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The Science Behind Baking the Perfect Cookies

 Did you know that the original chocolate chip cookie came about due to a kitchen error? A housewife decided to pour some melted chocolate into cold dough to make a chocolate cookie. However, the chocolate cooled and broke up into small chunks. How lucky for us!

 

How many times have you come across a recipe calling itself “The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe”? We’ve seen it more times than we can count. Is it the same recipe printed over and over again? No, they’re often slightly different. How can this be? How can there be multiple perfect cookie recipes? Are all these recipes wrong, apart from one? No, of course not! The perfect chocolate cookie recipe is totally subjective. For example, we like our cookies to be light and crunchy.

Therefore, instead of giving you another impersonal recipe, we’re going to show you how you can tailor the recipe to be your perfect cookie, be it crunchy, chewy, dense, sweet, or however, you like it.

 
Making the Perfect Cookies

 There are a number of different components at play when baking cookies. Let’s break them down quickly:

• Sweeteners, such as white or brown sugar 
• Butter, softened and creamed, melted, or cold and cubed
• Eggs
• Flavoring, like vanilla extract
• Salt
• Flour, usually all-purpose
• A leavening agent, such as baking powder or soda

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these components and the roles that they play.

Making the Perfect Cookies

White sugar dissolves easily in the water that’s released from the butter as it begins to melt while the cookie bakes. This will create a cookie that spreads out thinner than one made with brown sugar or a mixture of the two. A thinner cookie on a hot cookie sheet is also a crispier cookie. If you enjoy your cookies thin and crispy, then you should try to cut down on the amount of brown sugar in the recipe and replace it with white. 

Making the Perfect Cookies

Brown sugar doesn’t attract the water from the butter as much since it already has its own moisture. This moisture eventually turns into steam, which makes for taller, more cake-like cookies. The brown sugar also gives the cookie a deeper caramel-like flavor and helps the cookies to stay fresh for longer. 

Making the Perfect Cookies

Both sugars in some combination seem to work the best. You get the softness of the brown sugar cookie, but the spread and crunch on the outer rims of the white sugar cookie.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the leaveners. 

Making the Perfect Cookies

Baking soda is great and your cookie recipe will most likely call for either only baking soda or a mixture of baking powder and soda. Baking soda is a base and it works the minute it comes into contact with an acid, so if you’re using only baking soda you’ll want to bake your cookies immediately. You’ll also need some type of acid (yogurt, baking powder, vinegar, buttermilk) in your cookies to activate the baking soda. Cookies that are made only with baking soda are flatter and crunchier, with cracked tops. 

 
Making the Perfect Cookies

However, baking powder is an acid on its own. If you have double acting baking powder, your cookies will benefit from two different rises. The first is a reaction between the baking powder and the moisture in the cookie, while the second is a reaction of the powder to the heat in the oven. Cookies which contain higher amounts of baking powder than baking soda create taller, cakier cookies with smoother tops. 

Making the Perfect Cookies

Chilling the dough overnight definitely gives you a leg up on the competition. This resting period allows the moisture in the butter to soak into the flour completely. This helps to spread all of the flavors. No matter what you do, if you want the perfect cookie, chill your dough overnight. 

Making the Perfect Cookies

Melted butter cookies simply must be chilled. When chilled for four hours, they come out like above. Melted butter cookies are flatter and crispier than other cookies. This is because of the moisture loss that occurs when you melt butter. The butter breaks down and spreads a lot faster once you’ve melted it. The faster a cookie spreads, the crispier it will get as the cookie has a chance to spread a thin layer on a hot cookie tray.

No matter how you like them, here are some more tips for better chocolate chip cookies:

• Use the nicest quality chocolate that you can afford. The butter flavor gets lost easily in chocolate chip cookies, but the chocolate stands out, so use the best you can. 
• Use at least two different types of chocolate. Preferably in different sizes, like small chips and large chunks. This will make every bite different and exciting.
• Cut the salt in half and sprinkle some on top of the cookies. The salt on the outside will make your tongue create more saliva, which helps to spread the flavor the delicious cookies all over your mouth. 

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Feel Free to Personalize)

Ingredients

• 1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
• 1 cup white sugar
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling on the cookies
• 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 
• 1 teaspoon of baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup chopped chocolate pieces 
• 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions

1. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on a medium speed. Make sure to scrape down the side of the bowl so that everything is combined.

2. Turn the mixer onto high and slowly add the eggs and vanilla extract.

3. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl again. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on a low speed until just combined.

4. Rest the dough in the fridge overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 365 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Scoop out the cookies and don’t flatten them. Lightly sprinkle them with salt. Bake on a parchment lined cookie tray until the middles look underdone, but the edges are browned. This should take about 12-14 minutes for average-sized cookies.

 

Source: tiphero
Images: Kelsey Kinser

 

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