Cookie Science: Everything About Baking Cookies

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How to Make Extra-Crunchy Cookies

Using white sugar will result to thin and crisp cookies. Sugar is used in baking not only for its sweetness. The type of sugar you will use has a definite effect on your finished cookies. White sugar is a crystallized sucrose that consists of a glucose molecule and fructose molecule linked together. It adds no leavening power, giving you a baked cookie that spreads wide. And since cookies that are baked using white sugar more readily give up their moisture, they also end up being more crisp and crunchy.

Using baking soda will result to craggy and coarse cookies. In baking cookies, leavening can come from two chemicals, the baking powder, and baking soda. Baking soda is made of pure sodium bicarbonate that is an alkaline or base powder. When it comes in contact and is dissolved in water and combined with an acid, it can react rapidly. This reaction causes it to break down into water, sodium, and carbon dioxide. Using baking soda in cookies generally gives it a craggier and denser texture.

How to Make Extra-Chewy Cookies

Using more bread flour will give you chewier cookies. One of the most common ingredients in baking is the flour. Aside from using quality flour, it is also essential to consider the type of flour that is ideal to use for the type of cookies you want to achieve. There is the most common all-purpose flour, wheat flour and much more to choose from. However, using more bread flour in your cookie recipe will make your cookies ultra-chewy.

Using melted butter will give you denser and chewier cookies. Using butter in baking creates a flavor. It is made of about 80 percent to 83 percent of butterfat, 15 percent of water and 3 percent to 5 percent of milk protein. As the cookie bakes, or when a butter is melted, these proteins turn brown which gives that nuttiness and butterscotch hint to the cookie’s final flavor.

Browning milk proteins can only happen when all the water content has evaporated. With less to no water, you also get lesser gluten development. This makes the cookie softer and chewier when finished.

Using extra egg yolks produces fudgier cookies. The egg is considered the main source of water in making cookies. Egg yolks, like the egg white, provide protein as well as moisture in a cookie dough. However, egg yolks are better in providing a well-emulsified source of fat. The egg yolk can form a tender protein coagulum when cooked and this makes the cookies tender and extra-chewy.

How to Make Extra-Cakey Cookies

Use more cake flour for softer cookies. The flour is the one that provides the bulk of the structure when baking a cookie. The amount and the type of flour you use can make a difference on a baked cookie. Cake flour has a relatively low protein content, thus, creating less gluten formation. Using all cake flour when baking a cookie will make it very soft and almost mushy.

Baking powder makes the cookies cakey and smooth. The incorporation of air on any baked goods is necessary and this can be done using leavening agents that can also come in various forms. Baking powder is a baking soda with built-in powdered acids. When it comes in contact with a liquid, it dissolves and reacts which creates bubbles of carbon dioxide. This happens without having to add any external acid source.

Most of the baking powders are double acting or have two different built-in powdered acids. This gives the cookies boost earlier in the baking phase, making the cookies rise higher and cakier with smoother tops.

Using brown sugar will give you tall and moist cookies. Brown sugar may contain both glucose and fructose but is made mostly from crystallized sucrose. It also contains some trace minerals that give it flavor and its slightly acidic pH. The slight acidity in brown sugar causes the cookies to rise higher when baked. This will give you cakier cookies when finished.

Use extra egg whites for taller cookies. Egg whites can provide a great amount of protein as well as water for your cookie dough recipe. Egg proteins are necessary to help trap and retain bubbles of air. Using a higher proportion of egg whites when baking a cookie makes the cookie rise higher. With the extra water, there is more gluten formation which makes the cookie taller and cakier.

Creamed butter results to lighter, firmer and cakier cookies. The 3 percent to 5 percent of milk protein in butter browns when baked and this is what gives it its flavor. However, the process of incorporating butter into your cookie recipe will also affect its final texture. In creaming the butter, some of the sugar dissolves and the air is incorporated that helps leaven the cookies as they bake to give them some lift. This will result in taller, lighter and cakier cookies.

Initial Temperature in Baking Cookies

The initial temperature, aside from the oven temperature, can create a difference in the final textures of the baked cookies. Cookie dough that is baked cool or straight from the refrigerator will be more compact. The cookie dough that was allowed to warm before baking, however, will spread more.

Controlling Spread in Cookies

Too much spreading of cookie dough can happen if it can’t hold its shape due to too little structure and too much structure will make it hard to spread the cookie and will make it brittle. However, you can control this according to what you want.

To increase the spread of a cookie dough, you can add a tiny amount of baking soda or about 0.25 ounce to 0.5 ounces for a 10-pound cookie dough. This will increase the pH level of the cookie dough while weakening both gluten and egg protein structure to give it more spread.

Softening butter or margarine by heating when baking cookies will make it too hard when cool. Be sure to use butter and margarine at natural room temperature to avoid this.

The type of sugar used for the cookie dough will also help in controlling the spread of cookies. Using coarser brown sugar will give the cookie more spread while using more fine white sugar will give the cookie dough lesser spread when finished.

Checking Doneness of Cookies

Although most cookie recipes will tell you the time and temperature to bakes the cookies, checking the doneness of cookies can also depend on what type of cookies you are baking.

Drop cookies. The most common way to determine the doneness for most drop cookies like oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies is its golden brown or light brown edges. However, for pale cookies like sugar cookies and peanut butter blossoms, check the light brown bottoms. You can’t simply see this at first glance so you need to gently lift the edge of the cookie to peek at its bottom.

Chocolate cookies and other dark cookies. Since you can’t see the brown edges and bottoms in chocolate and other dark cookies, you can tell if they’re done when the edges of the cookies become firm. You can try to press or nudge the edges using a spatula to test the firmness.

Storing Baked Cookies

Storing your baked cookies is important to keep their freshness. However, this will differ on what type of cookies you have.

For crisp cookies, it is best to store them in a container that has loose lids to keep their crispness. However, if the humidity is high, keeping them in an airtight container will be better.

For storing soft cookies, placing them between sheets of waxed paper before putting them in an airtight container will preserve their form and prevent them from drying out.

For longer storage of your baked cookies, you can also freeze them given that they are placed inside an airtight container and sealed tightly. Cookies can be frozen for up to 12 months.

Freezing Unbaked Cookie Dough

Although cookie dough can be well kept in the freezer, keep in mind to store them properly to avoid the absorption of any odor. You can place the cookie dough in an airtight container or any package as long as it’s securely sealed. It can also be good to write on the package the type of cookie dough and the date it was frozen. A well-kept cookie dough in the freezer will last for up to 3 months.

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