Using science to go beyond simple cookie dough

Ah, the science of baking.

While Alton Brown does a great job incorporating science into all of his shows, my favorite chemical explanations happen on Good Eats: Chips for Sister Marsha. This is the episode where he alters the classic Nestle Toll House cookie recipe in three ways to create impressively different variations. I was won over with this episode, especially because he explains everything so thoroughly (with help from Cookie Monster’s brother). If you haven’t seen it, you can find the episode on YouTube: part one and part two.

At some point while watching the episode, it occurred to me that I could take these three recipes, order them by their ingredients, and highlight the scientific baking explanations within each grouping. Having the recipes in one place would also make it easy to try them all and contrast their differences. As a result, I made a chart to put in my recipe binder to help me in all my future cookie baking endeavors and I thought you might benefit from it, too:

If you’re interested in printing a copy of the cookie chart, you can download the PDF.

6 comments posted

  1. Posted by Angela - 04/14/2011

    This. Is. Awesome! Just totally awesome- thanks!

  2. Posted by Julie - 04/14/2011

    Yes. Very awesome. Except that the .pdf is blank.

  3. Posted by Erin Doland - 04/15/2011

    @Julie — We’ve had a number of people test it and all of them get a full PDF. I’ll try e-mailing it to you.

  4. Posted by AmandaLP - 04/17/2011

    He also did a gluten free version of “The Chewy”

    Also, a stay in the refrigerator is the best thing to add flavor and complexity to the dough.

  5. Posted by Jimena - 05/09/2011

    Hi Matt
    I just tried this cookie recipe, I was so excited! I tried the chewy cookies, I’ve been desperately looking for a recipe for a while, so I was really looking forward to it.

    but… it was a flop!
    for some reason, my dough is SUPER moist, doesn’t have the usual cookie dough consistency! I’m sure I measured right, I even had someone double check me… I baked a batch right aftern making it, and another after it had chilled and solidified. in both cases, the cookies melted very flat, and stayed extremely soft, even though the edges were crisp and done.
    have you tried this one out? any chance you might help me tweak it so it works? is there something I did wrong?

    thanks for the help,

  6. Posted by Erin Doland - 05/09/2011

    @Jimena — A couple thoughts …

    1. Have you ever taken a temperature reading on your oven to know if the setting matches the actual internal temperature? If your oven is too hot, you won’t get a consistently done cookie at that temperature.

    2. Based on the altitude of where you live, you may need to adjust the liquid amounts in your cookie dough. If you’re closer to sea level you may need to ease up on the liquids.

    3. What size are your eggs? If you’re using large or extra large eggs, you may be introducing too much liquid that way.

    4. The recipe could just be wrong from Alton Brown. Try it with less liquid next time.

    I’ve tried this recipe, the chewy version, and didn’t have a problem with it. However, I used whole wheat flour for part of the flour. Whole wheat flour has less gluten in it, so that could have made a difference. I’ll ask Matt if he’s ever made the chewy recipe exactly as Alton has written it.

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