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How the Cookies Crumble... Cookie Magic: How to Easily Change Cookie TextureBy Vicki McClure Davidson
Cookies are loved by everyone—they're a quick, on-the-go, satisfying treat no matter the season.
Homemade cookies are usually more frugal to make (especially if you have a bunch of cookie-loving kids in your home) instead of buying them from the store, and they have no preservatives. But, as you thumb through cookbooks, it can be mystifying which cookie will satisfy the palates of your family.
Once you get past choosing the basic flavor of cookie to make, which cookie texture is the best for your needs? Do you prefer chewy cookies or those that are more cake- or brownie-like? Or perhaps a fine or a coarse texture is favored? Or, would a thinner cookie be preferred?
Cookie Texture, Your Way
Once you've chosen your cookie recipe, it is easy to achieve the texture you like best. By adjusting one or two key ingredients in a recipe, you can subtly change the texture of any cookie recipe to one of your liking.
Bumpy-topped, coarse-textured cookies: Add baking soda. Baking soda reacts quickly with additional acidic ingredients (such as buttermilk, sour cream, brown sugar, molasses, honey, yogurt, vinegar, or creme fraiche), thus creating multiple gas bubbles that will roughen the cookies' surfaces so that they have textured nooks and crannies.
Fine, tight-crumb, and smooth-top cookies: Add baking powder. Baking powder works slowly and allows for an even rise in the cookie. No acidic ingredient is necessary to be included in the recipe because baking powder has its own acid base built in, which is usually cream of tartar.
Chewy cookies: Add melted butter. Butter is 20 percent water. Typically, butter that is softened to room temperature is used. However, melting the butter in advance helps the water in the butter to mix with the flour to form gluten, thus making the cookies more chewy. Unless actual butter is required for the cookies' flavoring, margarine or shortening are perfectly acceptable to be substituted for butter.
Thin, candy-like cookies: Add more sugar (1 to 2 tablespoons more than called for in the recipe). Sugar liquefies when heated and will become fluid in the oven. This enables cookies to spread and become thinner as they bake. You can also use all butter or add 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid (water, milk, or cream) or use a low-protein flour, such as bleached all-purpose, non-chlorinated flour.
Personalize Your Drop Cookies' Texture
There's no consensus on the perfect drop cookie. But you can make the texture exactly to your liking.
To make chewy drop cookies, underbake them slightly so that they're still quite soft and not yet browned, making sure they no longer look wet in the center. For crisper drop cookies, bake them a bit longer, letting the cookies become lightly browned all over.
From the Good Housekeeping website, here is a video with more tips on baking perfect cookies every time:
Additional Cookie Tips:
Don't use "reduced fat" or whipped butter products when you bake cookies. They can contain up to 58 percent water. As such, they will turn out much drier and less tender. Good cookie sheets are invaluable for the finished cookie product.
Are your cookies a bit crispier than you'd like? Pop them into a plastic bag or plastic container, along with a few apple slices or a slice of bread wrapped in a paper towel. They should soften within 24 hours. Five seconds in a microwave can also work wonders with hardened cookies.
Heavy-gauge metal cookie sheets are best because they hold heat evenly and won't warp as quickly as lighter-gauged sheets will. Your cookie sheet should have low sides; high sides will interfere with the even flow of heat wafting over the cookies. Non-stick cookie sheets are adequate, but be aware that dark surfaces cause the bottoms of cookies to brown quickly—oftentimes, too quickly. Double-insulated cookie sheets are better because they will help keep cookie bottoms from browning too fast.
For those who want to bake a batch of supremely good sugar cookies, here's a professional tip from chef Gina De Palma that she shared in a December 2008 interview with Ed Levine posted on Yahoo! Food Suite:
"A key step in making sugar cookies is the creaming of butter and sugar. If the butter is too soft, your cookies will be greasy, and if it is too cold, they'll seem like lead weights. It is important to start with evenly softened butter, and the only way to do this properly is to take it out of the refrigerator and, uh, wait. Always soften butter in a temperate environment until it yields gently to pressure; if you want to hasten the process a bit, cut the butter into even sized pieces and spread them out. This is not the time to attempt any wacky moves in the microwave or on the stovetop."
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Cook's Illustrated website; (http://www.cooksillustrated.com).
Levine, Ed, 5 Secrets for Perfect Sugar Cookies, Ed Levine Eats: Yahoo! Food Suite website, (http://food.yahoo.com/blog/edlevineeats/22150/5-secrets-for-perfect-sugar-cookies/), December 8, 2008.
Razzle Dazzle Recipes website, (http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/christmasfun/cookie_101.htm).