In the last couple posts, we’ve seen how both oven temperature and dough temperature affect a cookie’s spread and texture. Cookie recipes usually give clear instructions for both. But when we don’t have time to refrigerate the dough, or if we forget to thaw it, can we adjust the oven temperature to compensate?
Goal: To change the oven temperature and bake cookies similar to the recipes’ even if our dough is too warm or too cold
Recipe: Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Handle the Heat
Method: Prepare the cookie dough. Freeze, refrigerate, or leave the cookie dough balls at room temperature. Bake the cookies at 325, 350, or 375°F (160, 175, or 190°C).
Results: Although the baked cookies were more similar to the original recipe in thickness, size, and texture in the center, we still noticed differences in
– Bake time
– Texture at the edge
Conclusions: With this recipe, we satisfactorily manipulated oven temperature to offset differences in dough temperature. For the greatest chance at success, however, take the time to read a new recipe ahead of time and plan for any required chilling time.
Ingredients and Equipment
- Ingredients as listed in Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Stand mixer
Baking the cookies
- Prepare the cookie dough as directed in the recipe. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 60 hours.
- Remove dough from refrigerator until soft enough to scoop. Form 6 balls of cookie dough, each 57g. Freeze 2 balls and refrigerate 4 overnight.
- The next morning, remove 2 balls of cookie dough from the refrigerator and set them at room temperature (RT) for 2 hours.
- Bake the cookies from the fridge at 350°F (175°C) for 16 minutes, the RT cookies at 375°F (190°C) for 14 minutes, and the freezer cookies at 325°F (160°C) for 19 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
To better understand some of these results, I suggest reviewing the recent experiments on how oven temperature and dough temperature affect cookie spread and texture. It may also be helpful to read the post on how fats affect cookie spread. Essentially, butter melts and sugar dissolves in the oven, thinning the cookie dough. The dough spreads until the structural proteins from flour and egg reach high enough temperatures to solidify, which sets the final structure and shape of the cookie.
Also, note that the original recipe bakes refrigerated cookie dough at 350°F (175°C). All comparisons (hotter or colder) are made relative to these conditions.
Baking warm dough at a high temperature
We focused on room-temperature (RT) dough first. In the last post, we saw that warmer dough spreads into a thinner, crisper cookie. To counteract this, we used a hotter oven (375°F) to bake the RT dough. Cookies bake up thicker in a hotter oven because they have less time to spread.
Compared to the original recipe, these cookies baked more quickly. Because we’re baking warmer dough at a higher temperature, it makes sense that the dough set a couple minutes earlier.
If we compare the left and center cookies in the photo above, we can see that raising the oven temperature did reduce the spread and increase the thickness of the RT dough. However, if we compare the side views of the center and right cookies, shown below, we see that, even with the adjustment to oven temperature, the shapes are not quite the same. Whereas the control cookies (right) are thick at the edge, the edges of the RT cookies (center) slope more, probably because the combination of the warm dough and the hot oven made the dough very fluid early in the bake.
The shape of the cookies reflected their texture. The centers of the hot-oven RT cookies were indistinguishable from the controls. However, as you can see, the RT cookies baked up browner in the hot oven, which translated into a crisper crust around the cookie. If I were to try this experiment again, I would bake the RT dough at 370°F to get the soft, chewy texture without overcooking the exterior of the cookie.
I tried the same experiment with another cookie recipe (Miso Chocolate Chip Cookies by A Cozy Kitchen) that contained half the butter as this one, and I got similar results. However, keep in mind that cookie doughs with different ingredient ratios spread differently in the oven, so your results may vary. I also shaped all my cookie dough into spheres. If your dough is flatter, it will spread more. Finally, an oven thermometer is always helpful to ensure you and your oven are on the same page.
Baking cold dough at a low temperature
For the second experiment, we used frozen dough. We’ve seen that colder dough spreads less and yields a thicker, softer cookie. To offset this, we decreased the oven temperature to 325°F (160°C). Cooler ovens give the dough more time to spread and flatten before it sets.
Compared to the original recipe, these cookies baked for longer, which makes sense because cold dough needs even more time to cook in a cool oven.
If we compare the left and center cookies, we can see that a decrease in oven temperature helped the frozen cookies spread and flatten more, though not quite to the extent of the control cookies on the right. Nevertheless, the texture between the center and right cookies was pretty similar, except that the edges of the cool-oven frozen cookies were a little crisper than the controls. To reduce the crispness and make the cookie more similar to the original, I’d try just a 20°F reduction in temperature next time.
With the miso cookie recipe, I got similar results. Again, keep in mind that cookie spread depends on many variables. The best way to reproduce a recipe is to follow the recipe. It may also be helpful to use an oven thermometer to monitor your oven’s temperature.
The temperature of cookie dough affects its bake, so if we don’t take the time to bring it to the correct temperature, we change the spread and texture of the cookie. Although the results are still delightful, we can also manipulate oven temperature to bake cookies with a texture closer to the original recipe. For dough that’s too cold, you can try a 20°F reduction in oven temperature and additional 1-2 minutes of bake time. If the dough is too warm, a 20°F increase in oven temperature and 1-2 minutes fewer in the oven can do the trick. Keep in mind that these are merely guidelines, and every cookie dough behaves differently.
Corriher, S. O. Bakewise; Scribner: New York, 2008.
Figoni, P. How Baking Works, 3rd ed.; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, 2011.