Let’s Talk Food: How ingredients affect a cookie

Have you been baking more cookies, often with the children who are at home right now? Make it a science project to find out what happens when you only use white sugar? Or when you only use brown sugar? Use baking powder instead of baking soda? Melt the butter instead of creaming it with the sugars?

I remember when I was a kid, there was a lady who baked the most wonderful chocolate chip cookies, similar to the Bader’s sugar cookies in the blue can (Some of you are old enough to remember those cookies). I was so excited when my mother brought them home, so when I started to bake cookies, my goal was to reproduce that cookie.

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When you only use white sugar and no brown sugar, you will get a flatter, crispier and light-colored cookie. The reason, according to the website www.homemadesimple.com/6-ingredients-that-affect-your-baking.html, “granulated sugar is hygroscopic, so it attracts and absorbs the liquid in the dough. This slows down the development of the gluten (flour), which makes the cookies crispier.” (Hygroscopic is a substance that tends to absorb moisture; in this case, the white sugar absorbs the moisture from the batter, thereby creating a drier, crispier cookie).

Most cookie recipes ask for white and brown sugar. The brown sugar results in a denser, moister cookie. Brown sugar is even more hygroscopic, but because of the molasses in the brown sugar, it adds moisture and slight acidity, resulting in a moist and chewy cookie.

When the recipe asks for confectioners’ sugar, your cookie would tend be light and crispy.

The reason you cream the butter and sugars together is to incorporate air into the dough, resulting in a puffier cookie. If you melt the butter, it will dissolve the sugar and make a tender but flat cookie.

So what happens when you melt the unsalted butter instead of creaming it with the sugars? When melted, the water in the butter will dissolve the sugar, resulting in a tender and flat cookie.

Cookie recipes usually call for baking soda, which releases carbon dioxide that helps leaven the dough. This action creates a soft, fluffy cookie, but you work quickly and bake it immediately after mixing or the reaction will cease and your cookies will fall flat.

So what happens when the recipe calls for baking powder? It is usually not recommended for cookies, as it contains sodium bicarbonate, which results in a cookie that is soft and thick, but slightly hard.

All-purpose flour is usually the recommended flour, but when you use a combination of all-purpose flour, you will end up with a light cookie.

I have a recipe for a refrigerated cookie using cake flour that can be cut thinly after it has been in the refrigerator a few hours. I have also made cookies with gluten-free flour, as the role of gluten is not as important in cookies. The cookies came out pretty tasty, with a hint of graininess because of the rice flour.

So what if you chill or freeze your dough like DoubleTree Hotels does and then bakes the frozen cookies at the facilities’ restaurant? That same dough will become flatter and crispier because the butter is hard and makes the baking process react differently.

Why do most recipes call for room temperature unsalted butter? This is butter that when you gently press into the butter, it makes an indentation, but it’s not too soft that it makes a huge hole. A room temperature unsalted butter will make a perfect cookie. Using melted butter will produce a misshaped cookie, as the dough does not hold its shape.

This is my favorite oatmeal cranberry cookie recipe. It used to be a favorite of our friend, Stan, and whenever I made it, I always made sure I made a batch for him. The addition of freshly ground nutmeg makes a big difference.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Makes: 36 cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together until light and fluffy:

2 sticks unsalted butter, soft but firm

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

When well incorporated, add:

2 large eggs, adding them one at a time

Sift together dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Add:

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Add dry ingredients to butter/sugars mixture, gently mixing completely but not overmixing. Using an ice cream scoop, place cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven.

So play with your food and ingredients and see what results you will get. You can play as long as you have the ingredients to do it!

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I am very low on flour, so can’t play right now.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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