Chasing Delicious | Recipe Building: Chewy Cookies
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Recipe Building: Chewy Cookies - The formula for the perfect thin chewy cookies at Chasing Delicious

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).

Formulas

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.

Baker’s Percentage

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.

True Percentage

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. 

Parts System

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).

Benefits

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.

Exceptions

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.

Chewy Cookies

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!

 

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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Founder of Chasing Delicious, and author of Haute Dogs, Russell's works have been featured in Southern Living, Men's Fitness, Redbook, TRADHome, and Real Simple magazines and on various sites including Lifehacker, Fast Co., Business Insider, The Kitchn, Live Originally, Quipsologies, Explore, and Fine Cooking. Follow Russell on Twitter @rvank and Instagram. Get more delicious @chasedelicious.

34 Comments

1
  • Kara

    Thanks for this! It’s like Ruhlman’s Ratio, but more!

  • Dave

    Great info Russell! Although I prefer recipes where the ingredients are weighed, I did not know about the “Bakers Percentage”. With regard to tackling other recipes, cheesecake and pound cake recipes seem to vary a lot in cookbooks. I have yet to hit upon “the perfect recipe” for those…any help would be appreciated!

  • Karen

    Thanks for this. I am always trying to go in the opposite direction with my chocolate chip cookies, I like them thick and chewy like big waves of lava from top to bottom. It’s helpful to know about the butter, sugar and flour ratio to make them thicker. Pie dough is always problematic and often distrastrous for me. I’m sure there has to be a basic ratio that would help me weed out potential disasters before they happen.

  • Maria Isabella

    Bread, please!

  • shelly (cookies and cups)

    Well, first off let me just say that the new look is brilliant!
    Second, all this sciencey baking is making me feel smart!

  • Melanie

    Wow! Thanks for the infographic! I am a huge chewy cookie fan, and they’re pretty much the only types of cookies I like to make. This chart is helpful, I can’t wait ti start experimenting.

    I agree with Maria, Bread please! :)

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I absolutely love this post! So much great info in here :)

  • Cassie | Bake Your Day

    Love the new look and this graphic is brilliant. Love it!

  • Sarah

    Nailed it! This is a great idea – I can’t wait to hear about other strategies for reverse-engineering a recipe. And you are spot on – a choc chip cookie has to be chewy. Not chewy? Dealbreaker.

  • Justin

    Awesome tutorial and info! Muffins would be an awesome recipe to tackle as its so hard to get the perfect texture and still retain the texture after a day or two.

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    I’m totally intrigued by the ratio and I love your new blog look!

  • Michelle Kalsi

    Thanks for this!! We moved to India 6 mos ago and one of our challenges is home baking. We have all kinds of issues with the flour here…low gluten content, etc so learning how it all affects the recipe results is very helpful. My question is…we like our cookies much less sweet. I usually half the amount of sugar called for in any recipe. Now I understand why they are always little round puffed up bites. Is there anyway to reduce the sugar content and yet have a flat, chewy cookie? Thank you!!!!

    • Russell

      That is tricky. If you cut back the sugar to avoid refined sugars you could always substitute the rest with a natural sweetener like honey. If you want to avoid that, you’re best bet is finding something to substitute the sugar in equal volume or weight that has the same characteristics (possibly butter or another ingredient). I haven’t experimented much with this as sugar is an important part in baking because of it’s unique characteristics. I wish I had a better answer!

    • Ann Le Yonce

      Michelle,
      I too prefer my cookies a bit less sweet. I have a couple of suggestions for you. I have experimented with both successfully. 1) coconut palm sugar can be used as an equal replacement for refined sugar. It has the one of the lowest glycemic index of the natural sugars, and has a nice Caramel/Toffee flavors that lends itself nicely to cookies. 2) I make a date purée by taking dates and slowly cooking it into a soft mush with a little bit of water, and then pressing the dates through a fine sieve with a spoon. The thick date purée adds sweetness, moisture and a nice caramel flavor to cookies… You’d never know there were dates in the cookies. I substitute the date purée for half of the sugar called for in recipes. I hope this helps. Let me know what you come up with. -Ann

      Russell,
      I love how you laid this all out and made it so easily digestible… I can’t wait to get into the kitchen to start experimenting. For the next one in this series… Hmmmm…. How about cakes?

      • Michelle Kalsi

        Thank you for this! I can’t wait to try both and even better, both dates and coconut palm sugar are readily available in India…hurrah! Will let you know the results.

  • Diane {Created by Diane}

    so full of great info, I LOVE it!

  • thelittleloaf

    This is fantastic! But where is the cookie photo? I want to see them close up :-)

  • Jeanette

    Great explanation Russell – my son always asks me to make chewy cookies and I can never get it right.

  • Chellie

    Cake!

  • Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies

    I love the redesign, Russell! And this post is exactly why I suck at baking. It’s such a science!

  • Natasha

    I LOVE this series! I would definitely want one of these for cake!

  • Maria Tadic

    I’ve never seen this before! I’m so excited. I suck at baking… really badly. I think this could be my way out! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  • Liren

    Extremely handy, especially for those who are visual learners! Thank you!

  • Erica

    This is a great lesson! Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

  • Molly @ Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips

    oo how interesting! Love the new series and new site layout! How about tackling brownies next? Would go along with the homemade them. Also maybe a post on how you come to how much of each ingredient should be in a recipe? test test and test again? How do you use the different percentages to figure out how much should go in each recipe? I understand how you would derive it from most of the formulas but True % is throwing me for a loop. Looking forward to more of these posts!

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    You have a knack for explaining and illustrating concepts in a clear and understandable manner, great info!

  • JulieD

    Love this! Thanks for the great tips, always!!

  • Carolyn

    A really great idea for a series!

  • Tesei

    Thank you, undestanding this is soooo helpful! I see you had a similar question before and you mentioned susbtitute sweeteners… what would the flour/butter proportions be if you use Agave Syrup or honey instead which are not solids but rather fluid? Thank you once more!

  • Jenn and Seth

    such a great post! i always tune out the science behind baking, but you totally made it easy to understand!

  • Gabby

    Great info. However I’d like to know what is the chocolate you are referring to in this recipe. Is it cocoa powder?

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