Lately, I’ve been struggling with baking the perfect cookie, which in my opinion is a slightly chewy cookie that’s crispy on the edges. How could something so simple be so difficult to accomplish?
In my first attempt, I ended up with cakey cookies, probably because I tried to substitue butter with oil and applesauce and was too lazy to break out my hand mixer. Although they tasted good, they weren’t the right texture. I then realized that my laziness and attempts at being healthy weren’t going to get me what I really wanted.
Determined to bake the perfect cookie, I searched the internet for answers. My research taught me that the creaming the butter and the sugar was an essential part of cookie baking. Through creaming, pockets of air are created in the butter, which helps the cookies rise. Also, the type of fat (i.e. butter or shortening) is critical. Butter helps the cookies spread more since it has a lower melting temperature than shortening. Another important component is the type of sugar used. Apparently, using brown sugar results in more chewy cookies while white sugar results in more crispy cookies. Brown sugar retains more moisture during baking, which yields softer cookies. Furthermore, the amount of ingredients that hold moisture (eggs, flour, and sugar) affect the crispiness of the cookies. Who knew cookies were the perfect example of how much of a science baking is?
After educating myself in the ways of cookie baking, I decided to try again. Since I was adamant on baking the perfect cookie, I didn’t take any shortcuts. I used a whole stick of butter (which made me cringe a bit) and searched all over the kitchen for my misplaced hand mixer. I wasn’t going to let laziness be my downfall again. I carefully followed the recipe, making sure to cream the butter and sugar to the right consistency. I had diligently followed the recipe’s instructions to a T, until I realized there were no chocolate chips in the house! After fighting with myself on whether or not running to the nearest Safeway was worth it, I decided to make do with white chocolate chips I saw laying in the cabinet. After a bit more searching, I found macadamia nuts and voila, I had macgyver-ed my way out of a sticky situation… literally. So, after deciding to make white chocolate macadamia cookies instead, I finished making the batter and spooned out a sh*t load of cookies. Now came the hard part. Baking the cookies fully without burning them. For some reason, this is the part that always seems to trip me up whenever I bake. Ovens can be finicky and if you don’t watch them, they can ruin all of your hard work in a minute. The first batch turned out just fine, browned but not too much. Thinking I had gotten the hang of it, I mistakenly left the second batch in a little too long. Although they didn’t get burnt, they did brown a lot, so much that they looked like gingersnaps instead of white chocolate cookies. Despite their color, they tasted delicious. Much crispier than the first batch, which were chewier on the inside but still crunchy on the edges.
And with those cookies, I had finally accomplished baking the perfect cookie. However, I was still not completely satisfied. A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for chocolate chip cookies using coconut oil. After finally buying a jar of coconut oil from Trader Joe’s, I knew I had to try to bake those cookies.
Again, I followed the recipe diligently (which is usually uncommon for me). Since I didn’t have any coconut extract, I left it out. And still wanting to be healthy, I reduced the sugar to only 1 cup and used white whole wheat flour instead. After learning my lesson from those brown, but not burnt cookies, I watched the oven carefully and took the cookies out once they were slightly brown (figuring they would brown some more once out of the oven due to heat conduction). These cookies weren’t nearly as chewy and didn’t spread as much, perhaps due to the coconut oil. They were still crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The cookies had a slight coconut taste, but not too strong.
On my quest to bake the perfect cookie, I realized that cookies really aren’t as simple as I thought. Often I ignore cookies, having eaten so many in my life so far and being able to make them as a kid. However, cookies are just as difficult to perfect as any of those fancy French pastries or desserts. Along with my new appreciation for the cookie, I realized that you can’t use shortcuts to get what you really want and that failure is almost always inevitable, but it’s also what makes success as sweet as the perfect chocolate chip cookie.