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Chewy choc chip cookies all turning out cakey!

Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 02:20 PM

I need some advice from fellow chowbakers, please.

The whole chewy cookies crusade started off with my desire to replicate Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookies, which I tasted on a recent trip to New York, and was definitely the best of many cookies consumed on that trip. Fortuitously, the recipe is in the public domain, here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/09/din...

To my disappointment, they turned out nothing like the cookies of memory: rather than having crisp, caramelized edges, chewy middle region and a meltingly tender centre, they were puffy and definitely cakey. I made the recipe three times: identical results.

So, I moved on. A week later I tried Pam Andersen's version of crispy-edges-chewy-centre choc chip cookie, recipe here:

http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/jour...

Exactly the same problem. They looked nothing like the glorious photos, but were puffy and cakey. Yuck. I made these babies three times, same story.

Today I made Alice Medrich's choc chip cookies from her new book, Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. To paraphrase the recipe, since it doesn't seem to be available online:

MY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
p132.

10.125oz unbleached AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5.25oz white sugar
5.25oz light or dark brown sugar
tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
12 oz chocolate chips or chunks
3.5oz chopped walnuts/pecans

She combines the soda and flour in a bowl, and in another bowl combines butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, then stirs in the eggs, then dry ingredients just until combined. Follwed by chocolate and nuts (I skipped the nuts). The dough must stand for 2-12 hours, and be softened again at room temp before use.

Scoop onto cookie sheets (ungreased and unlined), bake at 375F for 9-11 minutes, rotating trays halfway through. Sit for 2 min before removing to cooling racks.
Bake at 375 for 9-11 min (according to book intro, she bakes everything in a conventional oven without convection, so I left my convection setting off).

These were much better than the others, but STILL significantly cakey.

***

So clearly, I am either doing something wrong, or my ingredients in South Africa are not translating well from the US ingredients used to develop the recipes, which is a possibility but unlikely (surely I would have noticed this before in my long experience of baking US recipes here?).

Does anyone have any suggestions here? I've played around with oven settings, leaving the scoops of dough heaped vs squishing them a bit vs totally flattening them just before baking, and I'm just not sure what I'm missing here.

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  1. inaplasticcup RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 02:24 PM

    I was having the same issues and read around a bit here and other resources, and the solutions that worked best for me were

    1) mix the butter and sugar with a spoon or paddle rather than cream them with a mixer

    2) reduce the amount of flour by a tablespoonful or two

    3) fold/mix in the dry ingredients by hand rather than by mixer.

    *And if you were to use a mixer, I think a paddle attachment on a stand mixer would yield a different result, i.e., less airy, than a whisk attachment on a stand mixer or the blades of a hand mixer.

    Hope that's helpful. :)

    1. r
      rccola RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 02:28 PM

      Use softened butter, not melted. Cream together with sugar.

      1. Caitlin McGrath RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 02:47 PM

        A number of Chowhounds have raved about these Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from the NY Times: http://events.nytimes.com/recipes/112...

        1. visciole RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 03:14 PM

          Yeah, I agree with rccola. Use softened butter, and do the whole thing by hand. That will do the trick I bet.

          1. k
            Kelli2006 RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 04:08 PM

            If you want chewey cookies you need to use substitute 1/2 or all bread flour instead of the AP flour, and melt the butter. The liquid from the butter will combine with the bread flour to create gluten that is chewey. You can also swap the white sugar for all brown sugar.

            The batter should be refrigerated in a sealed container for a minimum of 2 hours but overnight is even better if you have the time.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Kelli2006
              r
              rccola RE: Kelli2006 Sep 4, 2011 04:55 PM

              One cannot make gluten. It is present in wheat flour to a greater or lesser extent depending on the flour.

              All Recipes lists this non-bread flour recipe that allegedly makes the chewy cookies some bakeries are famous for: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/best-big...

              Alton Brown uses some bread flour: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

              I've always found bread flour to make things dense and heavy without yeast (rather than other leavening.) But both recipes do in fact use melted butter, so you are right, there.

              1. re: rccola
                chowser RE: rccola Sep 4, 2011 05:27 PM

                Protein is in flour and combined with water, it becomes gluten which can be developed by further mixing and kneading, as in making bread. The more you knead/mix, the more gluten and the tougher (or more texture) the bread will have. You could start out w/ AP flour knead a lot and end up with as much gluten as starting out w/ bread flour and kneading less. That's why it's important not to overmix flour/ water batters for things like biscuits and pie dough where you don't want a tough crust.

