Have you made any of these mistakes?

By Justine Sterling
Updated May 23, 2017
Credit: © Deborah Jones

If baking were a martial art, Alessandra Altieri would be a black belt. As the pastry chef and director of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, she's baked a lot of cookies. While we can’t give you her number for emergency holiday cookie advice, we can share some of her best tips. Here, she troubleshoots the five most common cookie mistakes every baker makes.

Mistake #1: Working with cold ingredients. “You want to make sure your butter and your eggs are at room temperature,” Altieri says. “When your butter is really cold and you have cold eggs, nothing really emulsifies together, so you end up having to mix it longer, which leads you into the second most common mistake.”

Mistake #2: Overmixing. “When you overmix, you over-aerate the dough,” she says. “That results in your cookies spreading way too much when they bake.” You should only mix the dough to the point at which everything is combined. “This is especially important with shaped cookies,” Altieri says. “There’s nothing worse than when you’ve bought yourself a really cute gingerbread cookie cutter and then your cookie ends up looking like a snowman.”

Mistake #3: Forgetting to chill. “If you don’t chill the dough after mixing, it will melt instantly when you bake it,” she says. “Starting with a cookie dough that is chilled all the way through means your cookies won’t be flat.” Altieri recommends chilling the dough for at least an hour, but she likes to let it sit for a full day. That way the gluten in the flour relaxes, and there’s less chaos. “You have a mix day and then a bake day,” she says.

Mistake #4: Reusing hot cookie sheets. “You don’t want to take your cookies out of the oven and then reuse the pan for another batch,” Altieri says. “When you do that, you get those fried edges because the butter in the dough is melting instantly. Invest in more pans than you think you need so you don’t have to wait—it’s definitely worth the few extra dollars.”

Mistake #5: Overcrowding the pan. “You want to make sure you have half an inch of space around each cookie,” she says. That way, the heat can circulate and bake the cookie evenly.