What Cookie Camp Are You In: Crispy or Soft?


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Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

There is a saying that cooking is an art while baking is a science. That’s because the very specific mixture and proportion of ingredients in baked goods can mean the difference between success and failure in reaching your desired outcome. Add a little more broth to soup or garlic to a sauce and those variables usually won’t make or break a dish, but add more or less of an ingredient in a baked treat recipe and your goodies could fall flat—or too crunchy, too gooey, too crumbly, or any number of unwanted outcomes. But how much do you actually know about the chemical and physical reactions involved in producing a chewy chocolate chip cookie or crispy one? I turned to pastry chef and author of “The Baking Answer Book,” Lauren Chattman, for the answers to these and more—dare I say—burning questions.  

Recipes for the beloved chocolate chip cookie include mostly the same ingredients, but the results are a matter of proportion of those ingredients as well as temperature of the dough and the oven. We often like what our taste buds are used to, whether that is grandma’s recipe—which may actually be from the back of the chocolate chip bag—or a variation. Without straying too far from the classic formula, it is possible to play with standard ingredients and techniques to come up with a cookie that will please your particular tastes, says Chattman. Cookie lovers generally divide themselves into crisp and chewy or soft and cakey categories. Here are techniques and key tips to help achieve your favorite and a recipe for each cookie camp, which appeared in Real Food. The recipes also include weight measurements in case you prefer more exact baking science. 

The Science of Butter
I always like to bake cookies with real dairy butter as it tastes delicious. If you are not sensitive to dairy, here are Chattman’s thoughts on baking with butter:
• All fats, whether solid or liquid, add moisture and tenderness to baked goods and extend their shelf life. Solid and liquid fats can also add flavor, but butter will give baked goods an incomparable fresh cream taste, which is why it is preferred in most cookie recipes.
• Butter can aid in leavening while liquid fats cannot. Butter can be creamed with sugar, incorporating air, to help cookies rise. Liquid fats (including melted butter) do not retain air, so they should not be used for this purpose.
• Butter contributes to the tenderness of cookies by coating the proteins in flour, barring them from linking and creating gluten. Shortened baked goods—pie crusts, biscuits, and shortbreads—are items in which the butter is cut into flour, effectively coating the proteins with fat and “shortening” the gluten strands.

Soft and Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies

21/2 cups (336 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (180 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 10-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer), combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter, and cream together on medium-low speed until fluffy and light, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla, egg, and egg whites and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and mix to combine.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Use a small ice cream scoop to drop rounded spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie.

6. Bake until golden around the edges but soft on top, 8 to 9 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool.

Tips and Tricks: Soft and Cakey Cookies
• Cream butter and sugar together. This will whip some air into the dough, so your cookies will puff up a bit in the oven.
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder along with the soda will provide more lift.
• Subtract an egg yolk and use an extra egg white. Egg whites contain more water than yolks which when evaporated in the oven helps cookies rise like little cakes.
• Use twice as much brown sugar as white sugar. Brown sugar, which is slightly acidic, will react with the baking soda in the recipe for a higher rise.
• Add a little extra flour—enough to add structure, but not so much that it will dilute the sweetness of the sugar.
• Chill the dough. Cold dough will spread less in the oven, creating a cakey center.
• Turn up the heat. If a recipe calls for 350°F, increase to 375°F. A hotter oven will allow the cookies to bake before spreading, resulting in cakey centers.


Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies

21/4 cups (280 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/2 cup (90 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 10-ounce bag bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer or a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar and butter and mix on low. Add vanilla, egg and egg yolks and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and mix to combine.

4. Let dough stand 10 minutes to firm up, and then use a small ice cream scoop to drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie.

5. Bake until golden around the edges but soft on top, 9 to 10 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool.

Tips and Tricks: Crisp and Chewy Cookies
• Use melted, not softened butter for a dense and chewy texture.
• Subtract an egg white and add an extra egg yolk. Yolks have more fat than whites, which give cookies a fudgy rather than cakey texture.
• Use twice as much white sugar as brown. White sugar, which is neutral rather than acidic like brown sugar, will cause your cookies to spread rather than rise. It will also give your cookies a nice crispness around the edges.
• Turn down the heat. A cooler oven will let the cookies spread without drying out.
• Do not overbake. Cookies will continue to firm up and dry out as they cool off, so pull them out of the oven while they still look a little damp on top.


Nutrition info (per serving)
• Soft & Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies: CALORIES156 (74 from fat); FAT 8g (sat. 5g); CHOL 19mg; SODIUM 112mg; CARB 18g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 2g
• Crisp & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies: CALORIES 156 (76 from fat); FAT 9g (sat. 5g); CHOL 29mg; SODIUM 105mg; CARB 18g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 2g

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