                I like the JT chocolate chip cookie in the OP that uses a combination of cake flour and bread flour. It has no yeast and uses room temperature butter.

                1. re: chowser
                  r
                  rccola RE: chowser Sep 6, 2011 09:23 AM

                  No, no and no. Gluten IS a protein naturally occurring in wheat products--nothing "becomes" gluten when combined with water. I'm a doctor. Have treated many celiac patients. From a medical source: "...gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten shows up in bread and pasta, but may also hide in many other foods, such as cold cuts, salad dressings, beer, and even licorice."

                  You give the impression that celiac patients could eat dry wheat grain. No, they can't. The gluten is already there. The gluten's tendency to give elasticity or "chewiness" is enhanced by kneading but its presence isn't.

                  At least check a source like Wikipedia if you still don't believe me.

                  1. re: rccola
                    chowser RE: rccola Sep 6, 2011 10:45 AM

                    The proteins in flour are glutenin and gliadin and when mixed with water will make sheets of gluten. The more you work it, the more it'll develop which is why you have to be careful not to overstir. Shirley Corriher covers it in both Bakewise and Cookwise,

                    http://books.google.com/books?id=b-iw...

                    "When you add water to flour and stir," she says, "these two little proteins - glutenin and gliadin - grab water first, and each other, to make these springy elastic sheets of gluten."

                    1. re: chowser
                      chowser RE: chowser Sep 6, 2011 10:51 AM

                      The Exploratorium also has a good article on gluten development:

                      http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/...

                      "This is because wheat flour contains two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, which, when combined with water, form gluten. As you knead the dough, the gluten becomes more and more stretchy. This gum-like substance fills with thousands of gas bubbles as the yeast goes to work during rising."

                      The Bread Science 101 pop up is interesting, if you'd like more details. And, if anyone else is a geek about the scientific details, like I am, this is a good discussion about the two proteins and how they combine to become gluten:

                      http://www.bakeinfo.co.nz/Facts/Gluten

                    2. re: rccola
                      chowser RE: rccola Sep 6, 2011 10:59 AM

                      As your patients go, unless they have no water in their system, eating wheat flour would mix with liquids somewhere in their system and I'd guess their digestive track does a fairly good job of mixing it so it would become gluten along the lines. So, no I wouldn't advocate a celiac patient eat wheat flour, even though I'm not a doctor.

                  2. re: rccola
                    Gooseberry RE: rccola Sep 5, 2011 02:50 PM

                    Hi Rccola, does the allrecipes.com recipe make cookies like the picture next to them (I know they sometimes use stock photos)? Because those look a bit anaemic; I really want something more caramelized, like the Jacques Torres cookies I dream about!

                    1. re: Gooseberry
                      r
                      rccola RE: Gooseberry Sep 6, 2011 09:18 AM

                      I honestly don't know. I like crisp, thin chocolate chip cookies--the only cookies I like. Most pale cookies are from baking time, rather than ingredients, though my thin, crisp cookies are browner because I use 2/3 to 3/4 dark brown sugar to white sugar.

                  3. re: Kelli2006
                    visciole RE: Kelli2006 Sep 4, 2011 05:18 PM

                    I find that using melted butter often makes the cookies greasy. While I do like the taste of browned butter in some cookie recipes, I usually cut it down somewhat to reduce the greasiness factor.

                  4. ipsedixit RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 05:25 PM

                    The thing that makes cookies -- be they chocolate chip or otherwise -- soft and chewy is high moisture content.

                    How does one increase moisture content in a cookie dough? Type of sugar, amount of flour, and how (i.e. time and temp) the batter is in the oven.

                    Let's start with the sugar. If you want your cookies to be chewy, use brown sugar, which has a higher moisture content than regular sugar. This helps trap moisture in the cookie.

                    Now, the flour, spoon your flour into the measuring cup, which prevents your from packing your flour; this will decrease the amount of flour you use. Also, using some high protein flour (such as bread flour) can make the dough hold together better, and can make a chewier cookie – but too much can make the cookies flatter and crisper.

                    Use 2 egg yolks instead of one whole egg, this will add some extra moistness to the cookies thus helping to be a bit more on the chewy side.

                    Finally, use baking powder (1 teaspoon per cup of flour) instead of baking soda; the resulting dough will make a chewier cookie (it will spread less, since it’s more acid).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      k
                      Kelli2006 RE: ipsedixit Sep 4, 2011 10:53 PM

                      Melting the butter will separate the included moisture from the fats. You are correct that egg yolks create moisture, but egg whites dry baked goods so removing them will also have a positive effect on moisture.

