Chemist Divulges How To Bake The Perfect Cookie

A chocolate crinkle cookie i i

The chocolate crinkle cookie is food scientist Shirley Corriher's favorite, she says, because they're "crisp on the surface and gooey and doughy inside." Courtesy AKELstudio Inc. hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy AKELstudio Inc.
A chocolate crinkle cookie

The chocolate crinkle cookie is food scientist Shirley Corriher's favorite, she says, because they're "crisp on the surface and gooey and doughy inside."

Courtesy AKELstudio Inc.

Get the recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.

The holidays mean high baking season. And to avoid cookie disappointment — or disaster — cookie connoisseurs may want to get acquainted with food scientist Shirley Corriher.

In her new book Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, Corriher has solutions for common cookie complaints: the crumbly cookie, the pitifully pale cookie and cookies that spread "in a low-moisture world."

Among the cookie problems bakers face is that the cookies can emerge from the oven soft and intact, but when the cookies travel, they may turn into a box of crumbs.

To beat this problem, Corriher suggests adding a tablespoon of water to a cup of flour that's going to be used in the cookies. The two proteins in flour — glutenin and gliadin — grip water, Corriher tells NPR's Melissa Block, and make "springy stretchy, strong elastic sheets of gluten." The gluten will hold the cookies together, she says.

Another baker's dilemma is that chocolate chip cookies can turn out flat. Corriher suggests using an unbleached flour or a bread flour because they're higher in protein. More protein sucks in more water when they join together to make gluten, she says.

Corriher also suggests making cookie batter the night before, a method adopted for the original Toll House recipe. Overnight, the proteins and the starch soak in liquid, the enzymes break the starches into sugar and big sugar breaks down into smaller sugar. Small sugars brown well, she says.

When asked her favorite recipe, Corriher picked the chocolate crinkle cookie.

"My secret weapon is I roll the dough balls in plain table sugar first," she says. "Then I roll them heavily in powdered sugar, so it stays snow white and really dramatic against the black cookie dough. When you bite in, they're crisp on the surface and gooey and doughy inside."

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

By rolling the dough balls in plain sugar first, the confections' sugar does not soak in so much and stays on the surface better. Corn syrup in the dough helps prevent crystallization to produce the soft chocolate center. Oil greases flour proteins to produce a tender to the point of gooey chocolate center.

Makes 3 to 5 dozen, depending on size

    1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8.2 oz/232 g) spooned and leveled bleached all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
    ½ teaspoon (3 g) salt
    8 ounces (227 g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
    2 3/4 cups (19.3 oz/547 g) sugar, divided
    1/3 cup (79 ml) canola oil
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) light corn syrup
    2 large eggs (3.5 oz/99 g)
    1 large egg yolk (0.65 oz/18 g)
    2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
    1 cup (4 oz/120 g) confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, beat together well the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave on 50 percent power for 1 minute, stir, and microwave for 15 seconds more and stir.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together 2 1/2 cups (17.5 oz/496 g) of the sugar, the oil, and corn syrup to blend. Beat in the eggs, egg yolk and vanilla. Then on low, beat in the melted chocolate. Add the flour mixture and beat in on low speed.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, arrange a shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F/163 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with Release foil (nonstick side up).

Take out about one-quarter of the dough at a time to shape. Roll the dough into 1 1/2 to 2-inch (3.8 to 5 cm) balls. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup (1.8 oz/51 g) granulated sugar into one bowl and the confectioners' sugar in another bowl. Roll each cookie dough ball lightly in granulated sugar first, then very heavily in confectioners' sugar. (By rolling in plain sugar first, the confectioners' sugar does not soak in so much and stays on the surface better.)

Arrange cookies 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the foil. For crisp cookies, bake 12 to 14 minutes. You can have several sheets of foil covered with cookies ready.

When one sheet is done, you can pull off the foil and move cookies to a cooling rack. Rinse the baking sheet with cold water to cool and then slip the sheet under another sheet of foil with cookies on it and get it right back into the oven. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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