Frankly, most of the time I’m not fussed if my biscuits are spreading or not, but there are times, when I need a perfectly round or the same size biscuits!
Over the years, I’ve got used to different biscuit recipes and the way they behave. There are lot of things that can make biscuits to spread, so today I wanted to share with you my top 8 tips on keeping all your biscuits uniform.
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Refrigerate dough before baking
This is probably the best way to prevent your biscuits spreading when you bake them. I usually roll out the biscuit dough between two sheets of baking parchment and then chill for about 30 minutes.
After that I cut out my shapes and place them on the baking tray and if I have the time I put the biscuits in the fridge again, until the oven is correctly heated and ready. This way, the biscuits are completely cold before they go into the oven and they will keep their shape better.
Where I’ve seen people going wrong with this advice, is that a lot of recipes simply say ‘mix your biscuits dough, chill in the fridge, roll out, cut your shapes and then bake’.
The problems is that if your dough is in the big bowl (and one piece) it takes much longer for it to chill properly (definitely more than 30 minutes) and once is out, you warm it up with your hands as it’s really hard to roll out. By the time you are ready to cut out your shapes, the dough is probably not much colder than if you’ve used it straightaway.
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Choose the correct raising agent
Baking powder acts quicker than baking soda, so either use a little bit less baking powder than what your recipe suggest or try to swap it for baking soda. Often recipes would use a mix of baking soda and baking powder to help even bake.
Don’t overwork the dough
Overworking the dough can cause the fat in the dough to soften and melt, which can lead to spreading. If that happens, make sure that you chill your dough before rolling out and baking.
Be careful when rolling the dough
Use a glass or teacup instead of a rolling pin and be super gentle when rolling the biscuit dough. If you are heavy handed with the rolling pin it can compress the dough and cause it to spread more when baked.
Use a higher protein flour
Use a higher protein flour. A stronger flour, higher in protein and gluten, will make for slightly firmer biscuits that retain their shape. You can also mix these flours together – for example if you use your regular flour with up to 25% of white bread flour it will give you enough strength to bake a firmer biscuits (but they won’t be tough, as if you used bread flour on it’s own).
- Bread flour: With a protein content of 12-14%, bread flour is the strongest of all flours and provides the most structural support. This is especially important in yeasted breads, but can also be used for biscuits that need to hold their shape. Be careful about using 100% bread flour in your biscuits – I normally use only up to 30% of the total amount of my total amount of flours as using 100% bread flour without yeast and kneading would results in quite a tough biscuits.
- All-purpose flour: All-purpose flour typically has a protein content of around 10-12%, which is sufficient for most biscuit recipes. However, some brands may have a higher protein content, so be sure to check the label.
- Pastry flour: Pastry flour has a lower protein content than bread flour, but still higher than cake flour, typically around 8-10%. This can make for ‘melt in your mouth’ biscuits with a slightly more delicate crumb.
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Use less butter in your biscuit recipe
Buttery biscuits taste delicious, but it also means that they spread more as butter doesn’t hold shape very well. It’s even more important to chill your dough before you bake it if you are using a lot of butter in your recipe.
One of my favourite gingerbread biscuit dough doesn’t include butter, which makes it perfect for building gingerbread houses. I use really old recipe to make mine, whereas most modern recipes for gingerbread use butter, which makes the biscuits to spread out quite a bit.
Bake biscuits at the right oven temperature
I know that a lot of people are impatient when it comes to baking and they think that pre-heated oven means ‘sort of warm’. They often tell me that they don’t have the time (or don’t think, it’s important) and pretty much add their biscuits to the oven, when they switch it on.
Pre-heating your oven to the correct temperature (e.i. the temperature that the recipes says you ment to bake your biscuits at) is absolutely crucial! One of my ovens take a good 10 minutes to reach 180 C, which means that if I was to put the biscuits in at the same time, I’m basically just trying them (and then probably burning them before they are properly done).
Don’t underestimate this, the biscuits need to be as cold as they can be and then start baking right at 180C (or whatever the temperature should be for your recipe).
Use baking parchment to line your baking trays
Instead of greasing your baking trays, next time use baking parchment to line your trays. This will prevent the biscuits from spreading too much.
You can always keep the baking parchment on your trays and re-use it for next time. You can also use silicone baking liners as you can re-use these as many times as you like.
This blog post was originally written on 10 October 2020 and last updated on 15 August 2023