Take a deep breath. Imagine you are sitting by a window, listening to the rain trickle down outside. Your window is the slightest bit opened, allowing the cool, fresh air in, which perfectly complements the cozy warmth coming from your kitchen. Take in another breath. Something smells good. It smells like caramelized sugar paired with base notes of vanilla and, of course, chocolate. Suddenly, you notice that you are smiling. The cookies must be ready.
Cookies are an inexplicably powerful force that can bring a smile to anyone’s face. Even the occasional Linden’s Chocolate Chip Cookies included in the school lunch could always be sure to brighten the days of Bronx Science students. But why does this force apply so well to specifically chocolate chip cookies, and not other baked goods like bread? I attribute this to the ease of preparing chocolate chip cookies. There are pre-made chocolate chip cookie doughs in stores, but it is also not difficult to prepare them from scratch. This is why baking cookies is the first baking experience that many children remember. With our love of cookies starting from such an early age, we are bound to have a special cookie recipe that we swear by. So, I sent out a Google Form to collect students’ best cookie recipes.
From the submissions, I chose BA’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, Preppy Kitchen’s Oatmeal Cookie, and an original Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe by Stella Sarkozy ’22 to bake, compare, and declare one as the best. Although baking cookies is a straightforward process, baking three types of cookies within a day is much more difficult than one might imagine. As this was the case, I enlisted the help of my friend, Katie Kong ’22, to bake the cookies with me.
After a busy three hours of baking that included me babysitting my brown butter for an hour and a half, and Kong completing a whole recipe within that time, we finally concluded our baking session. Now it was time to cool our cookies as quickly as possible by bombarding them at all angles with fans, in order to package our cookies for transport, and to complete their actual journey to our friends, Derrick Lu ’21 and Rachel Lu ’25, a student at Francis Lewis High School, who served as the 3rd and 4th judges of this competition.
After we all made our journeys home, it was time for the long awaited taste test.
First off, we have BA’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie. As can be seen in the photograph, this cookie was extremely large compared to the other two, but it did have the most developed and sophisticated flavor. In terms of texture, this cookie has a large and soft center with crunchy edges. The soft center itself also has a unique texture where it did not seem like all the sugar melted, so you could be chewing pieces of sugar. However, paired with the size and soft center, there was a unanimous opinion that BA’s cookie was too sweet. Kong noted, “The more I eat the big cookie, the sweeter it gets.” The darker chocolate may have helped, as Rachel Lu said, “I think I like the chocolate in the big one the best.” However, this is not the answer for everyone as Derrick Lu also said, “This chocolate’s bitterness is a bit too extreme.” For the final rankings, BA’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie garnered two 2nd place rankings and six 3rd place rankings.
Next up is Starkozy’s cookie recipe. This cookie was the smallest in size and did not spread nearly as much as BA’s cookie did. In her recipe, Starkozy mentioned that I could add an optional one cup of walnuts, so I did. This cookie has the classic cookie taste, but the nuts were very prominent in the overall flavor. Kong said, “You taste more nuts than chocolate, which I guess is good compared to the other ones which are just all chocolate.” This cookie is great for those who like nuts, such as my mom, who requested even more walnuts. However, you might want to completely forgo adding them if you do not like nuts. “I think the walnuts are too bitter, and it clashes with the sugar. But that’s just me. I don’t like walnuts,” said Derrick Lu. Personally, at first bite, the walnuts made the cookie taste healthy, but the more you chew, the more you taste the sugar. Overall, this was a very crunchy cookie with a good amount of sugar. In total, Starkozy’s cookie earned three 1st place rankings, three 2nd place rankings, and two 3rd place rankings.
Finally, we have Preppy Kitchen’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe. This cookie has a reasonable size and is the thickest cookie of the three. Due to its thickness, this oatmeal chocolate chip cookie was soft and chewy, which paired well with the bite that came with the oatmeal. This cookie was the least sweet, which was a welcomed characteristic at this point. As Derrick Lu finished the cookie, he noted, “The oatmeal cookie is really good.” In total, the oatmeal cookie collected five 1st place rankings and three 2nd place rankings.
All in all, the complete ranking is as follows:
Preppy Kitchen’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie
Stella Starkozy’s Original Chocolate Chunk Cookie
BA’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie
Congratulations to Joan Liu ’21 for winning first place in this cookie showdown!
Each cookie had some distinctive characteristics that perfected or ruined the cookie. What if I liked the flavor of BA’s cookie while I hated the texture? What if I’m feeling a crunchier cookie? Well, all this depends on the cookie ingredients and instructions. Let us take a look at the food science behind every cookie, so we can tinker with the recipe and cookie to our taste.
First off, let us talk about flour. The type of flour you use may affect the cookie’s chewiness, crispiness, or crumbliness. A large amount of flour paired with a small amount of liquid produces a tender, crumbly texture, whereas more liquid compared to flour creates a batter-like consistency which produces a cake-like or chewy texture. Then there is the question of what type of flour to use. If you want a chewier cookie, a high-protein flour, such as bread flour or unbleached flour, is ideal. These high protein flours create more gluten, which is what creates that chewiness.
Another very important component of cookies is sugar. Most of the cookie recipes that are published call for two types of sugar: granulated sugar and brown sugar. Granulated sugar, which is the white sugar that most of us have at home, creates larger and crispier cookies with a browner appearance. White sugar absorbs more moisture from the dough than brown sugar does, thus creating crispier cookies which caramelize more. White sugar also encourages the cookie to spread out more as the sugar melts, creating a thinner and crispier cookie. On the other hand, brown sugar creates a more moist and chewy cookie with caramel notes. Essentially, brown sugar is granulated sugar with added molasses. Dark brown sugar has about 10% more molasses than light brown sugar. The acidity from the molasses makes the proteins in the cookie dough firm up faster, creating a chewy cookie. A big problem with the cookies in this competition was their sugar level. However, the amount of sugar is very important in regards to texture. Low-sugar cookies tend to be more cake-like and doughy, while full-sugar cookies are more tender with a buttery center and crispy edge.
The next fundamental component of a cookie is a form of fat, which is typically butter or oil. Some may substitute butter for oil to cut back on saturated fats, but this may actually result in a denser cookie. Butter, being a saturated fat, solidifies at room temperature, providing your cookie with some structure. So without this structural integrity, your cookie will be thinner and denser. Additionally, some recipes may ask for melted butter where others just call for softened butter. Melted butter makes the cookie spread out more during baking since it does not have the structure of a block of butter. However, melted butter does provide opportunities to add more flavors. For instance, an intimidating yet loved ingredient in the baking world is brown butter. Brown butter is basically just melted butter with toasted milk solids. These milk solids brown and caramelize, giving off a nutty and butterscotch-like flavor and aroma that many adore. However, even some professionally trained bakers are intimidated to make brown butter because of how quickly toasted milk solids can become burnt milk solids. For more information about brown butter and how to successfully create it at home, click HERE.
Regardless of the outcomes of this showdown, I am grateful that my friends and I had the chance to indulge in eating these three delicious cookies. If you are bored one day and want a sugary treat, I would definitely recommend trying one of these amazing cookie recipes. Now that you know the science behind it all, you can let your inner professional baker shine and adjust the recipes to your liking.
Suddenly, you notice that you’re smiling. The cookies must be ready.