Baking 101: Any Perfect Cookie

Cookies definitely fall into the huge, hazy category of comfort foods, and they come in so many shapes and sizes, flavors and textures… but

I’ll be the first to admit that the perfect cookie to me might not be the perfect cookie to you. Some are softer, some crispier, others are chewy and spread thin in the pan, some stay taller almost like little cakes.

But a lecture this week on cookie science- can it really get any better than that?– put many cookie mysteries to rest. With these basic rules, you will have the power to tweak any cookie recipe into your perfect cookie. Go ahead and experiment with cookie dough a little… it’s not as scary as you think. I’ll bet you a dozen on that.

Crispier cookies result from the following:

  • more sugar
  • more fat
  • longer baking time
  • less liquid
  • stiffer dough
  • smaller size
  • thinner shape

Softer cookies result from the opposite as above, as well as

  • addition of honey, molasses or corn syrup
  • chilled dough before baking

Chewier cookies are made by the following:

  • more sugar
  • more liquid
  • less fat
  • more egg
  • stronger flour (higher gluten content… such as all purpose instead of cake flour, or bread flour instead of all purpose)
  • longer mixing time (develops gluten)

To increase the spread of a cookie on the pan, use

  • more sugar
  • coarser sugar
  • more leavening from air (by creaming the butter and sugar longer)
  • lower oven temperature and slightly longer cooking time
  • more liquid
  • heavily greased baking sheet

To decrease the spread of a cookie on the pan, try the opposite of above plus

  • chill dough before baking
  • use parchment or silicone baking mat for lining instead of heavily greased pan

And if all this cookie science has gotten you in a baking mood, try one of these

Dark Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Ultimate Customizable Cookie

Darn Good Chocolate Chip Cookie



23 thoughts on “Baking 101: Any Perfect Cookie

    • I am so glad you like it, Karista! And thank you for posting! I think so many of us are scared to alter a recipe, so I hope this will be helpful. I’m eating a roasted squash for lunch and get to spend the afternoon planting seeds- very nice Sunday. Hope yours is happy as well šŸ™‚

  1. Wow! Cookie science šŸ™‚ I never knew there was such a thing! I’d say you’re definitely the most informed cookie expert I’ve read so far! I’m somewhere between crunchy thins and shortbread like quality, but ocassionally I do like a chewier, dense cookie. Now I have the great cookie conundrum and I’m pretty sure I would like all the above methods!!!

  2. Cookie Science! I love it!! Is there a cookie math too? That would make me so happy! (hate math). Anywho.. this is brilliant info, thanks so much for sharing! I’m reading this over breaky, and all I want to do is go and bake now! šŸ™‚

    • I wish you could bake right now, K&C, because I’d like to see the beautiful pics of it šŸ˜‰ If I ever run into cookie math, I’ll definitely let you know since you love math so much šŸ˜€

  3. Deb!!! I must stop reading your blog while hungry!!! Really enjoying it other than the food envy I experience every time I read. You are such a talented chef and writer! Miss you!!!

    • Molly!! šŸ™‚ All comments make me happy, but when I hear from you I am so, so glad! And it makes me miss you. Thank you for stopping by here to read- I know you’re busy with those boys… all three, lol. Really hope you guys are all well. We’ll have to chat catch-up one of these days.

  4. No kidding! I learned so much from this post. When I cook I usually think I can tell from reading a recipe how the finished product will be–with baking, not so much. This guide will definitely help! So I still might not have the courage to fiddle with cookie recipes, but I should be better able to pick ones I’ll like! Thank you!

    • Emmy, that’s such a great way to think about it! Being able to predict how a recipe will act is huge… very glad this might help now and then. Wish I understood the science behind everything else… maybe eventually šŸ˜‰

    • Very glad! Hope it will be helpful. I just went back and re-read your posts on ethical eating. I am in culinary school currently and I’m realizing that issues surrounding ethical eating are resonating with me in a huge way. I want to help educate so many people who have absolutely no idea how much of our food is sourced. Thanks for the brilliant posts and for the resources as well.

      • No problem! I’m really happy that my posts are resonating with people and it’s great to know that other people such as yourself are concerned with the same issues as myself, it’ll mean more posts šŸ™‚ I’ll be baking cookies soon too!

  5. Sandra of The Foodie Affair told me about your post. Hahaha. That is so funny, I just got done researching on the science behind baking cookies and posting it too but you summarized yours so beautifully. Did you bake a lot for this post?

    • Hi Tina! Glad we found each other- I love your blog as well! And your cookie science was super. I have sure baked a lot over the years- some wins and some disasters for sure- but I also have the slight advantage of currently being in Culinary School with Pastry Arts to follow. So I’m being immersed in all things food science… and I love it šŸ˜€

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