The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
How many batches of chocolate chip cookies have you made? Most people likely can’t answer that correctly but know it’s probably too many to count.
A good chocolate chip cookie is perfection. Biting into a fresh and slightly warm cookie with slightly crisp edges, a soft and gooey middle and warm chocolate chips that make a mess on your fingers is one of the best things I can think of.
But what makes the best chocolate chip cookie? There are seemingly infinite recipes out there. Can there really be that many ways to make a cookie?
Actually, the answer is yes. Baking truly is science. And many factors go into making the perfect chocolate chip cookie. We are sharing all the things that affect how your cookies turn out.
However, if you feel like enjoying one of the best cookies you have ever had without the work of baking it yourself, stop by Sweetbriar Rose Thursday through Sunday. We always have cookies available. We can also make larger orders to go if you call ahead.
Likely every recipe you have ever tried has many things in common. It starts with the same general ingredients (butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, salt, baking soda/powder, and chocolate chips). You probably even similarly combine them (cream the butter and sugar, add vanilla and eggs, add dry ingredients).
Baking is similar, as well. As the cookies bake, the dough spreads out as the butter is cooked. The edges will set and harden first, and then the cookie starts to rise as water dissolves the leavening agent and reacts with the sugar. Next, the protein and starches set, which gives the cookie shape and then the sugar caramelizes, browning the cookie. Finally, the cookie has to cool hardening the cookie.
A Deeper Look at Ingredients
Now, let’s consider how each ingredient affects the cookie’s outcome explicitly.
Butter is the starting point in every recipe. Butter keeps gluten from forming, meaning your cookies will be more tender when more butter is present. More butter also means your cookies will spread out more.
Shortening, on the other hand, is different than butter. Typically, cookies made with shortening are soft but have a more dense feel than a cookie made with butter. Butter also has a better flavor than other substitutes. Butter is generally more than 80% butterfat, 15% water, and around 5% milk protein.
Incorporation method is also vital. Creaming the butter, in the beginning, will result in light and fluffy cookies that are more cakelike while melting butter will yield a dense cookie. You can even take the melting a step further and brown the butter in a skillet before adding it to the dough. This extra step adds a unique and satisfying nutty flavor.
Eggs provide two essential parts to your cookie recipe. The egg whites supply water and some protein. More egg white means more rise to your cookie. Egg yolks are responsible for some of the moisture and protein, but mostly they bring the fat. The more egg yolks you have, the more cakelike or brownie-like result you will get.
While sugar is what gives cookies their sweet flavor, it’s job doesn’t end there. The type of sugar you choose as well as how you incorporate it will drastically affect your final product.
White sugar is crystallized sucrose while brown sugar is only mostly crystallized with some minerals. So which should you use? White sugar has no leavening power, meaning the cookie will spread more and be thinner and crispier. Brown sugar is slightly acidic and reacts with the leavening agent causing more rise yielding cakier cookies.
Assuring you have some of each will lead to a better-balanced cookie.
A leavening agent is used to introduce air into the inside of the cookie during the baking process. This allows the cookie to rise and air pockets form. All pastries rely on this reaction causing air or steam to give rise to the end product. Two products are responsible for the bulk of this reaction: baking soda and baking powder.
Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which is an alkaline base. When you dissolve baking soda in a liquid and add to an acid, there is an immediate reaction resulting in sodium, water, and carbon dioxide.
Baking powder, on the other hand, is baking soda that already has acids incorporated. Adding liquid to baking powder immediately creates carbon dioxide, meaning you do not need another source of acid. Typically, you will see the term double acting on the baking powder can, which means it reacts initially with liquid and again after heating.
As a general rule of thumb, cookies baked with baking powder yield a cookie with a more cakelike texture with more rise while baking soda gives you a cookie that is more dense and crackly.
Just walk down the baking aisle, and you will see many different kinds of flour. The main difference between them is the protein content within. On the scale of least to most protein, you will find cake flour on the lower end to bread flour on the upper end with all-purpose right in the middle. Low-protein flour cookies will be very soft while high-protein flour cookies will be crispy.
The amount of flour you will add also drastically affects the outcome. The less flour you add will yield a very thin, spread out, and crispy cookie. Adding more flour will produce a dense cookie.
Finally, the namesake of these cookies. The chocolate. There are many ways to go here. Of course, you can buy a variety of styles and textured chocolate in bags already ready to toss into the dough. You could also shave or chop chocolate bars to mix things up. You can also incorporate a variety of types of chocolate for a more diverse flavor palette.
Of course, the process of the combination will affect the final cookie. The more you work the dough, the more the gluten will be activated. This extra working of the dough will lead to smooth dough and a relatively tough cookie.
On the other hand, mixing the dough until just combined will yield a better texture. Try mixing in the chocolate chips before you completely incorporate the flour, so you don’t overmix the dough.
Temperature also plays a vital role in the outcome. Altering the temperature of the cookie and the oven can yield dramatically different cookies. Baking room temperature cookies will lead to more spread while baking chilled dough will give the cookies more structure and shape. An oven with a lower temperature will allow cookies to spread more while using a higher cooking temperature will bake the cookies faster without spread.
One of the most critical steps many people ignore is letting the dough rest. Placing your dough in the fridge overnight will make an incredibly different cookie than immediately putting them in the oven. The flavor and texture are both incredible after resting.
After reading through all of these ingredients and methods, you might have a better idea what to do to make your perfect cookie. Some people prefer thin and crispy while others love the denser cookie. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy a cookie. Hopefully, you can perfect your ideal recipe.
Stop by Sweetbriar Rose
If you’re craving a cookie now, or want to order a tray for a party (or yourself, no judgment) stop by or call Sweetbriar Rose today. We would love to see you in the store or have a tray of fresh cookies ready for you.