You know that moment when you’re baking a pan of cookies and you smell burnt cookie. And for a second you think, “Oh no! I forgot to take them out!” But then, you see the timer and realize that something even worse has happened. The cookies have spread… and are dripping off the edges of the pan to burn in the bottom of your oven. Which not only means that you won’t get the cookies that you’ve been craving for days, but you also wasted a bunch of gluten free flour and need to clean your oven. Woohoo! (yes, that was sarcastic)
Rather than go through that experience again, you need a solution. A solution that fixes that GF cookie recipes once and for all. Enter Brenda and a conversation that we had on Facebook over the weekend:
I need help with cookie dough. Seems I find a recipe I want to make, and the dough spreads so much that the cookies are more like a crisp than cookie. I usually add a little more flour/starch, and when I bake the second pan they are a little better…the process repeats itself until I bake all the dough.
Sometimes I get it to where the dough is the right consistency, but by then I am clueless on what to write down as to changes for the next time I make the recipe, since each time I add more flour, there’s that much less cookie dough to work with…
Brenda had worked out the solution to cookies that spread too much: more flour. She just needed help developing a more formal strategy for figuring out how much more flour was really needed.
The recipes that Brenda knew would spread too much were going to be her starting point. The only other tools that she needed were a notebook and paper, and ideally a scale.
First thing, write down the original recipe that you’re working from and label it as such. Mix up a batch of this recipe and then weigh the entire recipe. Let’s assume that it makes 24 oz. If you’d like to convert one of your favorite cookies recipes to gluten free ingredients, start with your recipe and simply substitute an equal amount of your favorite gluten free flour mix for the flour specified in the recipe.
Now divide the dough into 2, or 3 or 4 portions – depending on how many pans of cookies it’s going to make. (We’ll assume 3 for this example). Now go back to your notebook and divide the original recipe by thirds and write out that new recipe 3 times, labeling them Trial 1, Trial 2, and Trial 3.
Now take one portion of the dough and measure the amount of flour that you add to it – note that in your notebook for Trial 1, then go ahead and bake this recipe.
Based on how the Trial 1 cookies turn out, decide whether you want to add even more flour to the Trial 2 batch, or an amount somewhere between the Trial 1 and original recipe. Repeat steps 3 and 4 as long as you have dough to work with.
After I posted these instructions to Facebook, Brenda replied that she would be trying them with a molasses cookie recipe:
I have a molasses cookie recipe here I think I will try it with. My family loves (or should I say, used to love) them. Since going gluten free, we haven’t found a recipe that bakes up right. Usually they spread all over the pan and we end up just scraping them off the pan and eating them that way!!
The results followed pretty quickly:
Yay!! The molasses cookies were almost right the last pan I baked (after adjusting the flour with each pan). Going to try them again with a few more adjustments, adding a different flour in that I saw used in another recipe. I may get the hang of this yet!! Thanks a bunch!! I’ll snap a picture of my final batch.
Brenda is well on her way to conquering her molasses cookie recipe, but you may be wondering if she (and you) will need to follow this testing procedure for every single cookie recipe that you ever want to make.
The answer is “No!”
Once you have the recipe that way that you want it, weigh the ingredients. Seriously. Make it one last time and weigh the ingredients and write down the weighted version of the recipe in your notebook.
Then, look at the measurements and figure out what the ratio of flour to sugar is for this particular recipe. Also note the ratio of sugar: butter.
Write these ratios down in your notebook under the heading “GF Cookie Ratios for _______ Flour Mix” Be sure to draw two or three big squares around all of this so that you can find your ratios easily.
Now, the next time that you want to make a gluten free cookie recipe with that specific flour mix, you can compare the recipe to these rations *before you start* and have a really good ideas as to whether the recipe is going to need more flour to keep it from spreading.
Cookie baking seems like it should be simple. You just have to take the cookie dough out of the freezer and plop it on a baking sheet, right?
Baking cookies from scratch is not quite so simple. Here are some cookie baking tips from the cookie research that I did this morning before my sugar cookie baking bonanza.
Baking Gluten-Free cookies can be a tricky. Cookies are more complicated than they appear, and there are plenty of ways to to mess them up. When I first started baking gluten free cookies, I thought the problem was the gluten free dough. But, it turns out, I just didn’t know good cookie baking techniques. So here are a few tips to improve your cookie baking skills.
Cookies are a delicate balance of flour, fat, and sugar. If one ingredient gets out of whack, then you cookies may all run together, or not spread at all, or any other number of undesirable results.
This of course assumes that you can find cookie recipes that give weight measurements. I think these are worth hunting for because they allow you to get at least one variable in your cookie making exactly right.
If you don’t have a scale or can’t find good recipes with weights, at least be sure to use liquid measuring cups for the liquid ingredients and dry measuring cups for the dry ingredients. It does make a difference! Hopefully the recipe will also tell you whether the flour should be scooped or spooned into the cup – that makes a difference too.
Be sure to preheat your oven to the correct temperature. Don’t slide the cookies into a cold oven unless the recipes specifically tells you to. Oven temperature is important because it’s one factor in determining how much the cookie dough spreads before it sets.
If you’re making several batches of cookies, be sure to use several cookies sheets. You need the cookie sheets to have time to cool down before you put the next batch on them. If you don’t, the cookie dough will heat up too quickly and the cookies will spread too much.
I hate it when cookies stick to the pan and for some reason it took me years to figure out what makes that happen. Cookies stick because the sugar in the cookies starts to cool down and harden – and it sticks to the pan. To avoid this problem, remove the cookies from the cookie sheet and put them onto a cooling rack as soon as you can move them with a spatula. We’re talking 1 – 2 minutes after they come out of the oven! If you think you’ll forget to do this then parchment papers or silicone mats are your friend.
I know that it’s tempting to substitute fats when you have dairy and soy allergies, or just for health reasons. When you do this, be sure to substitute a fat that has a similar melting point. For example, if you can’t use butter, then use Earth Balance sticks that are suitable for baking.
Don’t use coconut oil which has a melting point of around 76 degrees. If you do, the fat will melt too quickly and drip out of your cookies and onto the bottom of your stove….causing lots of smoke. I’m sure you can guess how I figured this one out =)
You have a choice of two assignments this week”
Find a GF cookie recipe that spreads like crazy, or pick a recipe that you’d like to convert to a GF flour mix, and then follow the steps listed above to create a perfect gluten free cookie recipe.
Buy a notebook for your kitchen. Stash the notebook in a drawer or cabinet where it will be at hand, and start getting in the habit of jotting down notes about your baking. Keeping track of all of the variables that may impact each recipe is incredibly helpful in speeding up learning curve and of gluten free baking.