I may have been terrible with science in school, but I love it within the context of cooking, though, and I adore it when it comes to baking. Nowhere is the chemistry of baking more apparent than in the creation of the humbly perfect chocolate chip cookie — and the best part? Is that we can exploit that chemistry in the name of baking a perfectly personalized treat that’s exactly the way you like it. Are you ready to have your cookie-loving mind blown? Because we’re about to get crazy in the kitchen, and it’s going to be magnificent. Here's your guide to making the best chocolate chip cookies in the history of the universe.
First, let’s learn a little bit about what goes on in your oven while you’re waiting for your tasty treats to emerge. OZY points in a piece they’re currently running, “The Science Behind Baking the Most Delicious Cookie Ever,” to a TED animation that gives you the complete lowdown, including what each of those individual ingredients do, from butter to baking soda ingredients do, what happens at a variety of different temperatures, and why it’s not really a good idea to eat raw cookie dough, no matter how delicious it is. Here, check it out—although be warned that you might end up with a huge cookie craving afterwards:
So, with all that happening, it’s only logical that playing around with your dough recipe will result in cookies of dramatically different textures. Tessa Arias, author of Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich and the food blogger behind Handle the Heat, took one for the team in order to figure out what happens when you make specific changes (hey, someone’s got to eat all those cookies). Using the recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip bag as her control, she carefully documented how her cookies turned out with each variation. If you, like me, are a veritable cookie monster, I highly recommend reading both of her posts about them; and in the meantime, here’s your cheat sheet for how to make cookies exactly to your liking:
- Cake-y cookies: Replace the baking soda with baking powder.
- Crispy edges, soft centers: Use half baking soda and half baking powder.
- Gooey in the middle: Increase the amount of flour from 1 cup plus two tablespoons to two cups.
- Crispy edges, crackled top: Instead of creaming room temperature butter together with the sugar, melt the butter, mix it with the sugar, and let the mixture cool for five minutes before continuing.
- Flat and crunchy: Use all granulated sugar.
- Butterscotch flavor: Use all brown sugar.
- Thick and chewy: Substitute bread flour for the all-purpose flour.
- More complex flavor overall: Chill the dough for 24 hours before baking. This requires a lot of self-control, so I would totally understand if you opted out of it.
Obviously you’ll have to tweak the substitutions depending on which recipe you use; if you’re not into Toll House, though, we’ve got you covered with these 11 ooey gooey cookie recipes that’ll satisfy any sweet tooth. Happy baking!
Image: Christi @ Love from the Oven/Flickr