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The first time I made this recipe written recipe here a few months ago, it worked perfectly. But I've tried making it again two times after that, and it's failed both times.

The first time, the cookie was perfect - great texture, great taste, and amazing gooey pockets of chocolate. It looked exactly like the recipe. The second time, though, it was a disaster. They were totally flat and had spread a lot. They were also super, super greasy, and made my belly hurt. The third attempt had basically the same issues, just not as extreme. They had spread a bit too much, and were more flat and dark around the edges.

Something I noticed while making the cookies was that my ice cream scoop was able to push out the dough from the first batch quite easily without deforming it. The next two batches, though, didn't quite like the scoop pushing them out. I managed still using it for the second batch, but I decided to form the dough from the third batch with my hands. The scoop I have is made of plastic with a lever that basically pushes the cookie dough (or ice cream) out.

The only thing I did different from the recipe was the brown sugar - there's no such thing as brown sugar where I live, so I added 2 tablespoons of molasses in addition to the 220+100 grams of sugar, all three times.

Another thing to mention is that I've been having some problems with my oven recently. It's really only about half an year old, and I've been having problems ever since I've got it. In the beginning, its temperature seemed off, but I think it's fine now. Then later, a small part of the grey coating on the bottom heating wore off, giving way to the silver metal below. Recently, it's time dial stopped ticking and moving back to zero, and a recent batch of peanut butter cookies I made had a clear gradient of less browned on the left side and more browned on the right side.

One thing that makes all this really confusing is that my first batch, even though I made them all exactly the same way, was perfect. I don't understand why the dough would be any different at all the next two times - so why was it?


3rd March, 2023:

After many times having the oven repaired but finding no difference, I lost hope in the bad oven idea.

But on a hunch, I bought a good oven thermometer, and turns out my oven was 70℃ too hot! The problem was the oven after all.

Thanks everyone!

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  • Any chance you missed some key ingredient on the latter 2 batches, like only including 1 stick of butter instead of the 2 prescribed?
    – Seth R
    Oct 26, 2022 at 16:20
  • This, to me, is an unusual recipe on at least a few counts. One suggestion: the next time you make them, measure the flour per the recipe then weigh it. If the cookies are satisfactory, use the weights instead of the volumes each time you make them. If not, adjust the weight upward and try again. But first I'd get the oven replaced. Oct 26, 2022 at 21:47
  • @Dennis I never use volumes, always weights. I am trying to get the oven looked at, and I'll try increasing the flour if the oven doesn't turn out to be the problem. Oct 27, 2022 at 12:07
  • @Seth No - I just looked over the recipe, and I'm fairly sure I didn't miss anything. Oct 27, 2022 at 12:11
  • If you're seeing gradation in the oven, my best bet would be that one of the elements or the fan (if it is a fan oven) have died. I guess my first bet would be to get an oven themometer. Get the oven up to temperature, and then move the themometer around, see if you can work out where the cold zones are.
    – lupe
    Oct 27, 2022 at 15:15

6 Answers 6

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Adding molasses shouldn't be a problem, it's a common addition when brown sugar isn't available. It sounds like your oven's broken, and not heating up properly. Cookies spreading out too much is a sign your oven isn't hot enough, and if you are getting a bad stomach from them they are likely coming out undercooked. I suggest you get an oven thermometer and test its internal temperature. In any case it sounds like your oven has at least two other issues, hopefully it's still under warranty as you should get it fixed.

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https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/ingredient-weight-chart

Gives 213 grams for "brown sugar, packed, 1 cup"

So 220 grams of white sugar PLUS 2 tablespoons of molasses (42.5 grams per the above chart at 85g per 1/4 cup) is way off at 262.5 grams total. About 23% excess.

170 grams granulated sugar plus 43 grams of molasses would be a closer substitution for 1 cup brown sugar. 199g + 14g might well be closer yet, per comments below.

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  • 1
    I don't think you can do a conversion from molasses -> sugar like that, you would need to subtract the water component and work out the sugar content. Wikipedia tells me that the sugars in molasses are 29% sucrose, 12% glucose and 13% fructose - for a total of 54% sugars (75% total carbs though). Which would make it 220 g sugar + ~20 g molasses for about 240 g total, or about 10% over. Might need to reduce the water component a bit though.
    – bob1
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:53
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    @bob1 - brown sugar is white sugar sprayed with molasses. It has the molasses water content in it. If it dries out too much it becomes rock-hard and needs to be remoistened. Since the reference provides a mass for brown sugar, that mass is what to aim for in making a substitute with white sugar and molasses. Notably, the mass for 1 cup brown sugar packed is more than 1 cup granulated white sugar.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 27, 2022 at 0:57
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    @Ecnerwal The cheap stuff is, yes. Demerara (partially refunded cane sugar) is also brown but has a noticeably different flavour.
    – Graham
    Oct 27, 2022 at 8:17
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    I'm very aware of that, though Demerara is hard to come by here - but that's not what brown sugar in an American recipe (which this seems to be - things measured by volume in cups and tablespoons) typically refers to, since it's hard to come by here.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 27, 2022 at 11:59
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    @Graham as Ecnerwal says, in American recipes Demerara would have to be specified, and generic "brown sugar" is refined white sugar + molasses.
    – Esther
    Oct 27, 2022 at 13:52
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Is it possible your butter or other ingredients were warmer the last two times? I have found when cooking with butter, if it's too soft, the cookies will spread more and are greasy.

I have also read up on this and found evidence that dough that is made with overly soft butter will create frothy air bubbles that will collapse when baked, resulting in heavy, dense, and flat cookies.

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  • That would have been my thought, but the recipe the OP posted says "Bring the butter to a boil". Oct 26, 2022 at 21:38
  • The second batch did have slightly warm butter, but it was cool the third time - though warm butter may have played a role, that's definitely not the only problem. And the butter is liquid in this recipe - so overly soft isn't even possible. Oct 27, 2022 at 12:02
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Not enough flour?

My go-to is the toll house cookie recipe.

This recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups of flour and 2 sticks of butter. Toll house chocolate chip cookies have 2 sticks of butter also but call for 2 1/4 so 1/2 cup more flour. Toll house cookies can be kind of bready and it sounds like you need more of that.

Toll house cookies have no water in them. The 2 tbsp water this recipe has you add to the butter (why?) will still be in the cookies. Water in the molasses will also still be in the cookies.

You could try to salvage your cookies by adding a half cup more flour. I dont think it matters bread flour or all purpose flour.
Alternatively you could add molasses to the hot pan after you brown the butter to drive off some of the molasses moisture, and forego the added tablespoons of water - just let the butter & molasses mix cool.

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    The water is added to the butter (in this recipe) to replace the water that was boiled off. Oct 26, 2022 at 21:40
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I made a bunch of cookies back in the spring of 2020 for my parents' bakery. I found that the texture of the cookies depended a lot on how thoroughly I mixed the batter. You don't want to over-mix it. They might get better volume and retain shape better if you mix it less next time.

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It sounds like you're already having problems with the oven anyway, so borrow a friend's oven and try the exact same recipe again. If it works there, you can be pretty sure your oven is to blame.

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