing the temperature of the butter back down, and having it become a solid again before baking, it is OK if it is too soft when you mix your dough.
- What if you forgot to take your butter out to soften it before baking? Not a problem! You can soften butter quickly by cutting it into chunks and beating it with the paddle attachment in a stand mixer. Do this for 1 or 2 minutes without anything else in the bowl, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
- Over-beating the butter and sugar at the beginning of a recipe can also cause your cookies to go flat. When you beat your butter with the sugar, the friction of the sugar can actually cause your butter to get too soft. So, beat the butter & sugar until it has come together, and looks like a yellow paste, anything more and you may be softening your butter too much.
Did you make any substitutions? Not all substitutions work well for cookies.
- Since I blog recipes that are only free from gluten, I understand when you have to make substitutions for other dietary needs, like dairy and eggs. The thing is, some of the dairy replacements do not bake the same way butter does. Also, some margarine doesn’t bake the same way that butter does. Products that are made to stay soft in the fridge so that you can easily spread it are not good for baking. Earth Balance makes pretty decent “baking sticks” that substitute quite well for butter, but their spreads would not make a good cookie.
Do you have enough flour?
- Now, obviously you are going to follow the directions when you are baking cookies, right? But, what I have found is that we don’t all measure flours/starches the same way. When I develop these recipes, I measure the flours/starches by dipping my measuring cup into the container of flour/starch, scooping up the flour/starch, and then leveling it with the back of a knife. By scooping to fill your measuring cup instead of spooning the flour/starch into the cup and then leveling it, you actually have more flour/starch per cup. If we were to all measure one cup of flour and weight it, it would all vary slightly. That is why some bakers insist on weighing the flours/starches when baking – for consistent results.
- Did you also know that different flours and starches have different weights? So, if you make a substitution in the recipe, and substitute cup for cup, you may actually be adding more or less flour/starch based on weight. That can also make a difference in your end result.
Did you line your baking sheets with parchment paper? What kind of pan baking pan did you use?
- 99.9% of the time, I line my baking sheets with parchment paper. I really have no idea how I ever baked before parchment paper, and I know I will forever use it in my baking now. Cookies keep their shape better on parchment paper, and there is absolutely no sticking, so you can let your cookies sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes to firm up before moving them to a cooling rack without a problem. You can find parchment paper nearly everywhere, including the dollar stores. Use it. You don’t have to use it once and throw it away either, the same sheet of parchment paper can be used over and over. If I am baking cookies, I will re-use the same sheet of parchment paper until it’s either dirty (although you can just wipe the crumbs or melted chocolate off), or starting to brown (which only happens at high temperatures).
- What kind of baking pan do you use? I find that the best pans are heavy, light coloured baking sheets. I LOVE my Nordic Ware baking sheets. They aren’t expensive, but they are a good, durable baking sheet that will last for years! I have 3 of them right now, since I only bake one sheet at a time, this lets me always have a cool baking sheet to prepare my next batch of cookies on while another is baking. Thin pans have a tendency to darken quickly. If you only have thinner pans, try stacking two pans to bake your cookies, this will make your pan act like a heavier pan, giving you better results.
- Is your pan cool before placing the unbaked cookies on it? That can make a difference in your cookies as well. If the pans are warm, you will be softening the butter in your cookies before they get into the oven. Make sure your baking sheets are cool before you fill them up with cookies waiting to be baked.
Did the recipe call for the dough to be chilled?
- If your recipe calls for the dough to be chilled for an hour (or overnight), follow the instructions. It is usually because something in the dough (like butter, or melted chocolate) need to cool down so that the dough will roll, scoop, or bake properly. Always read through the instructions before beginning so that you know if the dough needs to be made in advance. There is nothing worse than gathering the ingredients, and the kids, hoping for a great time of making cookies together, just to find out that there will be a one hour delay due to having to refrigerate the dough. By the way, the best way to bake with kids is to prepare all the dough in advance, wrap it in 2 layers of plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, and removing it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes ahead of time, so it’s not rock hard. By doing that, you can spread out the work of baking cookies – and I think we cal all agree that the baking & decorating sure beats the mixing & dishes.
You made an error.
- I know, none of us like to admit it, but sometimes, in the rush of things – we goof up. I’ve done it. I’ve forgotten to add baking powder to cookies, sugar to muffins, and xanthan gum to bread. Missing an ingredient can greatly change the end result of a recipe. The reason some recipes won’t work for us is simply that we didn’t put the recipe together correctly. Hey, it happens!
Oh oh. How can I fix it?
- So, you put your first pan of cookies into the oven, and when the timer beeps, instead of a tray of perfectly shaped cookies, you have a tray of flat, shapeless cookies. It’s alright, don’t panic – we’ve all been there. Don’t fret, your cookies aren’t destine for the trash can yet. You can usually find a way to fix it. Try doing one of the following before baking your second pan.
- Add more flour - it is possible that the recipe developer and you measured slightly different, try adding a few tablespoons (1-4) more flour to see if it will stiffen the dough up a bit more. Bake another pan, if it still runs, repeat.
- Refrigerate the dough – Even if the recipe doesn’t call for it, sometimes the butter is too soft to hold up to baking, and instead runs. Sometimes chilling the dough before forming the cookies helps the cookies to keep their shape better.
- Flat cookies still taste good – Although they may not be the prettiest, flat cookies do still taste good. Flat cookies are perfect for making ice cream sandwiches. They can be pulsed in a food processor and used for cookie crumbs as the base of a cheesecake or pie, or mixed into Easy Holiday Truffles. Break them up and serve them over ice cream, cupcakes, or a a trifle. Add some creativity and you may be surprised at how good a failed project can look & taste.
Additional Cookie Baking Tips
- Besides all the above tips, there are a few more things that you can do to help you bake beautiful, yummy cookies.
- Use a cookie scoop – I love baking drop cookies because of how easy they are to make. You can make all your cookies uniform size by using a cookie scoop. I have 3 different sizes, and love them all.
- Cookie dough can be frozen – Especially the dough for drop cookies! A super simple, and easy way to do this is to scoop your cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet, freeze them until they are solid, then store them in a zipper seal plastic bag. When you want fresh cookies, you can take out the number of cookies that you want, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and let them sit for 5-10 minutes before you bake them in a preheated oven. You may need to increase your bake time by a few minutes if baking from frozen.
- Under-bake your cookies – Instead of baking your cookies until they are golden brown and completely baked, take them out when they are just starting to get a light brown around the edges. Since your cookies will remain on the baking sheet for a few more minutes after you take them out of the oven, they will be perfectly baked. This is perfect for cookies like Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, where you still want the middle of the cookie to be soft.
I know there are many more great cookie baking tips out there, so if you have some, please share in the comments below. Together we can build this into a great resource for those trying to avoid a gluten free cookie crisis of their own.
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to download your FREE copy of Gluten-Free Cookies for Santa,
a compilation of over 40 gluten-free cookie recipes from yours truly. Merry Christmas!
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