In this issue of Smart Cookies, I would like to introduce a new feature in addition to the regularly interesting article. Instead of a recipe comparison, I am presenting a few common cookie baking problems, causes, and solutions. You will also see a very brief humorous anecdote instead of the usual baking tips.

So put all your worries aside momentarily, and let Smart Cookies entertains you.



“Mom, can we bake cookies?”

This question would often triggered a typical conversation at our house when I was a little girl. It continued on like this.

“Sure, honey. What do you want to bake?”

Chocolate chip cookies with big chunks of chocolate,” said I.

“Alright. But we’re out of eggs and I can’t go to the market until Saturday. How about chocolate shortbread cookies? They’re just as delicious.”

“I guess.” That was always my response after I dramatically let out a huge sigh. My love for homemade cookies did not put me in a position to say, “That’s alright, Mom. I’ll wait ‘til Saturday.”

In retrospect, it seemed to me that my mother never had all the key ingredients for the cookies I wanted to bake. We always had to improvise and ended up baking what she suggested.

My mother had, and still does, a resourceful collection of, what I like to call, improvisational cookie recipes. It gave us the ability to conjure cookies from whatever ingredients she had in her pantry and refrigerator.

If flour is missing, we would bake flourless chocolate chewies, or almond chocolate macaroons, or flourless peanut butter cookies.

If we were short on butter, I would inevitably be munching on applesauce cookies, or peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that had neither flour nor butter.

It was never a problem when we were out of chocolate. Eating blondies instead of brownies always satisfied my sweet tooth. Besides, we all know that cocoa can perfectly substitute for chocolate.

On rare occasions, my mother would say, “I don’t feel like baking today, but we can still make cookies. Do you prefer peanut butter chocolate crunch bars or puffy rice date cookies?

None of my mother improvisational cookie recipes has ever failed my high standard for great taste. As we ate our freshly baked homemade cookies, my mother would say, “Honey, thanks for adding the most important ingredient as always, your flexible attitude.”


Problems Causes Solutions
Cookies are too dark on the bottom. Baking sheets are too thin or too dark. Use shiny heavy gauge aluminum baking sheets. Or insulate a lightweight baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil or a second baking sheet.
Cookies were baked on the lower oven shelf. Bake cookies on middle oven shelf for even browning.
Baking sheets were over-greased. Use a thin, even layer of shortening or unsalted butter or margarine to grease baking sheets.
Cookies are too dry or too moist Overbaking or underbaking Always check cookies a few minutes before the minimum time indicated in recipes to avoid overbaking.
Use an oven thermometer, if possible, for accurate oven temperature.
Bake underdone cookies a few minutes longer.

You can find these tips in The Joy of Cookies written by Sharon Tyler Herbst and published by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1987.


In his book The Cook’s Bible, Christopher Kimball related this funny anecdote.

His culinary mentor, Malvina Kinard, asked one of her students to separate 7 eggs. She came back a few minutes later to find 3 eggs in one bowl and 4 in the other.

I bid you farewell on that note. Please share this newsletter with other cookie lovers you know. ‘Til next time, free your mind of hatred by filling your days with sweet thoughts.

Published date: October 26, 2006

Copyright 2006 by Trinh Lieu. All right reserved.