The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery at Chez Lane.

Not my mystery, mind you (my family did pies); my wife’s.  She’s making her mom’s from-scratch chocolate chip cookies, and they’re just not spreading out in cooking the way that she remembers them doing when she was a kid.  We’ve just finished discussing the possible reasons why; she’s fiddled with the margarine, the mixing, and whatnot, but to no avail.  I think that it may be the oven, but that just may be my general opinion about electric ovens vs. gas*.

Thoughts, folks?  Bear in mind that the cookies taste fine; she just wants to duplicate the way that they came out for her mom.

Moe Lane

*I just don’t think that you get the same browning on your roast beef from electric that you get from a gas oven.

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  • acat says:

    Generally, gas is preferred for cooktops, but electric is the thing to have for the oven ..
    Gas stove burners cut the heat immediately when you turn off the gas, but gas oven temperatures fluctuate quite a bit because they can’t be as tightly sealed as electric.
    This leads some wannabe-professional cooks to spend a *lot* of money for .. stuff like this:
    That said .. if I had to *guess* .. the margarine should be at room temperature and the humidity in an electric oven is lower, both of which could affect spread.
    Three things to try, in no particular order…
    Try lowering the temperature by 15 degrees; your oven could be slightly too hot, leading to the cookies not spreading (as the margarine melts) before they dry out…
    Try shifting the cookie rack one level closer to the top, where they’ll catch a bit more heat off the heating coil.. but do watch ’em closely as they can scorch!
    When you start the pre-heat process, try putting a 13x9x2 pan with about 1″ of water on the very bottom rack, this’ll increase the humidity.
    p.s. once upon a time, baking was .. kind of my thing ..

  • Aetius451AD says:

    Tell her to keep trying until she gets it right.
    Bonus- cookies.

  • Rockphed says:

    I suspect she is using about 5-10% too much flour in the mix. My wife’s roommate’s cookies always did the “spread out until the entire pan is a single cookie” thing. We fixed it by adding a little more flour.

  • Skip says:

    Does her Mother live somewhat south of y’all? One difference might be the flour. Depending on the brand, flour in the south usually comes from winter wheat and is s lot softer. It’s the reason biscuits seem like hockey pucks outside of the south for those of us who grew up there…

    • Luke says:

      Winter wheat can be hard or soft, but the soft white wheat you’re referring to wouldn’t normally be considered a winter variety. Winter varieties are almost invariably red.
      Agricultural trivia aside, this could very well explain things.
      It should be easy enough to test.
      Substitute a quarter of your regular all purpose flour with cake flour, and you should be pretty close.

  • Finrod says:

    If you don’t have an oven thermometer, I’d recommend getting one. Many ovens are notoriously bad at actually being at the temperature you’re setting them to and there’s no easy way to tell otherwise what the actual oven temperature is.

  • jeboyle says:


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