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biscuit (cookie) science

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Alrighty... I don't often make biscuits (cookies for you NAm people;), and whenever I get the urge, I reach for the Joy of Cooking, only to be disappointed cos the enormous majority of their recipes require refrigeration of the dough overnight. I want my biscuits *now*! And a fair few other books like the refrigeration too.

Which led me to wonder... what is the refrigeration/resting process for? To relax the dough after working it? To ensure full moisture absorption? To facilitate some advantageous chemical reaction? To frustrate me?

Does anyone know?

post #2 of 7
Although during refrigeration quite a few things are happening, I believe the primary purpose of refrigeration is trifold:

1. As you said, to allow the proteins in the dough to rest.
2. To make the dough manageable. The butter causes room temp dough to be too sticky to work with. Unless you're making drop cookies.
3. To help the cookie maintain it's shape during cooking. Room temperature butter based dough will flatten considerably more in the oven than chilled dough.

Everything else that's going on is probably neglible but worth a mention none the less.

1. Hydration. Experience has shown me that flour fully hydrates in about 60 minutes (or less) but it's possible some hydration may occur past that.
2. Starch conversion. From the moment water hits flour, the enzymes in the flour start breaking down the starch into sugar. This is what the yeast in yeast bread dough would normally consume. Without the yeast munching away, your cookies increase in sweetness although I doubt it will be that perceptable.
3. Fermentation. Moisture + Sugar + Time = fermentation. Heat will speed up the process but even at fridge temps some fermentation will occur changing the flavor of your cookie ever so slighty.

As far as shortening the prep time. The proteins in dough relax pretty quickly. Some books I've seen say fifteen minutes. I normally try for at least 1/2 hour. I shorten my chilling time by two methods. 1) I roll my cookies in a very long thin log and 2) I toss them in the freezer for a couple of minutes then into the fridge for an hour or so. The most important thing is that they are uniformly chilled. If you bake them right out of the freezer the outside of the dough will be very cold and the middle still room temp. For some cookies this works nicely but for others it's no good.

May I recommend the Betty Crocker cookbook? They have a spritz cookie that can be made very quickly and gives wonderful results.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Nice reply scott123, thank you! I can deal with a 1-2 hour chilling if necessary, that's fine (and it made reasonable sense too). It was the overnight/24hour thing that had me stumped (and frustrated).

I'll keep an eye out for the old Betty Crocker, but she's not so common on my side of the planet.

BTW, I *love* biscuits which dunk well. Some come up too eggy after submersion in coffee, and some don't hold their liquor. Any suggestions?
post #4 of 7
There is nothing better for dunking into coffee than biscotti. And there is no better biscotti than homemade.

I'm not sure these are dunkable, but here is my favorite biscuit (cookie) recipe of all time. The only catch is that you'll need a cookie press to make them. This spritz recipe is loosely based on Betty Crocker:

Mix thoroughly:
1 C soft butter
2/3 C sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla

Work in with hands:
2 1/2 cups sifted unbleached ap flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F.). Press dough through cookie press in long strips onto cookie sheet. Cut dough every 3". Bake for 7 to 10 minutes only until set... not brown. You will want to watch these VERY closely, they start to color at the blink of an eye. Remove very quickly with a pancake turner and let cool on racks.

Also, depending on the room temperature/temp of ingredients, the dough might go through the press better/handle better if you chill the dough briefly (10-15 min.) before pressing.

These are extremely fragile cookies. If you can get your hands on it, pastry flour might improve upon the recipe or possibly make them too fragile. I have yet to test it.
post #5 of 7

Wafers not Cookies

You're a better man than I am lamington. I only ever make cookies when my family threatens my life if I don't. No matter what tricks I try, my cookies spread into thin wafers. If I put 2 cookies at opposite corners of a sheet pan, I guarantee they will find each other in the oven.

Cookies! Hah! who needs them? :(

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
Jock, didn't your mother ever teach you to use a FLAT baking sheet? :D :cool:

Scott123, i know where you're coming from on the biscotti front, but they actually taste a little eggy for my liking when dunked in coffee. I'll give the other recipe a go though, thanks !!
post #7 of 7
Biscotti don't necessarily have to contain a lot of eggs. Or you might try an egg white biscotti, since it could be the sulfur in the yolk that might be turning you off.
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