                      @Chowser. Thank you very much for your thorough explanation of how gluten strands are created when the protein in flour and water are mixed aggressively.

                    2. chowser RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 05:30 PM

                      If your cookies are cakey, you can either decrease the flour or increase the butter. The Jacques Torres recipe makes a cookie that is chewy in the middle and crisp on the edges--it's my favorite recipe but the overnight rest makes a big difference, as does making sure to use both types of flour. If you're still getting cakey cookies, you can also play w/ more brown sugar, less white. And, weighing the ingredients will help.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: chowser
                        Becca Porter RE: chowser Sep 5, 2011 07:31 AM

                        "The Jacques Torres recipe makes a cookie that is chewy in the middle and crisp on the edges"... if you make them big enough, like the recipe states. A lot of people skip that part and it messes up the textures.

                        1. re: Becca Porter
                          chowser RE: Becca Porter Sep 5, 2011 08:52 AM

                          That's good to know. I've only made big ones and they've been great. I also like making it the way the Best Recipe recommends (where you make a ball and then split it, the put it together w/ the split top on top) and like the texture of that.

                          1. re: chowser
                            JoanN RE: chowser Sep 6, 2011 10:37 AM

                            I never saw that pull-apart-the-ball instruction for the Jacques Torres cookie, only for the CI Thick and Chewy cookie. Agree with Becca that the Torres cookies need to be large to get the right texture, but the friends I made them for thought they were too big. They ended up breaking them in half and sharing them. The CI cookie was my favorite CCC until I discovered the recipe for the Flat and Chewy cookie Caitlin linked to above. My taste testers agreed that was the best of the three.

                            1. re: JoanN
                              chowser RE: JoanN Sep 6, 2011 10:48 AM

                              No, the directions are not specifically for the JT cookie but it's not an exclusive technique for CI. I use it all the time when I want large cookies.

                              1. re: chowser
                                JoanN RE: chowser Sep 6, 2011 10:55 AM

                                I use that technique when I want a thicker cookie--large or small.

                                1. re: JoanN
                                  chowser RE: JoanN Sep 6, 2011 10:57 AM

                                  I've never tried it with small cookies but I'll have to do it next time. Thanks for the hint.

                      2. e
                        Erika L RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 06:21 PM

                        Stick with melted and cooled (not warm) butter. Melting butter makes for chewy cookies--I will personally vouch for this. It changes the water content and also butter's ability to absorb the flour (in other words, melted butter reacts diff to flour than does creamed butter). Definitely mix by hand, not with a mixer. The flour you have in South Africa may have a diff gluten content than what we have in the US. You have to let the dough rest in order to let the gluten relax--same reason you chill pie crusts. Sorry to disagree with the poster who recommended high-gluten bread flour but in my experience, that makes for tough pastries and baked goods. You need a high gluten content in bread (and then develop it through kneading) so that it has the "stretch" to allow the yeast to off-gas carbon dioxide and make the bread rise. Best of luck! It took me several months to develop recipes for chewy choco chop, chewy oatmeal, and chewy ginger molasses (my co-workers were the beneficiaries of my experiments).

                        1. e
                          Erika L RE: Gooseberry Sep 4, 2011 06:23 PM

                          Oh, and--your butter may have a different water content/butterfat content than does US butter . European butter does.

                          1. Gooseberry RE: Gooseberry Sep 5, 2011 12:54 AM

                            This is one of the few benefits to being in a significantly different time zone - I post a question before going to bed, and when I wake up, I have thirteen insightful replies waiting for me!

                            Two comments on my current techniques:
                            1. I am mixing the cookies by hand, not in a mixer (as several posters pointed out, it's easier to monitor the dough's progress, and less likely to beat in too much air or overwork the dough).
                            2. I always weight my ingredients like flour, because it is easier to replicate results that way.

                            Based on these great suggestions, I am going to do comparative tests, testing one change at a time. I will then combine the most successful elements together. I will obviously report back here! Going to try:

                            1. Replace half the flour with white bread flour
                            2. Replace the eggs with egg yolks
                            3.Use 100% brown sugar
                            4. Reduce flour slightly
                            5. Increase butter slightly

                            My limited experience with cakey (on purpose) cookies is they are more common in low fat cookie recipes. So increasing the fat ratio I'm hoping will help me move away from the cakey texture. But obviously, too much butter will result in a greasy cookie, so I need to find a balance.

