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The Cookie Experiment, Part II

March 22, 2013

So, on Wednesday, I told you about an experiment that my friend Tracey and I did to look at the effects of different flour-weighing methods on cookie consistency (and taste!).  I left you hanging right after telling you about our baking procedure, but never fear: the rest is coming today. So, without further ado:

Results and Discussion

1. Visual appearance & spread

Batch 1 (sifted flour) appeared thin and nicely browned. Batch 2 (scooped flour) did not spread as thin as Batch 1 and browned nicely on the edges but remained poofy in the center. Batch 3 (packed flour) only browned on the very bottom and was very poofy (almost appearing uncooked) on the top. Photographs of the 3 different batches are given below.

We also quantified the spread of the different batches by measuring their diameter with a ruler. The diameters as a function of flour content are reported below:

Cookie diameter as a function of mass of flour used.  Probably should have reported the x axis as percent weight rather than absolute weight, but didn't weigh the entire batch!

Cookie diameter as a function of mass of flour used. Probably should have reported the x axis as percent weight rather than absolute weight, but didn’t weigh the entire batch!

We found that cookies made with less flour spread more during the baking process – we suspect this is because the flour soaked up a lot of the liquid (fat & water) in the dough and dramatically decreased its viscosity, but we didn’t have a good way to check this in our experiment.

2. Taste-test obsevations

Our observations about the taste and texture of the cookies are summarized below.

Sampled warm:

  • Batch 1 (low flour) – crunchy on the outside, soft and gooey inside. Tracey said “no complaints” and “nom nom”
  • Batch 2 (med. flour) – slightly crunchy on the edges; not quite as chewy in the center as batch 1
  • Batch 3 (high flour) – denser; not as cooked in the center; didn’t taste as buttery as batches 1 and 2. I felt like this batch really stuck to my mouth. Tracey said “this tastes more like storebought cookies”

Sampled after cooling 1 hour:

  • Batch 1 – tasted sugary, felt “stickier” on the teeth
  • Batch 2 – flavorful, with good texture and balance between chocolate, butter, and sugar
  • Batch 3 – felt dense; chocolate was the dominant flavor. the cookie part didn’t taste like much. “dry, but not terrible”

All in all, we found that cookies made with less flour spread more during baking and become thinner and crunchier. On the other end of the spectrum, cookies made with more flour did not spread very much and were dryer and denser.

We also found that the balance between the flour and the other ingredients seemed to affect the overall flavor of the cookies, with sugar and butter dominating the flavor of the low-flour cookies and chocolate dominating the flavor of the high-flour cookies.

3. Cookie Rankings

We ultimately polled 18 respondents (including ourselves) for their cookie preferences. The results are summarized below:

Cookie rankings for different batches of cookies.

Cookie rankings for different batches of cookies.

All in all, the majority of our respondents preferred the low-flour cookies, and the high-flour cookies were generally the least favorite.

These taste-test results surprised us, because Tracey and I both strongly preferred the medium-flour/scooped-flour cookies (which Tracey said “taste[d] like mom’s chocolate chip cookies”), while most of our friends preferred the low-flour cookies. We wonder if this had something to do with letting the cookies sit overnight between our taste-test and theirs – though I do think I would have preferred the low-flour cookies too if there had been a bit more salt to balance out the sugar (i.e. if we’d used salted butter rather than unsalted).

Conclusions

We concluded that chocolate chip cookies are yummy, obviously. But more importantly, we concluded that our initial hypothesis – that is, that different methods of measuring flour would result in noticeably different cookie textures – was correct.

We found that more flour led to dryer, denser cookies which seemed chocolate-ier, while less flour led to moister, gooier cookies which seemed more sugary. Our testers generally prefered the low-flour cookies, though preferences varied a lot from person to person.

All in all, all three batches of cookies were pretty tasty, and the amount of flour really did make a difference. But for most purposes, while I’m a big fan of weighing my flour with a kitchen scale (it’s super easy!), scooping is probably just fine too :-)

And I suppose I might as well finish with some of our less “scientific” photos of our process, because… well, why not?

(P.S. If it were possible to send cookies through the internet, I’d send you all some.  But since it’s not, why not bake some of your own this weekend?)

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From → Cool Stuff

One Comment
  1. Great post! I had a good read! =)

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