Sunday, March 8, 2015

How To Make The IDEAL Chocolate Chip Cookie: Add A Pinch of Science

Image result for chocolate chip cookies
While baking relies on recipes, those recipes are all based on science - mostly chemistry. Whether you're a teacher hoping to inspire future chemists/scientists, or just in search of THE IDEAL Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, hopefully this post has it all.

First, the Science:
Put the cookie dough in the oven and the heat triggers a series of chemical reactions, transforming dough into cookies. 

  • When the dough reaches 92 degrees Fahrenheit, the butter inside melts...causing the dough to spread out. This occurs because butter is an emulsion made of two substances that don't want to stay together. Butter is made water and fat along with dairy solids that help hold them together.
  • As the butter melts, the water is released and as it continues to get hotter the released water expands into steam.
  • Beating the butter and sugar adds air to the cookie dough. It also dissolves the sugar into the butter adding more air which will help leaven the cookie.
  • NOTE: Baking soda spreads the cookie, baking powder puffs it up.
  • This expanding water pushes against the dough from the inside, making the dough rise.
  • When the dough reaches 136 degrees Fahrenheit, salmonella bacteria often found in raw eggs, die off.
  • At 144 degrees Fahrenheit, changes begin in the cookie's proteins (found mostly from the dough's eggs). Exposed to heat, protein strings unfold and give substance to the dough and making it rise.
  • At 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the cookie stiffens, cracks are created and steam from the boiling water is released, creating airy pockets that make the cookie light and fluffy
  • There is also a leavening agent - baking soda - sodium bicarbonate.  The baking soda reacts with acids in the dough to create carbon dioxide gas which also makes airy pockets in the cookie.
  • At 310 degrees Fahrenheit, maillard reactions occur. During maillard reactions, proteins and sugars break down and rearrange themselves forming ring-like structures that reflect light. This gives the cookies (or thanksgiving turkey or bread and muffins) their rich brown color. But, even more important this reaction results in a range of flavor and aroma compounds that continue to interact with each other... and drive those waiting around for their cookies to near mayhem in anticipation.
  • Finally, at 356 degrees Fahrenheit, the final reaction in the cookie is carmalization. Carmelization occurs when the sugar molecules break down causing the sweet nutty flavor we've all come to love in our cookies.

Customizing your ultimate chocolate chip cookie is all about science - mostly chemistry.

  • Ooey-gooey: Add 2 cups more flour.
  • Pale, chewey cookies: Set oven at 310 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Chewy: Substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour.
  • A nice tan: Set the oven higher than 350 degrees Fahrenheit (maybe 360-390). 
  • Crispy with a soft center: Use 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
  • Thick (and less crispy): Freeze the batter for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. This solidifies the butter, which will spread less while baking. 
  • Cakey: Use more baking soda because, according to Nyberg, it "releases carbon dioxide when heated, which makes cookies puff up."
  • Butterscotch flavored: Use 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (instead of the same amount of combined granulated sugar and light brown sugar).
  • Uniformity: If looks count, add one ounce corn syrup and one ounce granulated sugar.
  • More flavor: Chilling the dough for at least 24 hours before baking deepens all the flavors, Arias found.
  • TIP #1: Butter provides more flavor than shortening or butter substitutes (in a large part due to the amount of water in butter).
  • TIP #2: Creamed butter will make cookies lighter, cakier and firmer while melted butter will make the denser and chewier
  • TIP #3: Extra egg whites will make cookies rise more; extra yolks make cookies more tender and fudge-like.
  • TIP #4: White sugar yields  thin, crisp cookies while brown butter yields tall and moist coolies.
  • TIP #5: Baking soda yields craggy, coarse cookies while baking powder yields cakey, smooth cookies
  • TIP #6: Less kneading yields craggier cookies with better texture.
  • TIP #7: Hand-chopped chocolate yields more intense flavor and better texture.
  • TIP #8: There are two special ingredients that influence the texture and look of the cookie (according to Thomas Joseph at Martha Stewart: Butter and Sugar.
    • For chewy cookies - use two sticks of butter. 
    • For thinner and crisp cookies use two and a half sticks. 
    • For a cakey cookie use one and 3/4 sticks.
    • For soft and chewey cookies use one cup of brown sugar and a half a cup of granulated sugar. It's the brown sugar that adds the cheweyness, because it has molasses in it.
    • For thin and crisp cookies, you want a higher ratio of granulated sugar: 1 1/4C granulated sugar to 3/4C brown sugar.
    • For a cakey cookie you need to reduce the overall sugar in general, Thomas Joseph uses 3/4C granulated sugar and 1/4C brown sugar.
  •  TIP# 9: ALWAYS use non-salted butter - you want to adjust the amount of salt on your own.
Image result for chocolate chip cookies
This post took much of its material from the following posts. Please visit them for further details:
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Thank you, as always for your visit.

What's your favorite type of chocolate chip cookie?  What are some of your favorite baking tips?  Please leave them in the comments below and feel free to experiment. 


  1. I love this post! I never knew all this! I can't wait to try some. Maybe even a couple different ones! Thanks! I'm glad I found this on Inspire Me Monday!

  2. How cool and interesting the way you set this post up. We love to make chocolate chip cookies.

  3. Now they look and sound the cartoon heheh!

    Have a cookietastic week and thanks for wafting by :-)

  4. Bookmarked this for future reference! So helpful =)

  5. Brilliant. I love science like this. (And even more, I like ooey gooey cookies, so thanks for the tips.

  6. Wow!! That's some amazing research and how wonderful that you can get your cookie JUST the way you want.

  7. She's blinded me with delicious SCIENCE!

  8. Ha! this is great. What a great creative post for I on the ideal chocolate chip cookie!

  9. I love to eat cookies, but I never baked one !
    ABC Wednesday

  10. Wow never knew there were so many differences when it comes to baking Cookies, this is a really neat post!
    Thank you for sharing. Please come check out my Letter I too.

  11. A+ knowing the science behind the baking♪

  12. Thanks for all the wonderful research you did and laying it all in easy understandable chunks of knowledge. I'm going to revisit this page when I start experimenting on cookies for the county fair.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder

  13. my ideal chocolate chip cookie has lots of choc chippies.