Latest Recipe Testing

Time for another recipe testing post! I launched this recipe testing series in 2018 because I know many of you are equally passionate about learning the hows and whys of baking.

My latest recipe testing adventures include cookies. I tested a new cookie recipe earlier this month and while batch #1 was a complete fail and tasted horrendous, I knew you’d be fascinated with the results. See the photo above? The cookie on the left came from batch #2. Still a little room for improvement in terms of flavor, but far better than batch #1, pictured on the right. That blob of a cookie not only over-spread, it was greasy, delicate, and too crispy. Here’s what I fixed:

  1. Less butter. Butter is obviously a cookie favorite, but it’s easy to go overboard. Too much butter means over-spreading, over-crispy, and over-greasy. There’s not enough dry ingredients to soak it all up.
  2. More flour. To soak up the fat and provide structure to the cookie. There was a little too much flour in batch #2 and the cookies tasted a little cakey. But batch #3, pictured below, was perfection.
  3. Longer chill time. I chilled batch #1 for only 30 minutes and batches #2 and #3 for 1 hour. What a difference!

Cookie recipe will be published on Friday. 🙂

And because it’s always nice to have a refresher, here are some of my cookie baking tips.

How to Prevent Cookies from Spreading

  1. Chill cookie dough. Not all cookie dough requires the chilling step– and I normally determine that by how the cookie dough looks and feels. If the cookie dough is particularly sticky, wet, or greasy– chilling it is a good idea. The colder the dough, the less the cookies are likely to over-spread into greasy puddles. You’ll have thicker, sturdier, and more solid cookies. After chilling, let your cookie dough sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes (or longer, depending on how long the dough has chilled) before rolling into balls and baking. Your cookie dough may be a solid rock, so letting it slightly loosen up helps. The dough will still be much more solid than it was pre-chilling.
  2. Chill cookie dough balls. Sometimes after I roll cookie dough into balls to bake them, I place the balls on a paper plate and put the entire plate in the refrigerator or freezer. Then I preheat the oven. This firms up the balls which may have gotten a little soft while handling with our warm hands. The extra 10 minutes really helps.
  3. Use a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Coating your baking sheet with nonstick spray or butter creates an overly greasy foundation, causing the cookies to spread. I always recommend a silicone baking mat because they grip onto the bottom of your cookie dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much. These mats also promote even browning. They can get greasy, but I wrote an entire blog post about cleaning silicone baking mats!
  4. Never place cookie dough balls onto a hot baking sheet. Always room temperature baking sheets.
  5. Butter may have been too warm. If a recipe calls for softened room temperature butter, make sure it’s still cool to touch. Here is correct room temperature butter.
  6. Under-measuring the flour. Less flour means less to absorb all the wet ingredients in your cookie dough. Spoon and level that flour or, better yet, weigh your flour.
  7. Don’t overmix the cookie dough ingredients. Cream the butter and sugar for only as long as you need to. Don’t begin beating then leave the room with the mixer running. I’m guilty of this too! But whipping too much air into the dough will cause those cookies to collapse during bake-time. I guarantee that.

TWO QUESTIONS

  1. Have you ever heard of Smith Island Cake? It’s the official dessert of Maryland!
  2. Favorite flatbread or pizza toppings? Looking for flatbread recipe inspiration 🙂

118 Comments

  1. Isn’t Smith Island Cake also known as Dobos Torte? Will be interesting to see if your cake is similar.
    Really like a Pizza as long as it is not oozing loads of melted cheese. I love cheese in its normal state but please not melted all over my Pizza!!

  2. Sally,
    Pizza toppings here are a little different than the ones I would get in the US. Our new favorite place will sometimes add toppings after the pizza comes out of the oven. I have started loving goat cheese on my pizza as well as creme fraiche but an egg on top still is not my favorite. I have not seen flat breads around…but now you make me want to look!

  3. I always try to chill my cookie dough balls overnight. But the cookies still turn out a bit flat sometimes. Last week I baked some leftover frozen balls, and they had the perfect thickness! I think I may always bake from frozen from now on.

  4. I have heard of Smith Island Cake….. probably because I am from MD. I have not attempted to make it yet but would love to try. As far as Flatbread….I love them all!!!

  5. Favorite flat bread recipe:
    Dry ranch mix mixed with oil spread on naan bread with fresh spinach, cooked asparagus, sliced chicken, fresh mozzarella, shaved parmesan, salt, pepper

  6. Thanks for all the tips!!! Nothing like a thicke chewy cookie!!! I have never heard of Smith Island cake!!! And flatbread topping, anything with basil!!!!

  7. We like a thin coating of fig jelly on flat bread or pizza crust, then top with grilled chicken, goat cheese, roasted garlic, and sauteed onions. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar when out of the oven.

    1. I had something very similar to that but instead of chicken it had prosciutto and arugula. Amazing! The perfect balance of sweet, salty, savory and spicy.

