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. I love these types of posts, they’re so insightful! I didn’t know that Marylands dessert was the Smith Island cake (and I’m from MD). Do you like them? As for pizza topping inspiration… arugula, fig, brie and hot honey!

  2. OMG I had a major cookie disaster this week too, Sally! Tried a new recipe for simply oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, and they spread ALLL over my baking tray in my hot kitchen. I mean, they tasted good, but I was still so disappointed in myself! Had to make a new batch the next day to re-instill my confidence in my baking skills.

    As for Smith Island Cake, no I’ve never heard of it! But that might be because I’m Canadian. I’d love to see a recipe for it anyways though hahah.

    Have you heard of BEAVERTAILS? Those are MY favourite classic Canadian dessert.

  3. I have never heard of that cake, sorry! I do love a flatbread and pizza that has baby Bella mushrooms, goat cheese, mozzarella, and spinach! It’s a white pizza and I love this combination together!

  4. Hi Sally! Love all your recipes and use them all the time so thank you! My question is: can you roll/scoop cookie dough into balls before chilling and then bake them? Or does chilling the whole batch intact first make a difference? Thank you!

  5. That cake is new to me!
    As for flatbread toppings, I love a margarita with the freshest of tomato sauce, fresh mozz, and basil. I also love a no sauce pizza option with the crust brushed with olive oil, some mozzarella cheese, lots of gorgonzola, red onion caramelized with balsamic vinegar, and kalamata olives with a bit of oregano.

  6. I would love to try a Smith Island cake! As for pizza/flatbread toppings, right now I am loving bbq for the sauce, topped with lots of mozzarella, diced grilled chicken, bacon crumbles, red onion, and pineapple. So good!!

  7. Never heard of the Smith Island Cake but it does sound fancy! My favorite flatbread topping: I slice fresh tomatoes and use that as my sauce (or you can dice them), then I add basil on top, then pineapple and some cheese. Sometimes, we clean out the refrigerator and throw whatever is in the refrigerator on top of the pizza before the cheese whether that be roast beef, steak, fajita meet, onions, peppers, just anything. I do like my flatbread cooked on the grill just until the cheese is melted – now, I am getting hungry just talking about this.

  8. Hi, Sally, I’ve never heard of the cake, but I would like to. :). What about some kind of vegetarian flat bread? I had to become a vegetarian for health reasons and I’m always looking for yummy new ideas. 🙂

    1. Hi there
      our favourite is fig and caramelised onion with crumbled blue cheese on top – veggie and delicious

  9. Going to Google Smith Island Cake right now! My favourite pizza has pizza sauce, mild Italian sausage, green olives, and, sometimes, mushrooms. Not very fancy, but I love it!

  10. I have never had or made a Smith Island Cake before, but all those layers look fun to make and the chocolate ganache frosting looks amazing!!! I would also like to know the history behind how this cake came to be. I love watching the show Food Fact or Fiction to learn about food history. For the pizza- I usually like perperoni pizza with green bell peppers and bannah peppers. Although, I’ll try anything. I love to be adventurous with food, and learn to make new creatations! I’m so excited to see your post on the cookies, cake, and flatbread pizzas! Honestly, I look forward to your post every week because I love to try something new in baking and new flavors. It’s gets old eating the same stuff all the time, so why not always try something new! God gave me the gift of encouraging people through God’s Word and the gift of cooking/baking, so why not use it to the fullest?! ♥️♥️‍♀️‍♀️

  11. I have Duff Goldman’s recipe for Smith Island Cake! Delicious!! I’m excited to see your adaptation. And any pizza topping is good ( except sausage!!) When loaded with provel cheese!!!

  12. I have never heard of Smith Island cake, but I looked it up and it looks yummy. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite, and I love fudgy chocolate frostings, but haven’t had luck making one that I like.

    I am pretty plain when it comes to pizza toppings, my faves are sausage and pepperoni with black olives and sometimes mushrooms. I eat pizza literally every week with my family at our local pizza joint, Johnny’s (North Louisiana), and the crust is soft very lightly sweet and made with beer. I have moved a lot and tried a lot of pizza, and it’s still my favorite. (But everyone has their own preferences when it comes to pizza, I’ve learned!) I haven’t forayed much into flatbreads, but I would love a flatbread crust recipe to dump random things on. I have some cauliflower alfredo sauce from Pinch of Yum in my fridge right now that I need to use up or freeze pretty soon….

  13. I’ve had the Smith Island cake. It was just “ok” to me, looked nice and pretty though! Not something I would tackle in the kitchen– I think your yellow sheet cake w/ fudge icing is 100x better! As far as pizza-pesto, tomato, garlic & cheese, or just margharita flatbread (the kind from BJ’s is great!)

      1. Good – I was going to reply with pesto as a favorite topping, too! Nut-free makes it harder so I’m still searching for a good recipe. (and my allergic son also has celiac disease but I buy pre-made GF crusts or mixes that I’d use for this)

        Fellow Loyola Girl, here, so I’ve heard of Smith Island but not this cake. Looks impressive!

