How to Get the Texture You Want
in Your Cookies
are a favorite goodie of just about everyone. And it seems like just about
everyone has a different opinion of how cookies should be. Some people like
their cookies crisp and delicate. Others prefer a chewy cookie with a thickness
that you can sink your teeth into. The conundrum lies in getting the cookies
you bake to have the texture you want. The exact same cookie recipe can bake up
into two completely different cookies, the flavor will be the same but the
texture will be different. How, you ask? The reasons all lie within the
variables of ingredients, mixing technique, temperature, and equipment and
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
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.
and Liquids - Eggs and liquids can
help to promote puffiness. Just a tablespoon or two of water or other
liquid will help your cookies spread into flatter and crisper rounds. One
thing to remember is the different effects of egg yolks and egg whites.
Egg yolks will help to add moistness whereas egg whites tend to make
cookies drier. To make up for the drying effect of the egg whites extra
sugar is added. This is the reason that cookies made with just egg whites
tend to be so sweet.
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
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
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
- 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