Cold weather and cookie baking
Posted: 21 December 2008 09:10 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Aargh! I had one of those days where nothing I baked came out right. Everything spread too much, and these are recipes I’ve used a thousand times before with perfect results.

Since I’m grasping at straws…it’s subzero where I’m at and I am wondering if the super dry air could be affecting the flour and thus my baking.

If you have any ideas, please let me know. Butter was at the right temperature, batters were chilled as directed, cookies sheets were cool when placing cookies in the oven.

Thanks!

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Posted: 22 December 2008 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hmmm… are you using the same type of flour as usual?  Are you using an oven thermometer to ensure your oven temp is accurate?

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Posted: 24 December 2008 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks for your reply, Patrnicia! Yep, the flour is the same. I broke my oven thermometer awhile ago and haven’t replaced it, so temperature could be part of the issue. My sister pointed out that I did put a baking stone in my oven a few months ago—maybe it affected the temperature? (Although I did try removing the stone and continuing baking, and it didn’t make a difference.)

This morning I pulled a batch of the problem dough from the fridge. I added a few tablespoons of flour, and it cooked up better. Maybe a coincedence? (Or maybe the longer refrigeration time helped?) I also noticed my brioche dough today needed a bit more flour than usual. I’d love to know if it could be the weather.

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Posted: 23 January 2009 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I know Christmas cookies have come and gone already, but this problem is so painfully familiar, I can’t resist chipping in. It sounds to me like your flour had more water in it than usual. This would account for cookies spreading and for bread dough needing more flour. I’ve become pretty paranoid about this, so when I’m baking cookies that I want to come out a particular way, I bake a test cookie first, then adjust.

Cathy

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Posted: 23 January 2009 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Gee, I don’t know if flour has the ability to absorb enough moisture that it would make your cookies spread more than usual… have you checked your oven temp?  Are you using the same kind of flour as usual (ex: all-purp, bleached all-purp, etc)?  You might have added the wrong amount of ingredients too - an easy mistake when increasing/decreasing the recipe.

I store my flour in airtight containers - this keeps moisture, odors, etc out.

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Posted: 24 January 2009 01:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well, for what’s it worth, here’s what I found out. The weekend after I had all those problems with baking, I pulled out some of that problem dough from the freezer, let it thaw and added a few more tablespoons of flour. Everything baked up perfectly.

I then tried my spritz recipe, which had also been spreading when baked the week before. I made it as I always do and did a test batch. They spread. I again added a touch more flour, and the rest of the dough behaved beautifully.

It was at this point that my husband told me that when he went grocery shopping for baking supplies the store was out of King Arthur Flour, so he bought another brand—I think it was either Gold Medal or Pillsbury. Because we store all our baking supplies in clear plastic tubs, I didn’t realize that the brand was different than usual. It was all unbleached, all-purpose, but I wonder if gluten/protein contents could vary enough to make a difference?

In the future, I think I will do as Cathy suggests and bake a test cookie when I am doing big batches.

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Posted: 24 January 2009 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Bingo, I think you found your problem! 

From fineliving.com:
All-purpose flours have a protein range between 9% and 12%. King Arthur flour has a protein content of 11.7%, while Pillsbury and Gold Medal are both 10.5%.

More interesting info on flour found here:
http://www.finecooking.com/articles/choosing-flour-for-baking.aspx

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Posted: 24 January 2009 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks, Patrincia. Interesting reading!

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Posted: 03 February 2009 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks from me, too. I go between two different kinds of all-purpose flour, depending on whether or not I’m ready to lay out the cash for King Arthur. Now I’ll try to be more aware of which flour I’m on.

Cathy

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