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« Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links | Main | Hot Dog! Chilly Willy Ice Cream Sandwiches on Hot Dog Buns Recipe for Serious Eats »
Wednesday
Sep082010

Curiosity Killed the Cookie: Another Experiment in How Not To Make Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not sure about whether or not curiosity killed the cat, but it sure did compromise these cookies. 

That's right: I've been messing with chocolate chip cookies again. It all started about a week ago, after a lifetime of conscientiously creaming the butter and sugar at the beginning of making chocolate chip cookies. I had received a big ol' parcel of freebies from Nestle Toll House (giveaway coming in a few days!) and had cookies on the mind.

A question occurred: "what would happen if I swapped the order in which the flour and sugar are added?".

Well, needless to say I was gonna find out.

And so, instead of creaming the butter and sugar, I "creamed" the butter and flour, and then added the sugar in, bit by bit, later on in the recipe, at the time when I would normally be adding the flour. I didn't mess with the actual measurements of the ingredients, though.

So what happened?

Well, the fact that these were going to come together differently was evident right away. The flour clumped up with the butter like...well, pie crust. (this makes sense, right?)

And then, adding in the eggs and other ingredients, things seemed to start looking like normal cookie batter.

Adding in the sugar, bit by bit, the dough looked, smelled, and felt pretty normal. I added in the vanilla and chocolate chips.

I let it chill for a while. Normal-looking. I spooned it on to the baking sheet, finishing off some of the cookies with these cute Nestle chocolate and white chocolate chip mini morsel toppers.

When the cookies came out of the oven, they looked completely perfect: lightly browned on the edges and bottom, soft in the middle.

But then something strange happened. As the cookies cooled...they turned into cookie crackers!

They looked right. They smelled right. They even tasted pretty right. But the texture was...well, disappointing. Crackery. Weird.

As I found out on Baking911.com, I had basically skipped an important step by making this switcheroo: "Creaming incorporates the maximum amount of air bubbles so a recipe will rise in the oven and be light in texture." So while I can't get technical about the chemistry of why this crackery texture was the result, I can say that while I was happy to have seen for myself what happens when you skip this step, I'm not likely to do it again.

Here's the recipe I used--feel free to try my experiment for yourself, or honor the good Mrs. Paul Franklin, Wife of Governor, from Phoenix, AZ, and follow the directions correctly (listed correctly below). By the way, this is the book the recipe is from--isn't the cover just too much?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Favorite recipes of America desserts Including Party Beverages, Vol 1  

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot water
  • 1 6-ounce package semisweet chocolate morsels or pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Procedure

Cream butter and sugars; add egg and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients (except for chocolate); add to creamed mixture. Add hot water; mix until well blended. Add chocolate pieces, nuts, and vanilla, and blend just until incorporated. Drop from teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Makes 3 1/2 dozen small cookies.

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Reader Comments (20)

What Baking911 said is correct, this step is extremely important in a creaming method cookie like chocolate chip (or peanut butter, or sugar, etc). The sugar kind of cuts through the butter like tiny shards of glass, helping to aerate it further than simply beating the butter alone. You can OVERCREAM though, and wind up with flat, greasy cookies (eventually the butter will heat from the friction of the mixer and break, losing all that air and melting slightly).

You also caused something else to happen by creaming the butter and the flour: you developed way too much gluten for a cookie! The reason recipes always tell you to add the flour at the end and only mix until just combined is that they don't want you to overwork it with excess beating. With flour, moisture + kneading = gluten formation. So by creaming the butter and flour for as long as you would typically cream the butter and the sugar, you made a lot of gluten, leading to that "crackery" texture. At the bakery, we beat the flour just a smidge longer than "just combined" to purposely create a bit of extra gluten to make a superbly chewy cookie!

Kristin
www.thebakelab.com

PS--LOVE Cakespy!

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterBakelab

So you crushed them up, added some butter and made a pie crust out of them right? That's the potential I'm seeing here.

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterSEattlejo

Hilarious - and I love the 'I'm not a sell out' photo. You have moxie, little cakespy, mucho moxie. As for the cracker like consistency, it's probably nothing a little milk or perhaps frosting filling couldn't cure? Make little crackery oreo type cookies?

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterAnne-Marie

Great read and recipe! Thanks for the share!
Payday Loans

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterPayday Loans

Ahaaaa. It's like making pie crust, then adding some sugar to it. Strange... But these things really do matter!

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterWei-Wei

I have that cookbook. I also have the corresponding meat, vegetable and casserole books. I love to read them and see some of the old-timey recipes, especially in the meat cook book. Thanks for the experiment.

September 8 | Unregistered CommenterJen B

Sweet Apron! What is that green figure on your counter? Is that a knife holder? Funny!
I love that you shared this experiment. "If you never try anything you never learn anything."

September 8 | Unregistered Commenterdorothy

Great experiment! Maybe make some ice cream sandwiches with the cookies? I love stopping at garage sales and thrift stores just to look for old cookbooks! So many neat recipes to try.

September 9 | Unregistered CommenterKaren S

Super interesting post! I always wonder what switching the order of ingredients will do to a recipe--more often than not, in baking, I end up with a huge fail. I guess baking lovers are all mad scientists at heart!

September 9 | Unregistered CommenterLucie

Love the pics. The "sell-out" one made me laugh out loud! Cute.
Thanks for the neat info about the creaming process. I'd no idea, until you, in your infinite curiosity, that it was such a important step!

September 9 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

It's kind of amazing how just switching a few steps around makes them come out completely different! I'm going to have to start screwing with thing when I cook, just to see what happens!

It's the serious investigative work that sets Cakespy apart from the crowd :-)

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September 27 | Unregistered Commentermbt
I conducted a similar experiment adding raspberry jam to my cupcake mixture before rather after baking. The resulting cupcakes were a very strange shade of pink and the texture was really quite bizaare but the taste was delicious!!
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