  8. Hi Sally.
    I have not heard of Smith Island Cake at all.
    I like a garlic flat bread with butter, pizza sauce ,
    Mozzarella cheese and pepperoni on it baked for a little while in the oven ontil the cheese melts.
    It is really delicious.
    Have a good night

  9. I have never heard of that cake before! So now I’m curious…
    As for flatbreads, I recently had an amazing one at a newly discovered cafe in one of our favorite places, St. Augustine, FL. It had gorgonzola cheese, roasted pear, prosciutto, toasted almond, arugula salad and drizzled with honey. It was heaven! I am still thinking about it!

  10. I have not heard of Smith Island Cake, but now I am intrigued. 🙂

    I have been making a pizza lately with a drizzle of olive oil, then a layer of caramelized onions, topped with some proscuitto and sliced brie. Sprinkle a little fresh thyme and bake. It’s my current favorite. I haven’t done it yet, but I think a drizzle of balsamic reduction would be nice on it too.

  11. I read about Smith Island Cake in American Cake by Anne Byrne (?). May have gotten her last name wrong but basically whoever the Cake Mix Doctor is and I have to recommend that book to you-it is entirely fascinating! As a baker I think you just have to read it! And it looks delicious. No flatbread info for you, sorry!

  12. I stumbled upon Smith island cake when my som requested a 10-layer cake for his 8th birthday. we were on vacation in a rental so I opted to order one from the source and have it shipped. It was delectable. The fudgy frosting was our favorite part!

    There is a flatbread at a local restaurant here that is topped with walnut purée, mushrooms, and fontina, and it is the best way I can imagine to enjoy a flatbread!

  13. Wait….. what? Aren’t Berger Cookies the official dessert of Maryland? (So asks the former Baltimorean that reluctantly moved to Boston a very long time ago.) Sally, just want you to know I’m on a business trip this week and the request has already been put in to make your brownies when I get back. Wonder if the kids will let me unpack first?

    1. HAHAHA! Don’t you know brownies are 100x more important than unpacking?! And I know, I’m surprised berger cookies aren’t the official dessert of MD. They’re the BEST.

  14. I make pizza/flatbread largely with leftover ingredients-especially pesto. At this time of year, I would pair with mozzarella, zucchini and home grown tomatoes plus any meat if you have it.

  15. Hi Sally!

    My problem is cookiesnot spreading enough… basically they remain fat mounds. I’m not over-chilling, my oven temp is fine and I weigh my ingredients, any other ideas ?

      1. Sometimes I wonder if my dough is too cold. I’ll leave balls in the fridge for an entire day and they don’t seem to spread very much when I bake them. Would letting them sit out before baking for a bit prevent this? If so, about how long would you suggest? I LOVE thick cookies and don’t mind this, but once in a while, I’d like a change in texture (in between thick and flat, so Goldilocks cookies, hehe).

        Also, I’ve seen people post pictures of cookies that they put straight from the freezer to the oven and they don’t turn out all puffy and thick, so that confuses me because mine aren’t frozen.

  16. Years ago, my roommates and I would drop everything for one hour every week to watch “Party of Five.” Included in our weekly night in was a pizza from our local pizza place that had olive oil, Italian seasonings, light sauce, feta cheese and pepper rings…DELICIOUS!!! On the way home from picking it up, we also HAD to stop at the ice cream shop to EACH get a hand dipped pint of our favorite ice cream. Thanks for asking a question that brought back some fond memories (& thoughts of a time when I could eat like that without regret)!

    I hope you’re getting some great ideas to share…

  17. Smith island cake is great and be made with so many flavors. They have a mini “museum” on the island, you have to take a ferry to get there, that has the recipe in one of the cases. It’s a short detour if your going to ocean city.

  18. Even when I chill overnight, I find I almost always have to add about 2 Tbsp flour to your cookie recipes to prevent too much spreading—and I measure by weight to begin with! 2Tbsp doesn’t seem like much, but it made a HUGE difference when I made your grocery store floury sugar cookie copycats from your cookbook. (Way better than the grocery store’s in the end, btw!) Since then most of your cookie recipes I go by “how it looks” and usually end up adding ~2Tbsp more flour before chilling. I’ve wondered why that is! Because with cakes/cupcakes my by-weight measurements from your recipes work perfectly. So I can’t tell whether it’s my scale or my off brand flour or what.

    1. It could be a variety of things from the weather, altitude, brand of flour, how soft the butter is, etc. Lots of variables come into play, but I’m glad you found a system that works! Thank you so much for baking my recipes 🙂

  19. These are such great tips Sally! my cookies are always hit or miss, so definitely will apply some of these tips.

    Never heard of Smith Island Cake

    pizza toppings – pepperoni and pineapple are my go to toppings on my pizza 🙂

  20. Do you have any Keto cookie recipes? I am looking for thin and crispy type. I love all your other recipes but I have been using the keto diet and I would love to be able to eat cookies, especially my thin and crispy toll house type cookies.

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