Posted for educational purposes only.
How to Get the Texture You Want in Your Cookies
The ingredients you use are extremely, extremely important in achieving your desired cookie. Doing something as small as using baking powder instead of baking soda or using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour can make a huge difference. Even the type of fat you use in your cookie will dramatically affect its outcome. The basic building blocks of most cookies are fat, flour, baking powder and baking soda, sugar, and eggs or other liquid.
*Fats - The fats most often used in cookies are butter, margarine, shortening and oil. Fats play a major role in the spread of your cookie. In other words, they help to determine if your cookie spreads out into a thin mass on the cookie sheet or pretty much keeps its original shape. Shortening, margarine and spreads are fairly stable so they will help cookies keep their original unbaked shape. Butter melts at a much lower temperature than the other solid fats, so cookies made with it will tend to spread out. And oil, since it already is a liquid at room temperature, produces cookies that keep their shape. The amount of fat also affects the cookies. You can basically think of it this way: More fat equals flatter and chewier to crispier cookies. Less fat equals puffier and more cake-like cookies.
*Flour - Flour also affects how cookies bake and behave. Flours with a high protein content like bread and all-purpose flour will help to produce cookies that tend to be flatter, darker, and more crisp than their counterparts made with cake or pastry flour.
*Baking Powder and Baking Soda - Baking powder and baking soda are the two most common leaveners in cookies. Baking soda is simply bicarbonate of soda, while baking powder is a combination of bicarbonate of soda plus an acidic ingredient (cream of tartar). Baking soda neutralizes the acidity of the dough, allowing the cookies to brown in the oven. Since baking powder already contains its own acid, it will not reduce the acidity in the dough, and the resulting cookies will be puffier and lighter in color.
*Sugars - The type of sugar and how much you use also plays a big role. White sugar will make a crisper cookie than brown sugar or honey. In fact, upon standing, cookies made from brown sugar will actually absorb moisture, helping to insure that they stay chewy. Thus the reason that most chocolate chip cookie recipes contain both brown and white sugars is that you get the best of both worlds! If you lower the amount of sugar called for in a cookie recipe the final baked cookie will be puffier than its high sugar counterpart.
Cookies are not as delicate as cakes, but mixing still plays an important role. The most important step in cookie mixing is the creaming step. This is the step where the fat and the sugar are whipped together until light colored, smooth and fluffy. This helps to incorporate air into the batter, which you need if you want your baking soda and/or baking powder to work. Another important factor is not to overmix the dough. Once you combine the dry and wet ingredients, mix until just combined and no longer.
Do not underestimate the importance of temperature in cookie baking. Cookie dough that is chilled before baking will hold its shape and produce a slightly puffier cookie. Cookie dough that is at room temperature before baking will spread and flatten out while baking. So if you happen to have a very warm kitchen, it's a good idea to refrigerate the dough before you bake it.
Equipment and Baking Time
Different baking sheets and whether you grease the sheets or not will produce different results. A good baking sheet can make a big difference. Super thin baking sheets will cause the cookie bottoms to cook faster, sometimes resulting in burnt bottoms. Yuck! Insulated baking sheets allow air movement and will help to produce puffier cookies. If you want flat crisp cookies, your best bet is the standard semi-thick baking sheets that are available just about everywhere. If you grease your cookie sheets before baking, it will cause the cookies to spread out more but if you don't grease the sheets you run the risk of the cookies sticking to the sheets and making a big mess. A good and fairly inexpensive solution to this is parchment paper. Its non-stick surface makes for easy cookie removal and yet it doesn't cause the cookies to spread out.
Yes, it is true the longer you bake something the more cooked it will become. Cookies are usually baked from 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Since cookies are small they tend to bake fast. A difference in temperature can completely change the amount of time you'll need to bake your cookie. If you want your cookies to be chewy, the trick is to slightly underbake them. If you want them to be crispy, bake them a little longer. The best way to do this is with an accurate oven thermometer, a timer and your watchful eye until you get it all down.
So How Do You Want 'Em?
So now that you know a little bit about what goes into the cookie, how do you combine it all to come up with your favorite winning texture? Just follow these tips to get the cookie you desire. Don't be afraid to mix and match, your ideal might just lie somewhere between all the extremes. Start baking cookies - there's a texture to find!
*Flat - If you want your cookies on the flat side, you can do some or all of the following things: Use all butter, use all-purpose flour or bread flour, increase the sugar content slightly, add a bit of liquid to your dough, bring the dough to room temperature before baking.
*Puffy - If you like your cookies all light and puffy, try some of the following tricks: Use shortening or margarine and cut back on the fat, add an egg, cut back on the sugar, use cake flour or pastry flour, use baking powder instead of baking soda, refrigerate your dough before baking.
*Chewy - If chewiness is your desire remove the cookies a few minutes before they are done, while their centers are still soft and not quite cooked through. The edges should be slightly golden but the middle will still look slightly raw. Use brown sugar or honey as a sweetener. Try using egg yolks instead of whole eggs, this will add some extra moistness to the cookies thus helping to be a bit more on the chewy side.
*Crispy - For crisp and crunchy cookies, bake your cookies a few minutes longer than suggested and immediately remove them to wire racks to cool. Cookies made with all butter and a high amount of white sugar will also crisp up quite nicely. Another trick is to use bread flour.