The Science Behind Why Chilled Cookie Dough Bakes (and Tastes) Better
INCLUDES CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE!
Experience tells us here at Marvel Premium Refrigeration that chilling your cookie dough yields far better results than the alternative. However, we investigated further to see what the research says, and food labs all across America support this very hypothesis.
J. Kenji López-Alt of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, conducted a cookie experiment to test actual results of baking room temperature dough versus chilled dough. He agrees chilled dough outperforms:
“I like the flexibility that being able to cook cookie dough straight from the fridge lends you, so my recipe is designed to make cookies from dough that starts at 40°F. I found that baking in a 325°F oven until the edges are nice and toasty brown will leave you with a cookie that’s still plenty soft and chewy in the center.”
PJ Hamel of King Arthur Flour noted in her cookie experiment that chilled dough controls spreading, concentrates flavor and changes texture. Why?
Chilling cookie dough for 30 minutes make a big difference. As the cookies bake, the fat in the chilled cookie dough takes longer to melt than room-temperature fat. And the longer the fat remains solid, the less cookies spread.
In addition, the sugar in the dough gradually absorbs liquid. If you bake the dough immediately, before sugar has a chance to absorb much liquid, that liquid remains “free” in the dough, and promotes spread.
Kathleen Purvis’ research for The Telegraph found additional reasons, concluding that refrigerated dough improves cookie flavor. She recommends refrigerating for more than a day to allow time for the flavors to develop.
The difference starts with the liquid in the egg, which hydrates the starch in flour. Giving the flour more time to absorb that liquid makes the dough firmer, but it also lets enzymes in the flour and the egg yolk break down carbohydrates into the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Separately, they taste sweeter and they caramelize faster when baked.
In her baking experiment, blogger Nicky Corbishley made 80 cookies of various deviations from her control batch recipe and determined the batch chilled overnight was by far her favorite.
When you refrigerate your cookie dough, it goes a lot firmer, enabling you to mould the cookie dough into a ball in your hands. If you don’t refrigerate, you’re dealing with a sloppy batch of cookie dough.
After all this talk about the finer points of cookies, you’re probably ready to make a batch of your own! We shared this popular chocolate cookie recipe from the New York Times for you to try.
(P.S. Don’t forget to refrigerate the dough overnight for best results!)