One common problem that people run into is that their cookies end up being too flat. When this happens, it can mean one of a few different things.
Flat cookies can still be chewy and soft, but with less volume than you had intended. Flat cookies can also be dry and brittle, becoming something that resembles a dessert less than traditional cookies do. Depending on the way that your cookies turned out, you might not even want to eat the remaining batch of them.
Before you figure out what you want to do with your remaining cookies, you’ll want to make sure that you understand what went wrong in the baking process. This will help you learn from your baking mistakes and allow you to make sure that they come out of the oven with the right amount of volume next time.
As with many aspects of baking, there are plenty of reasons why your cookies might end up coming out of the oven with little to no volume.
You’ll have to have a good idea of what you may have done during the baking process, or what ingredients you may have included (or not included) to get a good idea of what exactly went wrong.
There is also the chance that your cookies may be too flat because the baking sheet was too hot. You’ll always want to make sure that when you are placing balls of cookie dough on the sheet to go into the oven, that the baking sheet is room temperature or colder. It shouldn’t be warm to the touch and it should definitely not be hot enough to affect the cookies.
When you use butter that is too soft, or even completely melted butter, it will cause the cookies to spread out more on the baking sheet. This produces large, flat, and strangely shaped cookies.
When a cookie is using the dough it has to spread out on the sheet, it is going to sacrifice height for width. This also commonly results in cookies that are a bit brittle, as thin cookies will cool more quickly, leaving them dried out.
If you aren’t using enough flour, the cookies won’t have a leavening agent (or enough of one) to allow the cookie to rise fully. While cookies are usually not comparable to bread, this aspect of baking is.
Just like when you don’t use enough yeast in bread, if you don’t use enough flour in your cookie dough, the cookie won’t have what it needs to create miniature air bubbles inside, giving it the volume that people love.
Unlike with adding butter that is too soft, the cookie will still remain relatively the same shape that it should be. This leaves you with a thicker, potentially chewy cookie compared to the thin and brittle one that a lack of hard butter has.
This means that if you are trying to determine what went wrong during the baking process, you should look at the overall size of the cookies. Cookies that didn’t have the right type of butter will be large and very thin.
Cookies that didn’t have enough flour will be a standard cookie shape, but flat and dense.
Can You Salvage the Cookie Dough?
While you won’t be able to salvage the cookies that just came out of the oven, if you still have the problematic cookie dough on hand, it may not yet be too late for your cookies. Of course, the way you would go about fixing the cookies will depend entirely on what the problem was with them.
If your cookies didn’t have enough solid butter, you’ll want to start salvaging the dough by placing it in your fridge. You’ll want to keep the cookie dough in the fridge for between one and two hours to make sure that the butter in the cookie dough has sufficient chance to harden and reach the right consistency for your cookies to turn out right.
From here, you will want to make one or two cookies as a test batch to make sure that they are okay before you use the rest of the cookie dough. This will give you a good idea on whether or not you have fixed the problem.
Again, to prevent the cookies from becoming flat because of the baking sheet, you will want to make sure that the baking sheet is room temperature and no hotter.
If you didn’t have enough flour in your dough, the way that you would salvage the remaining cookie dough would simply be to add more flour to it. Depending on just how little flour there was in the recipe, you’ll want to add between one and two full tablespoons to the dough.
Next, you will want to mix the dough up so that all areas of it will have the added flour so that there are no cookies that got too much while others don’t get enough.
Similarly, once you’ve done this, you’ll want to place one or two helpings of cookie dough onto a room-temperature baking sheet and see if this fixed the problem. If it did, then you’ll be ready to work with the rest of your cookie dough.
If not, you can either decide to add more flour or to completely scrap the cookie dough as it is.
What Can You Do Next Time to Fix the Cookies?
Now that you know about how you can attempt to salvage the rest of the cookie dough, you’ll want to make sure that you know what you can do next time you make cookies to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. There are a couple ways you can prevent this from happening, if you are careful.
First things first, you will always want to make sure that you are using a reliable recipe. If you are using a recipe you found online, consider reading reviews or comments on that recipe.
If there is a considerable number of people who are saying that a certain adjustment helped their cookies, you may want to consider making that adjustment. Doing this will also give you a good idea of whether or not the recipe you are using is to be trusted.
If you are using a recipe that you created yourself, you’ll want to make sure the proportions of ingredients are correct. There are many places where you can check and make sure that your cookies have the amount of ingredients needed.
While this may not prevent measuring errors or careless mistakes, it is always helpful to have a good recipe to rely on.
To make sure that your butter isn’t too soft for cookies, you’ll want to use room temperature butter. Typically, when you take a stick of butter out of a traditional fridge, it will take about 30 minutes for the butter to come to room temperature. This may change if your house is considerably hot or cold.
As for the flour, the most that you can do to prevent this from happening again is simply making sure that your recipe calls for the right amount of flour to make cookies that will rise. You’ll also want to make sure that any and all measuring tools you are using are accurate.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that your baking sheet isn’t too hot when you are making a second or third batch of cookies. If you’re working on a time limit or you don’t have spare baking sheets to use, there are ways to cool down baking sheets without warping them.
First, you will want it to lose the majority of its heat by letting it sit out at room temperature for no more than 10 minutes. From there, just run it under cold water and dry it off, allowing it to reach a suitable temperature for your next batch.
What Can You Do with Flat Cookies?
Now that you know what to do with the rest of your cookie dough as well as future batches of cookies, you may not know what to do with the flat cookies that you already have. If they are so flat that they aren’t as tasty as typical cookies, there are a few things that you can do to make use out of them.
One thing that you could consider, depending on just how flat the cookies are, is using them as the top and bottom parts for an ice cream sandwich.
The taste of the ice cream will often overpower the taste of a cookie that didn’t get enough flour or if the baking sheet was too hot. Plus, ice cream sandwiches with cookies often call for specifically flat cookies to make them easier to hold, turning your flat cookies into a tasty summer treat.
You can also consider crushing and grinding down the cookies into crumbs and using them as a cookie crust for a variety of other foods. From the crust of a cheesecake to pie crust, people use cookie crusts as an alternative to pie crusts whenever they want to add a little bit more flavor to their baked goods.
Plus, even if your cookies don’t taste the best because of how they turned out, doing this can put them to good use where they can become a tasty part of other recipes.
Other baking recipes might call for crushed or ground up cookies to add a little bit of flavor to them. While there are some cookies that are traditionally used in “cookies and crème” flavored desserts, you may want to consider replacing those cookies with the crumbled bits of cookies from your current batch of cookies.
This can leave you with a unique twist on a classic flavor of dessert.
Finally, sometimes crumbled cookies can make the perfect topping on other desserts. Parfaits, ice cream, cake, and more all can benefit from having cookie crumbs decorating the tops. These crumbs will add a little bit of flavor to your dish, but they are more commonly used to add texture to the dessert as well.
There’s a very good reason why people say that cookies are one of the most versatile desserts out there.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.