Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dense Cookies, or is it the Cook?

This is great!!! I have a family cookie recipe that was handed down from my grandmother. But, I still can't make them as good as she did. I recall them as these light, almost cake-like devil's food cookies with buttercream frosting. Instead, when I make them they feel thick and heavy. Not crumbly, but very dense. Oh Flour Garden, what am I doing wrong? I know Grandma Drury is rolling over every time is bake them. Is there a secret to making light, airy, non-dense cookies?

Sincerely,
Too Dense for Words in Athens, OH
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Dear Too Dense for Words in Athens,
What a dilemma! There are several potential problems going on here and luckily for you not all of them point to the cook! My first guess, however, is that the cookie dough is overworked.

Here are some tips that will help you problem-solve when encountering this problem in the future.

1. Check your ingredients! Are you using flour that is too high in protein? Cake-like cookies often want a lower protein flour. Perhaps Grandma Drury used cake flour. Rising agents are fickle and can become inactive if stored at the wrong temp or are simply too old. Always use fresh baking powder or baking soda. Alternatively, are you using baking soda when it calls for baking powder?

2. Size matters! At least when it comes to eggs it does. Be sure you are using enough egg. When baking always use large eggs unless otherwise stated and be sure to beat them in well with the butter and sugar. This will ensure you are incorporating the appropriate amount and giving the cookie the 'lift' you are looking for.

3. Gentle is always better. When incorporating your dry ingredients into the wet be sure to use gentle, folding strokes and do not over mix. Folding in at too high of a speed stimulates the rising agent allowing too many of the gas bubbles to escape. At the same time, mixing at higher speeds means you are developing the gluten structure of the flour. This devastating combination can easily result in a dense cookie.

4. Finally, check your oven thermometer as it may be off. Baking at too low of a temperature doesn't allow the rising agent to give the cookie the lift you are looking for.

Thanks for writing us. Please keep in touch and send in a picture of these incredible angel-like cookies the next time you make them!

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