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In general, the most common reason your cookies are not spreading is that there’s too much flour in the cookie dough. When there are too many dry ingredients added to the cookie dough, it becomes too firm. The flour will soak up all the moisture in the dough making it unable to spread while baking.
While making your cookies spread correctly sounds like a simple task, there were many things that need to be managed in order to make that happen. In this article, I will discuss the causes of this problem, how to prevent it from happening again, and how to fix it.
Are Cookies Supposed to Spread While Baking?
As a general rule, cookies are supposed to spread a little bit while baking. This is what gives them their characteristic shape and size. If your cookies are not spreading, it means that there’s not enough flour and something is going wrong in the baking process.
Cookies spread because of the fat in the dough. The fat melts and spreads the dough outwards. When the cookies bake, they will start to puff up and then flatten back down again.
This is what gives them their characteristic crinkled appearance.
*By the way, if you’re looking for some new cookie sheets/baking pans to replace for your kitchen, I recently came across the Perfect Nonstick Cookie Sheets / Baking Sheets Set that I got for myself and they work great! You can check out these Nonstick Cookie Sheet Set on Amazon!
However, you want to be careful because the cookies may also be overspread if there is not enough flour in the dough. There’s supposed to be a correct ratio of dry to wet ingredients for the fats not to spread the cookies too much.
If the cookies spread too much, they could potentially touch each other and stick together while baking.
Why Are My Cookies Not Spreading?
On average, there are several reasons why your cookies may not be spreading in the oven. The most common causes include using too much flour, having the wrong recipe, setting the wrong oven temperature, and the dough being too cold.
Below I take a deeper look at each of these causes:
You Added Too Much Flour
If you add too much flour to your dough, it will become dense and heavy. Too much flour will absorb all the moisture from the fats making the dough firm and hard.
This will prevent the cookies from spreading properly. The solution is to add a little bit of extra liquid to the dough until it reaches the desired consistency.
You Used the Wrong Recipe
If you are using a recipe that is not meant for cookies, they may not spread correctly. Cakes, for example, have a different ratio of ingredients than cookies. Make sure you are using a recipe specifically for cookies to get the best results.
Wet and dry ingredients always need to have the correct ratios to one another as getting it wrong will likely mean the success or failure of your baked good!
You Used the Wrong Oven Temperature
If your oven temperature is too high or too low, it can prevent the cookies from spreading correctly. An oven temperature that is too low will undercook your cookie dough making the fat in the dough not melt all the way.
This will prevent your cookies from spreading. Make sure you are baking at the correct temperature to make sure the cookies spread properly.
You Used Dough that is Too Cold
If the dough is too cold, it will be difficult for it to spread since the fat in the dough will be more solid at cold temperatures.
Cold fats have a tendency to take longer to melt therefore taking longer for the cookies to spread while baking.
You Used Only Baking Powder
This is another surefire way to make your cookies not spread well in the oven. Cookies need both baking powder and baking soda to rise and spread properly.
Make sure you are using a recipe that has both ingredients for the best results while keeping the dry to wet ratios of ingredients even.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article about Why Do Cookies Become Soft When Left Out. This article talks about why cookies get soft when they are left out over time. You can check out this article here!
How to Fix Cookies that are Not Spreading?
As a general rule, you can fix already-baking cookies that are not spreading by adjusting the oven temperature a few degrees higher. A hotter oven will usually enable the fats in the cookie dough to melt faster allowing the cookie to spread.
However, it is easier to prevent cookies from not spreading in the first place by following these tips:
Weight Your Flour Before Adding It
Avoid using too much flour while mixing the cookie dough. The best way to do this is by leveling the flour in the measuring cup rather than packing it in!
To counteract having too much flour in the cookie dough, I usually add some kind of fat or moisture to the cookie dough to balance to wet to dry ingredient ratios.
If the cookies are already baking in the oven and are not spreading, I will add some kind of fat ingredient, such as chocolate chips, on top of the cookies for them to melt and absorb the moisture into the cookie. This will usually help the cookie spread!
Follow and Use the Right Recipe
Make sure you are using a recipe specifically for cookies, rather than a cake or bread recipe. The ingredients and ratios will be different and will help your cookies to spread correctly.
You can also try to add a little more flour if the dough is too wet, or add a little more liquid if the dough is too dry.
*Side Note: I recently wrote an article talking about If Cookies Have To Be Round. This article breaks down why most cookies are round and how to bake cookies in different shapes. You can check out this article here!
Use the Right Temperature of Butter
Allow the butter to sit out at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before adding it to the cookie dough mixture.
Using room-temperature ingredients will allow the cookies to spread easily since the fats in the dough are able to melt at a consistent rate.
Bake the Cookies at the Right Oven Temperature
Bake at the correct temperature to ensure the proper spread of your cookies. Ovens can vary, so make sure you are using the recommended temperature for your oven.
If I’m baking my cookies at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and the cookies are not spreading, I try to slowly increase the oven temperature by 5 to 10 degrees. This allows the fats inside the dough to melt faster.
Let the Chilled Dough Sit at Room Temperature to Warm Up Before Baking
The solution is to let the dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes before you bake it. This will allow it to warm up and spread correctly.
If the dough is too cold when you put it in the oven, it will not spread correctly.
Letting it warm up at room temperature allows the cold fats in the dough to get to room temperature and melt at a consistent rate as the other ingredients.
*Side Note: You might also want to know How To Bake Cookies Without A Cookie Sheet. I recently wrote an article that talks about What Can You Use To Bake Cookies Without A Cookie Sheet, which you can check out here!
Do Cookies Flatten While Baking?
In general, your cookies can sometimes puff up while baking and then will flatten back down again. However, if they are flattening too much, it may be a result of mixing your butter with the sugar at a very high speed or not having enough flour in the dough.
Mixing butter and sugar vigorously introduces too much air into the dough, which will make the cookies flatten out too much.
If there is not enough flour in the recipe to hold the butter, fat, and sugar together, it will cause them to spread too thin and become flat.
Try adding a little more flour to your recipe if this is happening.
*By the way, I recently wrote an article about How To Harden Soft Cookies. This article breaks down several different ways to harden cookies that come out soft after baking. You can check out this article here!
How to Fix Cookies that Spread Too Much?
In general, you can fix cookies that spread too much by having the right amount of flour in the dough to hold the fat together as it melts. Having the right wet-to-dry ratios of ingredients can help the cookie stay in the right shape. To fix this, you want to add some more flour to your recipe.
You can also try chilling the dough for a little bit before baking it, which will help it to hold its shape better in the oven.
Finally, make sure you are using an oven thermometer to ensure that your oven is set at the correct temperature. This will help to prevent your cookies from spreading too much.
*By the way, I came across the perfect 24 Piece Set of Cookie Cutters that come in different shapes and sizes perfect for shaping your cookie dough the right way. You can check out these cutters on Amazon!
Why do my cookies stay in a ball?
In general, the main reason for cookies staying in a ball while baking is that you used too much flour in your dough. When you add too much flour, it will absorb all the moisture and not let the cookies spread.
What makes cookies flat and crispy?
In general, the main reason for cookies to become flat and crispy is that the butter is too soft or has melted too much. When the butter melts too much, it adds too much moisture to the dry ingredients making them pool out and get crispy as you continue baking them.
Cookies not spreading was a big problem that I dealt with when I was younger. It happened to me more often than I would have liked. Your cookies may not spread because of one of the reasons mentioned above.
However, by following these tips you can help to prevent this from happening and ensure that your cookies come out looking and tasting great. I hope this article helped you avoid any future problems with your cookies not spreading.