The Science Behind Baking Cookies

Dec 16, 20
The Science Behind Baking Cookies

I mean, yeah, we’re all about eating it raw (cookie dough, that is), but maybe that’s just because none of us are really great at science.

Have you ever really thought about why baking measurements have to be so specific? Why does no one measures “from the heart” on baking TikTok? Well that’s because every ingredient in whatever masterpiece you’re baking is creating a chemical reaction - a reaction that could make or break your dessert treat. 

So what does each ingredient bring to the cookie?

Flour: There are so many different kinds of cookies. Even one solid chocolate chip cookie can be thin, chewy, crumbly and really anything else you want it to be. It all depends on the ratio of flour to the rest of the ingredients in the cookie. The more important the shape of the cookie, the high flour to ingredient ratio. 

Sugar: Did you know that brown and white sugar have different reactions during baking? White sugar caramelizes (browns) and spreads the cookies as they bake in the oven. Brown sugar makes the cookies moist due to the molasses within it. According to FineCooking.com, molasses adds moisture and, because it’s slightly acidic, causes the proteins in cookie dough to firm up faster, creating a chewier texture.

Butter: Butter makes cookies softer. Butter is an emulsion (a mixture of two substances that don’t want to stay together. Butter is made up of water and fat (and some dairy solids that hold it together). During the baking process, the water turns into steam, pushing itself against the dough from inside, trying to escape, creating air and making the cookies chewy, 

Eggs: Eggs hold everything together. They’re the “glue” that makes sure the flour bonds to everything else, while also helping make the cookie more chewy. 

Leavens: This is your baking powder and baking soda. These act as a rising agent, helping the cookies get huge and fluffy or stay thin and crumbly, depending on the amount used. 

Salt: According to FineCooking.com, salt is a flavor enhancer. Without it, the secondary flavors in a cookie fall flat as the sweetness takes over. Salt also strengthens the protein in a dough, making cookies chewier.

It goes beyond the ingredients, too. Mixing the ingredients too much can make the cookies stale. Some flour will produce more gluten the longer it’s mixed and played with, creating a more tough cookie. 

Shapes and Spacing can also determine the texture of the cookie, as does time in the oven even the oven you use. 

Honestly, it’s all a little too much. We’re just gonna stick with using the best ingredients and not bake them because I’d rather eat the dough.