  14. I have heard of Smith Island Cake and hope to sample some later this summer as I live in Maryland. As for flat breads – I was obsessed with chicken, sliced pepperochini (banana peppers), ranch and mozzarella but I have moved on to beef, bell peppers, onions, and white American cheese.

  15. I love basil and roasted garlic pizza. I usually sprinkle the dried basil over the cheese and place roasted garlic cloves all over the top. It’s especially good on sourdough pizza crust (King Arthur Flour’s if you want to try it out )

  16. I have never heard of Smith Island Cake and it sounds interesting! My favorite pizza toppings are Canadian Bacon, Pineapple, and BACON!!!

  17. Will google Smiith Island cake!
    Pizza toppings…vegetarian …don’t like lots of meat…
    BUT, recently had a breakfast pizza, with Portuguese sausage, peppers, onions and egg…
    couldn’t stop eating it…so, I would like some breakfast pizza ideas!
    Love your blog, website and you!

  18. Hi sally, can’t wait for another cookie recipe. I’ve never heard of Smith Island cake, but will google it to find out what it is. As for flatbread, I love Mozzarella and caramelized onions topped with fresh sliced tomatoes and tossed arugula in balsamic vinegar. Have you ever had arugula on your pizza? It’s a must try. Good luck with the flatbreads!

  19. I lived in Maryland for quite a while but never heard of the Smith Island Cake. I do enjoy breakfast pizza’s. My husband had never eaten a breakfast pizza and was quite uncertain if he would enjoy it. He is now converted!

  20. Flat bread toppings, fig jam and Brie, when it comes out of the oven top with arugula and drizzle with balsamic reduction . Prosciutto and mango, again once out, arugula and balsamic reduction. Pesto sauce, prawns, sun dried tomato and feta, squeeze of fresh lemon juice when out of oven

  21. My example: If my cookie calls for a cup of butter. I use 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of crisco. They do not spread and they are chewey. I use bread flour, chill the dough and my family is happy.

  22. YES Smith Island Cake! I’ve lived in Maryland my whole life, but was not introduced to Smith Island Cake until after college when I moved to Baltimore – it’s the BEST! One restaurant I’ve been to even had a Red Velvet version!

  23. Here you go, Sally: https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Smith-Island-Cake-1000089756. It looks delicious!

  24. Hmm… Smith island cake isn’t ringing any bells.

    As someone who prefers flatbread pizza over regular pizza, I suggest you try bannock pizza. Its so perfectly dense and sturdy enough to hold a generous amount of topping.

  25. Hi Sally! How do you approach tasting when recipe testing like this? I’m currently obsessed with making my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. There are so many adjustable variables though…I end up tasting a lot to observe the results! That’s not necessarily a bad thing on occasion but doesn’t feel great to do as frequently as I’d like to experiment. I’m just curious how professionals do it!

    1. Hey Robin! I typically reserve 1-2 days per week for recipe testing. I test as many recipes as I can which equates to long days in the kitchen and a lot of food. I take a lot of notes. I taste it all myself, but definitely appreciate the opinion from others so it’s extra nice when there’s family, friends, or neighbors around to help! I try to plan my recipe testing days around times when we have plans so I can give all the baked items away and get some feedback in return!

      1. Thank you! That sounds like a good way to do it. I’m sure all of your neighbors love you! 🙂

  26. I’ve never heard of Smith Island Cake, but it looks interesting after viewing images of it!

    I fear I was ruined for pizza after having been to Italy a few times and nothing really compares. If I do eat pizza, I make my own and it’s generally very traditional with lots of red sauce, a little cheese and basil. Occasionally I may add mushrooms or little mild sausage.

  27. The timing of this blog post was PERFECT! I’m a new baker and trying to perfect chocolate chip cookies. The flavor is perfect but the cookies are super flat. I’ve made the following changes: switched to silicon mat, chilled my dough, switched to unsalted butter (can’t believe I missed that in the recipe) and now I’m thinking I’m over mixing my butter/sugar in the first step. Can you describe how “just mixed” looks? I mixed until it was perfect…not a speck of butter showing through….then mixed a bit more. 🙂

    1. Hi Shay! Are you asking about the creamed butter/sugar? Mix the two together until creamy and fully combined. Usually only takes a minute, no longer than 2 minutes.

      1. Yes, that’s exactly what I was asking and I tried it again last night watching carefully and it worked perfectly! Thanks for the great tips…I’m learning SO. MUCH.

  28. Hi, Sally! I love all of your recipes. I so glad you posted this because the one thing I always have an issue with is how my cookies spread. However, my problem is that my cookies don’t spread very much or sometimes at all. They usually end up looking like small, fluffy mounds instead of cookies that you’d find in a bakery or even like the pictures you post. I always chill my dough and use a scale to measure my ingredients. What could be causing this?

    Thank you so much!!

    1. Hi Noel! I recommend reducing the flour by 2 Tablespoons or adding 2 Tablespoons of butter. You can also try skipping chilling. This should all help!

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