Are you wondering why your cookies didn’t spread out in the oven? I’ve put together 5 common reasons why your cookies didn’t flatten when baked so you can make your perfect cookie next time.
One of the most common baking questions I get asked is about cookies. Some have trouble with their cookies spreading too much in the oven, while others can’t get their cookies to spread out at all.
Both issues are very common – and thankfully, easy to to remedy when you can understand where you may have gone wrong.
Here are some of the most common reasons why your cookies didn’t flatten in the oven.
1. You added too much flour
One of the most common reasons why cookies didn’t spread out in the oven is because you added too much flour. Cookies rely on the perfect ratio of butter to flour in order to spread just the right amount when baked.
It’s very easy to over measure flour when using cup measurements. You need to spoon your flour into your cups and then level the tops. Don’t pack it down or scoop it out of the flour packet using the cup – it’s too easy to be out 50 grams or more just by that alone.
The sizing of cup measurements can also differ in different countries and different brands. With baking, accuracy is one of the most important keys to success.
To ensure accuracy every time, I recommend using a kitchen scale every time you bake and going by gram measurements if you can. At the very least, when making cookies, measure out your flour and/or cocoa powder using your kitchen scale.
2. You chilled the cookie dough for too long
If your cookie dough is cold, it won’t spread as much in the oven. This is great if you have trouble with your cookies spreading too much, but on the flip side, it may mean your cookies hardly spread out at all.
If the cookie recipe you are using doesn’t call for chilling the dough – you don’t need to. If you chill the dough for convenience, say if you are making the cookies the next day, bring the cookie dough back to room temperature before baking.
One thing I always do is bake ONE tester cookie first. Then if your cookie didn’t spread enough, leave the cookie dough to come to room temperature before baking the remaining cookies. If it spread too much, you can put it back in the fridge to chill for a bit longer.
3. Your butter wasn’t at the right temperature
If your butter is too soft and warm, your cookies may spread too much. In the same way, if your butter was too cold, your cookies may not spread enough.
In my recipe for Thick Chocolate Chip Cookies I use cold butter because I don’t want my cookies to spread much as we are trying to make a thick and chunky cookie.
But if your recipe calls for room temperature butter, make sure your butter is at room temperature. It should be soft enough to indent with your finger but not melty or completely squishy. Using cold butter may prevent your cookies from spreading.
This is why many recipes that use melted butter (like my Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies) call for chilling the dough – otherwise your cookies will flatten too much in the oven.
4. Your oven wasn’t at the correct temperature
One of the most important aspects of baking is making sure your oven temperature is just right. If your oven is too hot or too cold, it may influence whether or not your cookies spread properly.
If you didn’t preheat your oven to the correct temperature before placing your tray of cookies in the oven, it will be too cold and your cookies won’t have enough time to spread.
I recommend buying an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is correctly preheated to the right temperature before placing your cookies in the oven.
Also darker aluminium cookie sheets or oven trays can also prevent cookies from spreading. Try using different trays to see if there’s a difference. Always line your trays with baking or parchment paper to help prevent sticking.
5. You changed the recipe
Most cookie recipes are carefully formulated to contain just the right amount of fat/flour ratio so they spread out in the oven. Or in some cases, the cookie recipe will require you to flatten the cookies before baking if they haven’t been designed to spread naturally.
If you reduce the amount of butter or oil in a recipe, your cookies won’t spread as much. If you add too much flour, your cookies won’t spread as much. If your cookies have more brown sugar than white sugar, they won’t spread as much.
It’s a careful balance. So make sure you follow the exact measurements and instructions in the recipe at least once. After that, you may want to play around a bit to get your perfect cookie.