I have a serious weakness when it comes to cookies. Cookies are my Kryptonite. I choose cookies over human contact at least twice a week.
Because of this I have baked far more than my fair share of the crumbly morsels of magic and have lots of cookie recipes under my belt.
The way I see it, in the wonderful world of cookies there are two families – the soft, chewy cookies and their crunchy rounder cousins. In my eyes, both kinds of cookie have their merits and I don’t want to go around picking favourites. With that said, it is true that sometimes you want a chewy cookie and sometimes you crave the crunch. Luckily, this is where science comes in to play.
Any cookie recipe, whether it be for afghans, peanut butter cookies or good old choc chippies, can be used to make both a chewy or a crunchy cookie. All it takes to switch between the two is a little science.
There are three ingredients which can be altered to change the type of cookie you create: butter, egg and sugar.
How many times have you popped your lump of butter into the microwave, punched in a random combination of numbers and pressed start, then opened your microwave door later to find that the fluffy soft butter you expected had transformed into bubbling butter juice? Figured it won’t make any difference? It does!
Melted butter = Chewy cookies
Softened butter = Crunchy cookies
Why? I hear you ask.
When you beat sugar into softened butter it creates air bubbles in the batter. This is because the sugar crystals create little holes and the fat molecules trap air in them. When you bake the cookies these bubbles fill with carbon dioxide from the baking soda resulting in an airy, crunchier cookie.
Melted butter, on the other hand, doesn’t add to the structure of your cookie. This is because both the crystalline and the soft fats are liquid and so won’t trap any air. Butter in this form will just add delicious rich flavour and moistness to your cookie.
Lets talk about eggs ba-by, lets talk about you and me.
Eggs play a vital role in holding together your scrumptious cookie, and can be easily divided into two parts; the crunch maker and the orange balls of chew.
White = Crunchy cookies
Yolk = Chewy cookies
As any good gym buff knows, eggs are full of protein. When it comes to you cookies though, it is the water and fat in the eggs that are most important.
Egg whites contain a lot of water, which is great for the crunchy cookie lover. When water is combined with flour it makes gluten. This is a strong, stretchy bunch of connected proteins which hold up your cookie, making it taller and crunchier.
On the other hand, egg yolks are full of a bundle of fat. Gluten can’t form in fat, which means less will be formed, resulting in a softer, chewier cookie.
This is the ingredient that has us giggling like a tickled penguin when we bite into our freshly baked cookie. White, brown, caster, coarse, raw or powdered, as long as it isn’t an artificial sweetener it’s good right? Right. But the type of sugar you use also affects the chewiness of your cookie.
Brown sugar = Chewy cookies
White sugar = Crunchy cookies
I love brown sugar. I could eat it by the tablespoon. I do eat it by the tablespoon.
Brown sugar is mostly sucrose, along with some glucose and fructose. Glucose and fructose are hygroscopic, meaning they hold onto water. This means that when you use brown sugar it doesn’t release much water, resulting in less gluten formation. And what does less gluten mean? More chewy!
White sugar on the other hand is pure sucrose. Sucrose isn’t very hygroscopic at all, which means it gives up lots of water as it bakes. This means (you guessed it) more gluten formation and a crunchier cookie.
So there you have it, everything you need to make batches of cookies Nigella would be proud of.
So get baking!
Here is one of my personal favourite cookie recipes
Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 200g softened butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Cream butter and sugars, then add eggs and vanilla essence.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Pour dry ingredients into butter mixture and fold a few times. Add chocolate chips and fold again until just combined. Don’t over mix!
Refrigerate for 12-36 hours. I understand that this isn’t always easy (or possible) to do. When you need cookie, you need cookie. But it really does make a huge difference to how delicious your cookie is. It will be worth it i swear!
Form into evenly sized balls and bake at 180°C for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Now pour yourself a tall glass of milk and enjoy, after all, cookies are best served warm!