Science of Cookies


I got some great feedback about A Little Something about Cakes

So I decided I am going to continue posting periodically about the Science behind various groups of baked goods and treats and create a new recipe each time based on what we learn together! 

Of course, I couldn’t do this without the help of Mr. McGee’s book, On Food and Cooking.

I hope you will follow these posts and let me know if you try anything out at home and how it worked out!

Also, if there is something that you would really like me to post the Science behind, contact me and let me know.

So let’s talk Cookies.

Much like cakes, with cookies, you want to minimize the gluten formation.

Sugar and fats are the key players in how cookies will turn out but let’s talk about all the ingredients…

Flour – pastry, all-purpose, cake are the best

Sugar – as with cakes, when beaten with a fat, air bubbles are introduced creating a light texture.  Sugar competes with the flour for water and therefore the more sugar in a recipe, the crisper the cookie will be.  The type of sugar is important too.  Sucrose, table sugar, will crystalize when cooled and therefore create a crisper cookies but when honey, molasses or corn syrup are used, they do not crystalize like table sugar and can create a chewy cookie.

Eggs -Used as a source of both water and protein, it helps bind the flour and the fat in eggs (yolks) help create a moist cookie

Fat – Fat encourages spread.  Butter has a lower melting temperature when compared with shortening and margarine so a butter cookie will spread more.

Leavening – Some cookies solely rely on air bubbles created when the fat and sugar are beaten together and therefore do not need extra leavening but baking soda is used in many recipes to balance out the acidic ingredients such as honey or cake flour.

As with cakes, I have illustrated below the approximate proportion of each ingredient to create the type of cookie you desire…

Print these Ratios!

                      Cakey                 Crumbly             Flakey              Crispy

 i.e               Oatmeal               Shortbread           Palmiers              Tuiles

Flour              1 c.                          1 c.                        1 c.                      1 c.

Eggs *           1 egg                      none                      none               2 egg whites

Fat *               1 c.                       1 1/8 c.                   3/4 c.                1/2 c.

Sugar             3/4 c.                    1/4 c.                    none                     1 c.

Leavening      1/2 t.                    none                     none                    none

* Mr. McGee includes a category of water, I have omitted it because water comes from the butter (butter is 15% water) and egg whites.  Cookies like Tuiles have more egg whites and therefore more water content making them crunchy.

So, using the proportions for cakey cookies I created Cupboard Cookies.

They were fabulous – maybe a little too buttery (is that possible?)

Print this Recipe!

Cupboard Cookies

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 egg

1/2 c. unsalted butter

1/2 c. shortening (so they don’t spread as much)

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. vanilla

1 1/2 c. of something from your cupboard

(I used 3/4 c. banana chips + 3/4 c. salted roasted cashews)

I creamed the butter, sugar and shortening together on high speed using my stand mixer with the paddles attached to create those wonderful air bubbles.

I then beat in the egg, vanilla and finally the flour and baking soda.

I scooped out 1/4 c. sized cookies and with the first baking sheet; baked them for 8 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

They baked a little too quickly on the bottom so I lowered the oven to 350 degrees and baked the second sheet for 10 minutes.

Look at the difference? The higher temp cookie is on the left!

Lowering the temp and baking longer, allowed the butter time to spread more.

Both tasted fabulously rich and cakey!

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4 Responses to Science of Cookies

  1. Pingback: Science of Chemical Leaveners… and a Muffin |

  2. Pingback: Farro Cookies |

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