Recipe Building: Chewy Cookies
Last week I introduced you to a new series here at Chasing Delicious, Homemade where I take traditionally store-bought items and show you how to make them at home. Today I’m introducing yet another new series. Like Homemade, this series is all about empowering home cooks to adopt from-scratch cooking and baking methods.
To understand how this series works, there are a few baking basics you need to keep in mind. While mixing methods, the type of ingredients you use and the cooking methods can have a large effect on how a product turns out, one of the most important aspects in baking is the weight ratio of ingredients. By knowing a particular recipe’s ratio, you can build recipes from scratch. More importantly you can play with the types of ingredients and flavors you use. So long as the total weight of the final product and the ratio of ingredients remain the same, you can do just about anything to a recipe (within reason).
Before we examine this particular formula for making chew cookies, let’s look at the different types of recipe formulas. There are a few ways we can write a formula for a recipe, and I have included three I find helpful.
The technique most commonly used to measure the ratio of a recipe’s ingredients or a recipe’s formula is called Baker’s Percentage. This is the method used in professional kitchens. Baker’s Percentage is a formula built around flour. The amount of flour used in a recipe is always 100%. The rest of the ingredients are written as a percentage of the flour’s mass. So if a recipe contains 16 ounces flour and 8 ounces sugar, then the ratio is 100% flour, 50% sugar. Recipes using the Baker’s The total sum of the baker’s percentagse will always equal a number higher than 100%; that number is called the Formula Percentage. With Baker’s Percentage, each ingredient must be measured in the exact same way – I suggest weighing ingredients as it is the most precise. The Baker’s Percentage is a very precise method that is great for when you want to execute a recipe.
Another technique, True Percentage, uses a formula where the total sum of each ingredient equals 100%. To build this formula you have to know the weight of each ingredient, not just the weight of the flour. This technique is great for visualizing the amount of ingredients that makes up a recipe and for comparing it to other ratios to see what kind of effect particular ingredients has.
The last, and least precise but most friendly method for home baking, is the Parts System. This system uses the ratio of ingredients as labels them as parts (1 part, 1.5 parts, 2 parts, etc) and makes measuring by weight or volume easy. This formula takes in to account that ingredients like salt, flavoring (extracts) and other small ingredients don’t affect the overall consistency and final product (aside from flavor) and are thus excluded from the Parts System Ratio. Just keep in mind you shouldn’t omit these ingredients, rather should include the ingredients to taste (1/2 tsp – 1 teaspoon is a good starting place for salt and extract).
So, why is it good to know the formula for a recipe?
- It allows us to compare recipes to one another to determine characteristics like density, texture, flavor, etc.
- It allows us to experiment with different ingredients such as substituting one type of flour for another.
- It helps us identify bad recipes. If a cookie recipe calls for a large percentage of liquid and low percentage of flour you’ll know something is off.
- It also allows us to scale recipes easily.
Particular ingredients like flour have varying gluten or protein contents. Substituting whole wheat flour for cake flour can greatly affect a recipes texture and density, not just the flavor. I suggest researching the [[protein content]] of particular flours before adjusting them in a recipe.
Onto the cookies! This ratio will make a very thin chewy cookie that is perfect for chocolate chip cookies. During baking the edges caramelize nicely forming a crispy ring around deliciously soft, chewy cookie center. This is the way chocolate chip cookies are meant to be (with a very high sugar to flour ratio).
*True % numbers are rounded.
So, what does this formula tell us? For one we notice that this recipe has a high sugar to flour ratio (equal parts of both to be exact). It also has a high butter to flour ratio. Both mean these cookies will flatten a lot in baking. As there is less gluten (protein), relative to other recipes, because of the high sugar and butter amounts, there is little structure to give these cookies fluffiness or cakiness. Instead the sugar and butter and relatively little flour creates a chewy cookie, and one that is likely to caramelize on the edges more than others. In other words, this is the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Depending on how soft or crispy you want your cookie, you can use varying baking temperatures and baking times as noted above. If you don’t like your cookies crazy thin, you can add anywhere from another .25 parts to .5 parts flour. This will create a slightly cakier cookie.
What recipe formula would you like me to tackle next? Let me know in the comments!