Wednesday, May 07, 2014

How to make the best cookie

The girls' school science fair was yesterday. Magdalena's project was "The Plant Grows Toward the Light." It's in the greenish shoebox thing.

Miriam's project was an experiment to see which tasted better: fresh-baked cookies whose dough had been refrigerated for 48 hours, thus allowing the wet and dry ingredients to really soak into each other; or fresh-baked cookies whose dough had been mixed right then. The day before the science fair, she and her project partner went around the neighborhood asking people to taste-test Cookie A (refrigerated dough) and Cookie B (fresh dough). Then she presented the results (and more samples for people to taste-test for fun) at the science fair yesterday

The New York Times says that Cookie A, with its refrigerated, fully incorporated ingredients, makes the better cookie. But Miriam's taste-test experiment found that most people preferred Cookie B, the one whose dough was prepared and then baked right away.

We talked about possible explanations for this since it went against her hypothesis (and that of the NYT). We decided that since most people make cookies because they want them now, not two days from now, most people make and eat cookies like Cookie B. So when they tasted them, Cookie B was what they were drawn to as the familiar ideal of a cookie. Cookie A also made for a crispier, flatter cookie, which several taste-testers mentioned as being a negative. Cookie B was puffier and softer.

But the ultimate conclusion she made was that there is no "best" cookie. People like what they like, and it can't always be explained by SCIENCE.


Susanne said...

That's a neat idea. I like her poster.

Jen said...


And for my unsolicited opinion, I've found that the BEST cookies come when you give the flour time to hydrate, but DON'T let the butter chill.

=Letting the dough sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes, and THEN bake. (For me, this means turning on the oven to preheat after the dough is done *AND* cleaning up the mess before putting cookies in the oven.

Bridget said...

I think you're right. The 48-hour'd cookies had a more developed flavor but it was almost bready or eggy. I like the idea of letting the dough rest while you tidy up, so you have fresh cookies AND a clean kitchen.

Jen said...

Also---this makes me wonder what would happen if you'd vacuum-sealed the dough and then refrigerated it....given that the fridge is a natural dehumidifier. It probably dehydrated the dough somewhat in the process.

Also? I think about making cookies way too much.

Jen said...

(You can tell Miriam that after reading your post, I made brownies....and gave them a good 20 minutes to hydrate. =) And they were delicious.)

Blair Walker said...

I prefer Cookie C, which is unbaked and has no chocolate chips.

Jennifer said...

I've never considered any of these things. I only ever chill the dough if it is required to keep its shape. Now I'm so curious! :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Yes, go for the dough!

Liz Johnson said...

I'm with Jen - let it sit, but not too long. I'll refrigerate it for 10 minutes or so (tightly wrapped with plastic wrap) or sit on the counter (if it's a chilly day) for 30-40 minutes. But you can't let the butter get too hard or too soft or it messes up the texture and lift of the final product. That's the whole point of cooking with softened butter! Not to mention making the eggs all cold again. Gah.

I'm a bit of a cookie purist... can you tell?

I wish more science was done with cookies.


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