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Today I stumbled on an article about making a better chocolate chip cookie which was linked from a blog entry about how to perhaps attain the same effect but in a shorter time. As the chocolate chip cookie is one of the greatest inventions of the modern world I was definitely intrigued. Reading the post at Ideas In Food however I was disappointed that the author didn't maintain a control sample during his experiment. There are so many variables in the baking of a chocolate chip cookie that it can be difficult to determine what changes had how much of an effect. Could vacuum sealing the cookie dough in a plastic bag have an effect on the cookie dough? Would it aid in the rate of hydration of the flour grains? The world must know!

I decided to use Science™ to find out.

I made up a batch of my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. I split the batch into 3 more or less equal portions. One portion was placed into a glass bowl and covered with plastic cling wrap. The second portion was vacuum sealed in a plastic bag with a consumer grade vacuum sealer. The third portion was left in the mixing bowl, covered with plastic cling wrap (this is my control). All three portions were placed in the fridge.

Three hours later I removed the vacuum sealed and control portions. I portioned the cookies out using a #20 disher on identical room temperature half sheet pans lined with parchment. Each cookie was sprinkled with a small amount of course sea salt. I baked each pan for 13 minutes at 375º F. I allowed the cookies to cool for about 30-45 minutes.

Willing test subject 1 (crankygirlie) tried both cookies and found the control to taste better, but detected a definite texture difference in the two samples.

It should be noted that I have identified an potential difficulty in preventing test subject 1 from exhausting the supply of test cookies. Hopefully I will be able to prevent such a catastrophe before completion of the experiment.

Should we make it to Friday with sufficient supply in hand I intend to conduct blind taste tests with more willing test subjects. Applications are now being accepted.


Jul. 18th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)
Which, to me, suggests that the rested cookies could be tougher than the freshly-mixed ones...

Sometimes at school we rest our doughs to "relax" the gluten. Gluten formation requires hydration AND agitation, right? Although I'm kind of unsure about what exactly is happening when the gluten is "relaxing." Is it becoming less elastic?

The other gluten factor I would assume is the fact that cookies have an incredibly high percentage of shortening (any kind of fat), which shortens gluten strands. Cookies are one of the things I don't spend much time worrying about over-mixing or becoming really tough because of this fact (not to say it's not possible, but it would probably take a lot of effort).
Jul. 21st, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
I hadn't heard that about fat and gluten. That would explain a little about why the cookie dough never gets tough no matter how much you mix it. Though, wouldn't the sugar also be getting in the way? Perhaps there just isn't enough gluten to get together around all that sugar.

I'm suddenly trying to imagine a high-gluten chocolate chip cookie and what it would look and taste like. Sort of the love child of a chocolate chip cookie and a baguette.
Jul. 22nd, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think Alton Brown sort of refers to the shortening effect when he talks about fat "coating" the flour particles. I think what happens is that proteins are trapped inside a coating of fat and cannot wobble their coils all over the freaking place.... but it's the reason fat is referred to as "shortening" ... because it shortens gluten strands!

Also, about the double-panning thing. I've found that my oven is kind of nut-so and if I don't put two half sheet pans under my cookies on parchment, I get over-browned and even burned bottoms... the two pans are enough to sort of slow the conduction of heat, I guess. Although we do the double-panning thing at school, too.... and I'd like to think our oven isn't nut-so there.
Jul. 23rd, 2008 06:53 am (UTC)
Ahhh! That makes so much sense. I always wondered why it was called shortening.

When you pull the cookies from the oven do you immediately de-pan them? I do and don't see any over-browning of the bottom of the cookie. I also try to let my pans cool down again before putting another sheet of cookies on them.
Jul. 23rd, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
Aha! That must be why... de-panning hot buttery cookies is danger danger for me, and no time to be careful about it at school, so that must be the reason. And yes, I always put new cookies on a room-temp pan.

Zoom zoom! We made a dragon sculpture today! It's so cool. We have an airbrusher we use to spray food coloring everywhere. My hands are blue and green and purple!!
Jul. 23rd, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
I de-pan by just sliding the whole sheet of parchment onto a cooling rack. I also only have 2 pans so I need to do this in order to cool the pan in time to make another batch.

The sculpture sounds cool. Did you take pictures? I've got a cheap old airbrush that could be used for such shenanigans. It sounds like fun :)
Jul. 24th, 2008 02:47 am (UTC)
Heh, yeah, even sliding parchment is dangerous for me (both for burning and losing/breaking cookies).

Yes! Pictures... I just have to put them on smugmug.
Jul. 24th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
I can understand the burning thing... I'm pretty careful. However when my cookies come out they are still soft and gooey enough that de-panning doesn't risk breakage. They also stick to the parchment well enough that they don't fall off easily. Anyway, works for me.

*goes looking for pictures*