Far too often I get asked why someone’s cookies didn’t work, yet mine did. Before you question the end result, it’s most important to understand the process of cookie making. Let’s take a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe to dissect. For a chocolate chip cookie, you usually are looking for these ingredients: Butter, Granulated and Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Eggs, Baking Soda, Salt, Flour, possibly Cornstarch and of course Chocolate Chips.
What do all of these ingredients mean?? Let’s break them down.
Butter: To start off we always cream our butter and sugar. This is essential for two reasons, one- this disperses our sugar into our butter evenly and therefore throughout our recipe. We don’t want a bland bite of a cookie, do we?? The second reason we do this is for air bubbles in our dough. When we cream butter and sugar, essentially we stop once we see that it has formed a light and fluffy texture. This is because air bubbles are now trapped inside the butter, which sets the tone for your cookie texture.
Sugar: Sugar is by far the most important ingredient in this recipe. This ingredient does far more than simply sweeten the pot; It provides moisture. We use two types of sugar when baking chocolate chip cookies. Different sugars provide different functions when paired with varying ingredients- we will discuss that more in a later post. For now, we use light brown and granulated sugars. These two sugars are essential for a well-balanced chocolate chip cookie. The more granulated sugar you use, the more your cookies are going to spread. For example, if you were to use only granulated sugar and no brown sugar, your cookies would be spread rather thin and have a crispier texture all around. If you were to now in turn use strictly brown sugar, your cookies would be thick, chewy and have a molassesy flavor. There is no wrong way to eat a chocolate chip cookie… either of these methods could be used if that is the way you prefer your cookies. However, I enjoy mine soft and chewy in the center with thin and crispy edges. I do this by using BOTH granulated and light brown sugar in my chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Eggs: As I discussed in my previous blog post, eggs are very important when it comes to baking. For this recipe, we definitely want more flavor, so I recommend using one full egg and one additional egg YOLK. This way we increase the fat content in our recipe and get a rich flavor. Eggs are also an adhesive when it comes to baking. They are best known for their ability to hold together water and oil. The double yolk, which is used in several of my recipes, is an action most important when baking chunkier textures. For example something that includes chocolate chips, cookie pieces, or has a thick texture overall.
Salt: Something that some people question when it comes to baking. “Rosie, why am I adding salt to my recipe… I don’t want it to taste salty??” Of course, you don’t want a salty taste- unless making a special salted caramel or pretzel cookie *yum* Salt contributes to the flavor to your overall dough and also intensifies other ingredients, such as sugar. Outside of the flavor benefits of salt, it also tightens up your cookie dough and makes it stronger. Salt also provides a balance between it and the overall sweetness of your dough.
Vanilla: Similar to salt, vanilla also enhances other flavors as much as it adds its own. If we remove vanilla overall from our recipe, the outcome tastes very bland and uninteresting. This is why there is a dramatic difference between buttercreams that add vanilla compared to those that do not.
Flour: As far as dry ingredients go, flour is pretty key; It provides structure and strength throughout your dough by binding together your ingredients. At the end of baking your dough, if you notice that it is a little too sticky or thin, adding a tablespoon or two of flour will usually do the trick. The added flour thickens the dough, as your flour does in all of your recipes.
Cornstarch: Not all, but some chocolate chip cookie recipes also include cornstarch in the list of dry ingredients. I myself have a recipe that includes this agent, but more recipes without it. Cornstarch thickens mixtures, specifically sauces when cooking. When it comes to baking, it is best known for thickening cake and pie fillings. When used for our cookies, it creates a tender and softer end result.
Chocolate Chips: Now for the best part, chocolate chips!! You can go wild here and add whatever you want as we created a base cookie dough. I love to add semi sweet chocolate chips, sometimes mini m&m’s too (they’re my favorite)! Yes, I prefer mini to whole sized m&m’s because they taste COMPLETELY different...
Although this is not an ingredient, I feel it is necessary to disclose for executing a flawless cookie recipe. Chilling dough is imperative here!! Chilling your cookie dough ensures that your cookies won’t over spread because it takes time for the fat content to melt when placed in the oven. Nobody wants to put in the work when it comes to baking, only to open your oven door and find your tray filled with a thin cookie sheet. Oh no!! -When you place your SEALED cookie dough in the fridge, your fat contents solidify. This creates a thicker batter and also gives your sugar time to absorb more liquid and water content. Typically I chill my dough overnight, but anything above 1.5 2 hours should do the trick. Leave your cookie dough in your mixing bowl and wrap tightly with a plastic wrap.