Improve the taste and texture of your holiday cookies with our guide with these essential tips.
Baking is more of a science than an art form, and sometimes, despite your best efforts, a bake can just go wrong. Have you ever baked cookies that were too hard, too soft or didn’t taste the way they should? The ingredients you used could be the culprit – using different sugars, melted butter, baking powder or baking soda can alter a cookie’s texture and taste. To demystify the process, we’ve broken down the six ingredients that affect your cookies so you can bake a consistently excellent batch time and time again.
Tip: After you’ve baked the perfect cookie, spend less time cleaning up your kitchen with Dawn. Dawn Dish Soap contains 30 percent more cleaning ingredients per drop than the leading nonconcentrated brand, meaning that you can quickly and easily wash mixing bowls, baking pans and measuring cups.
Using granulated white sugar will result in a flatter, crispier and lighter-colored cookie. Granulated sugar is hygroscopic, so it attracts and absorbs the liquid in the dough. This slows down the development of the gluten (flour), which makes the cookies crispier.
Using brown sugar will result in a denser, moister cookie. Brown sugar is also hygroscopic (more so than granulated sugar) and will therefore also attract and absorb the liquid in the dough. The difference is in the molasses that makes brown sugar brown: It adds moisture and slight acidity, resulting in a moist and chewy texture.
Tip: Substituting white sugar for brown sugar (or vice versa) will not affect the cookie’s sweetness, but the texture and color will be affected.
When you melt the butter, water in the butter will dissolve the sugar, resulting in cookies that are tender and flat. In most cookie recipes, you are instructed to cream room-temperature butter and sugar together. This is because mixing the butter and sugar granules creates air pockets in the dough, which results in puffier cookies.
Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate and acidic salts. The reaction of these two ingredients results in a cookie that is soft and thick, but slightly harder.
The baking powder reaction happens in two stages:
Because the reaction takes place in two different stages, you do not have to bake the dough immediately, as you would if you were using only baking soda.
When added to dough, baking soda releases a carbon dioxide gas which helps leaven the dough, creating a soft, fluffy cookie. Baking soda is generally used in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient such as vinegar, sour cream or citrus.
Tip: For recipes that call for baking soda, work quickly and bake immediately after mixing, or the reaction will cease and your cookies will fall flat.
Tip: Sometimes, a little bit of baking soda is not enough. Baking soda requires an acid ingredient to react with. Instead of adding more liquid to your dough (like sour cream or buttermilk), you can simply add a bit of baking powder. These cookies will turn out tender and chewy.
This last one isn’t an ingredient, but it’s still important to consider. If you’re planning ahead for cookies, chilling your dough for a full day will result in a flatter, crispier cookie. Giving the ingredients in your dough time to meld together and the butter to harden makes the baking process react differently than for room-temperature dough.