Another new blog contributor is one of our bakers, Corinne Babchishin. Corinne graduated in 2010 from Humber College’s Culinary Management Program. After eight years of honing her skills as a pâtissière, she created, in early 2018, Sweetcheeks and Cookie-Dough as a way to share with fellow foodies her love of quality sweets made with care.
Please enjoy her first piece.
You promised your co-workers you would take part in this year’s cookie exchange. You are now scouring the internet to find a good last-minute cookie recipe. What if, instead of depending on unreliable internet recipes, you had the knowledge necessary to create your own ideal cookie? The first step towards being able to create your own cookie recipe is to understand the role of basic ingredients in baking. Afterwards, knowing the impact of mixing techniques and ingredient ratios on final products, will permit you to create your own cookie recipe.
There are four basic ingredients in baking: flour, sugar, fat, and eggs. Flour is used to provide bulk and structure to a product. Sugar (which includes all sweetening agents; example honey, cane sugar, and agave syrup) is heated, it caramelizes bringing colour and that oh-so-delicious baked goods flavour. Moreover, sugar has a role in tenderizing the product by weakening gluten strands. Sugar also provides moisture to a product since it is hygroscopic (it absorbs moisture from its environment). When whipped with fat, these two ingredients assist in leavening the dough. Fat adds flavour to a product (unless you are using a non-flavoured fat such as vegetable shortening). It also tenderizes the product by keeping gluten strands short. This also explains why a cookie dough with a high fat content has fewer chances of being overmixed. Eggs are not a necessary ingredient in cookies, however they can help with richness and leavening. They will also help develop gluten and create a chewier cookie.
In baking, the technique you use when incorporating ingredients will determine the final texture of a product. Creaming is the technique used when softened fat is whipped with sugar to incorporate air bubbles in the dough, thus leavening the product and making it less dense. When it comes to making cookies, creaming will also determine how much spreading will occur during baking. Thoroughly creamed sugar and fat will result in maximum spread, therefore a thinner and crispier cookie. If you wish a chewier cookie, cream less.
If your ideal cookie is light and delicate, consider incorporating whipped egg whites. Whipped egg whites create airier, softer crumbs. When mixing flour into cookie dough, you do NOT want to overmix. Once the dough is uniform, it is time to stop mixing. Overmixing increases gluten development which results in a tougher, denser cookie.
Similarly to mixing technique, the oven temperature and baking time will impact your final product. Baking at a low temperature means a longer baking time which will result in a drier, crispier cookie. If you love softer cookies, bake the dough at the proper temperature (normally 350F) and aim for a slightly underbaked cookie.
The crispness, softness, chewiness, and spread of a cookie is also affected by the ratio of the ingredients used. The ratio for a basic shortbread cookie is as easy as 1:2:3! That is 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour. Cream the butter and sugar, then mix in the flour until a uniform dough is reached. This 1:2:3 ratio will result in a shortbread cookie with a crunch. A ratio of 1:1:1 results in a very rich and chewy cookie. Increase the sugar content even more and the cookie will veer towards crispy. Likewise, augment the amount of fat and you will achieve a crispier cookie. Increasing the moisture content of a cookie dough, for example by adding eggs, will produce a chewy texture.
As discussed, in baking, the technique you use and the proportion of your ingredients determines the final texture of your product. Hopefully, this short discussion on the role of basic baking ingredients, techniques, and ratios, has piqued your curiosity to the possibility of creating your own ideal cookie recipe.