#27 How Do I Keep My Sugar Cookies from Spreading?
Episode #27 How Do I Keep My Sugar Cookies from Spreading?
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Supplies That Help Keep My Sugar Cookies from Spreading:
(contains affiliate links)
- Food Scale- I don’t see the exact food scale I have. I bought it a few years back and I’m sure the design has changed, but I did find one at Walmart and one on Amazon that looks a lot like mine. They’d work great for weighing your baking supplies. The one at Walmart is under $20 and the one on Amazon is under $30. Like I said in the podcast, I don’t want you to use these links to buy them unless you want to. I wanted to use the links so you’ll have an idea of what I use. My suggestion is to find a food scale that’s affordable, measures in grams, kilograms, ounces, and pounds and looks like it would be easy to clean because we all know how flour and powder sugar can make your kitchen surfaces look as if it snowed indoors.
- Food Scale at Walmart- This looks almost identical to the food scale I use except the top piece of glass on this one is round and mine is square. Food Scale at Amazon
- Flexible Cutting Mats
- Fondant Smoother
- Oven Thermometer
Do you have questions about sugar cookies spreading? Let me see if I can help a little.
There’s nothing worse than making cookie dough, cutting out your cute little shapes, placing them on a cookie sheet and sticking them in the oven only to remove a baking sheet full of cookies that have spread so much you can’t tell what shapes you baked in the first place. It’s like your heart kind of sinks and melts like those cookies did while they were in the oven.
I have a few tips that might help you prevent that from happening. Here are some questions I get asked a lot.
How do I keep my sugar cookies from spreading when they bake?
Good question! There are several things that can cause your cookies to spread and we’ll cover as many as we can today.
- When I first started baking I had an issue with baking powder. It made my cookies spread to almost twice the size of the cutter that was used. Remember when I said I’m a heavy-handed scooper of flour? I guess I have an issue with teaspoons as well. I decided to cut the amount in my recipe in half and it worked. Sometimes I don’t use baking powder at all and that works as well. If you need a recipe you might want to try my Sugar Cookie Recipe. It only calls for 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder because I already cut the amount in half for you. See if that helps keep you cookies stay closer to the size of the cookie cutter you used to cut them out.
- Don’t over mix your cookie dough when you make it. Cream the butter and sugar for a couple of minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients. Over mixing the dough will add air into it and cause the dough to collapse and get air bubbles when it bakes. Just mix the dough as long as you need to get the ingredients mixed.
- The amount of flour you add to your cookie dough when you’re making it will determine how your cookies turn out. It’s easy to add too much flour if you’re a heavy-handed scooper like me. A great way to handle this is by using a food scale because it will help you use the correct amount of flour and sugar. We’ll talk more about this later because this is one tool I truly need as a baker. I measure my flour, sugar, and powdered sugar and it really helps me get the results I’m looking for!
- If you sprinkle a lot of flour on the surface where you roll out your cookie dough, the dough will pick up that flour and it can cause your cookies to become dry and crumbly. That’s why I love using the Flexible Plastic Cutting Board Mats because they don’t require a lot of flour.
- Is your oven temperature correct? If your cookies spread in the oven it may mean your oven is too cool. This will cause the butter in your cookies to melt instead of letting your cookies bake the way they should. An inexpensive oven thermometer can help you know what the exact temperate of your oven is. One baker told me her oven was twenty-five degrees cooler then she set temperature. Once she adjusted the heat she learned how to bake perfectly shaped sugar cookies. I never imagined an oven would be that many degrees off, and the thermometer helped her realize that.
- Be sure your baking sheets are not warm because your dough will start cooking immediately. Keep your baking sheets room temperature or out of the freezer. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
- Speaking of baking sheets don’t grease them. Grease will tell your cookies it’s okay to spread all over the pan! Guess what cookies? It’s not okay to spread all over the pan! Use parchment paper or a Silpat while baking.
- Once you cut out your cookie shapes you can re-roll your cookie dough. I don’t roll mine over three times because the more you work your dough, the more it will spread when you bake it. I made a post on How Many Times Can You Re-Roll Your Cookie Dough if you’d like to check it out.
- Help! My Cookie Dough is Sticky! I can think of two things that can cause cookie dough to be sticky. Let’s talk about them for a minute. I think your cookie dough needs to be a little cooler so place it in the fridge for a few minutes. Then try to re-roll it and I think you’ll see a difference. I think the amount of flour that was added might be off. This is why a food scale is very important to me. Ever since I bought my scale my cookie dough is perfect. So is my royal icing because I weigh my powdered sugar every single time I make royal icing. The food scale was less than $20 at Wal-Mart and less than $30 on Amazon and you can find the links in the supply list. It’s not a big investment, but a big deal to the way my cookies turn out.
- Another thing I do with my cookies is to place the cutout cookie dough in the freezer before I bake the cookies. I don’t set a time or anything to bake them but the time is usually anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Chilling the dough really helps my cookies hold their shape while they bake.
There are my top 10 tips to help prevent your sugar cookies from spreading. I hope you find something in there that will help your cookies hold their cute cookie cutter shape! It works for me and I hope you find something that works for you!
- Another thing that might be off is your dough may be too warm. This is another reason to put the butter on the counter one hour before you make your cookie dough. The dough won’t be sticky as you’re trying to roll it out. If it’s sticky place it in the refrigerator for about ten minutes and then roll it out. Hopefully, that’ll work.
- If the butter is too cold it won’t mix well because your cookies will be denser, and they probably won’t spread enough in the pan when they bake. Cool butter will work but cold butter won’t make pretty cookies.
- Another thing that works for me is chilling my cookie dough before I bake it. I’m no professional but baking chilled cookie dough helps the cookies hold their shape.
Here’s how my process works:
You can also watch a video on Just Flip That Sugar Cooke Dough if you want to see how I flip that mat after the dough gets cold and I’m ready to cut out the cookie shapes.
- Make your cookie dough and divide it into two or three dough balls.
- Place it on two Flexible Cutting Mats.
- Cover it with plastic wrap and roll it out.
- Chill on the mat in the freezer for 10-15 minutes
- Take it out and remove the plastic wrap from the top and lay it back on the surface of the dough.
- Flip the mat over and carefully remove the Flexible Cutting Mat from the back of the dough.
- Lay the mat back on the dough and turn it right side up with the dough on top.
- Remove the plastic wrap and cut out your cookie shapes. If your dough is frozen (sometimes things happen and we leave the dough in the freezer a little longer then we planned) let it warm up slightly because if you cut frozen dough it will form a crack and break. Or when you try to remove it from the cutter it could break. So you don’t want frozen dough, you just want it chilled so it will cut well.
- As I mentioned before, place the cookie shapes on a baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Since the dough is so cold you won’t mess up the shape of your cookies by picking them up and placing them on the baking sheet.
- Once you get a baking sheet full (be sure to spread them out a little because they’ll rise and spread a little as they’re supposed to do) place the baking sheet back in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to get the cookies really cold. Then bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. Your baking time might be a little different than mine so watch your cookies the first few times you bake to find out how long you should bake them.
- When you remove them from the oven and they’re nice and hot, use the fondant smoother to flatten the tops. Be careful and don’t push down hard because they could stick the fondant smoother and move as you move your hand, Gently press the surface and watch the magic happen. Nice flat beautifully shaped sugar cookies. Let them cool completely before you decorate them.
I’ll also make a post and listed these steps in an FAQ under Bearfoot Basics. It has a PDF you can print out and hang on the fridge. You may not use all the steps but like I said before, maybe there’s a step or two that will help your cookies hold their shape as they bake.
Please let me know if you have any questions about your sugar cookies spreading.
Can’t wait to use all your tips!
Thank you, Lisa. I always learn something new from each post. We appreciate your sharing your tips and talents!
Thank you! Always LOVE your posts, and this one was especially helpful. BTW, wonderful photo of you w/the black headband~ you’re lookin’ great!!! 🙂
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Thank you for a wonderful and timely podcast!
Happy Holiday Baking!
I was new to cutout cookies and royal icing a few years back. I had given up over 40 years ago making decorated cookies. I make many others such as rolled, drop and bar but was always frustrated with beautiful decorated sugar cookies such as those you make. I came across your site and the way I make cookies changed forever! I bought a food scale and the mats. I weigh all my ingredients and follow your instructions regarding chilled dough and cookies. I gratefully thank you for sharing your knowledge and showing the rest of us “how to”. You look wonderfully happy and healthy these days. God Bless!
Lisa, thank you for sharing so much. I’m new to this cookie art. I’ve learned so much from you my family thinks I’ve been attending classes from some school. LOL, Thanks again. God Bless
Good morning, Lisa. May I order a batch of cookies from you?
I don’t sell cookies, but thanks for asking. I love teaching others how to make cookies. 😉
Your tips have improved my sugar cookies by 100% !!