                            Thanks guys!

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Gooseberry
                              k
                              Kelli2006 RE: Gooseberry Sep 5, 2011 02:16 AM

                              You're making a lot of changes for 1 recipe and if it fdoesnt work you wont be able to tell which change caused the problem. You won't need a mixer because there is no need to cream the butter and sugar.

                              Id melt the called for amount of butter.

                              Replace 1 egg with just a yolk and add 1 tsp of milk.

                              Replace AP with bread flour and hold back 2 ozs, but be ready to add it if the batter needs it to bring it to proper consistancy. You might even need to add more because of the extra milk and melted butter, but be very careful because bread flour will absorb more moisture than AP.

                              1. re: Kelli2006
                                Gooseberry RE: Kelli2006 Sep 5, 2011 02:46 PM

                                Hi Kelli

                                I mentioned the mixer (or rather, my NOT using a mixer) only because previous posters said it could be a factor.

                                I also said I will test them one change at a time, because as you point out, I won't know what's working if I try them out concurrently. My feeling is with some of the commenters above: 100% bread flour results in tough baked goods. Which is why I think I will try 50% AP, 50% bread flour.

                                You seem to have a specific consistency in mind; do you find you can predict the outcome of the cookie by the batter consistency? If so, please describe what you think the ideal consistency of the dough should be. Thanks!

                                1. re: Gooseberry
                                  k
                                  Kelli2006 RE: Gooseberry Sep 5, 2011 03:13 PM

                                  If you have a mixer then by all means use it because a 50/50 flour ratio will need it to fully develop the gluten.

                                  A 50/50% AP bread flour would be a good start but they wont be tough because the amount of fat would limit the production of gluten because fats act as a lubrucant in baked goods. They will be chewier because of the higher porportion of protien that will create gluten when mixed aggressively with water.

                                  I can predict the consistancy but only because I worked nights at a small bakery for 2 years while in college and just after, so it is only by a sheer volume of experince. The finished cookie dough should be firm and slightly sticky but definately not to the point of being crumbly, and it should hold a ball shape when formed and slightly flattened. If it is too think you can add a little bit of milk (1TBL at a time).

                                  It's something that I can do in my sleep because there were a few nights that I actually did.

                              2. re: Gooseberry
                                chowser RE: Gooseberry Sep 5, 2011 08:55 AM

                                For the changes you're making, I'll throw in another suggestion and recommend the Best Recipe thick and chewy chocolate chip cookie. While the JT one above is my absolute favorite, the Best Recipe is a close second but much, much easier. And it incorporates a lot of the changes you're planning.

                                http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2008/06...

                                1. re: chowser
                                  Gooseberry RE: chowser Sep 9, 2011 11:36 AM

                                  The CI technique in that link is very interesting.

                                  What's interesting me more is that the photos in all the links people have given in this thread are of really pale cookies. I wonder if this is a US-specific thing, because to me (and I don't want to offend all the helpful hounds who are contributing to this discussion!), all these cookies look pretty anaemic and unappetizing, sort of like I imagine a tollhouse cookie looking (confession: I've never eaten a tollhouse cookie, I'm basing this on references in movies and books). My ideal chocolate chip cookie would be dark golden in the middle and brown at the edges, and correspondingly caramelized in flavour, which is why perhaps I enjoyed the Jacques Torres cookie so much.

                                  Or are all the photos I'm seeing stock images, and I'm way off base with this observation?

                                  1. re: Gooseberry
                                    chowser RE: Gooseberry Sep 9, 2011 11:50 AM

                                    IIRC, the CI recipe has the baking temp at 325 which is why it might be so light in pictures but you could easily make it 350 or 375 even if you want it with a golden color. You could use the CI recipe but bake according the the JT recipe. I do prefer the JT one overall, but it's much more time consuming.

                              3. r
                                Roland Parker RE: Gooseberry Sep 5, 2011 03:59 AM

                                I live in Dubai and I run into trouble baking American recipes with ingredients available out here (which are predominately UK/Australian and even South African).

                                My guess that your problem lies in several factors:

                                The flour you use will be different from typical American flour and will result in different gluten level.

                                The butter will be different as American butter has a different water content/butterfat content than European/UK butter. European butter is more "pure" butterfat while American butter has a higher water level.

                                Look through your SA cookbooks and find a chocolate cookie recipe as close as possible to the American ones you're trying, and make it. If using a SA/Brit recipe turns out perfectly cooked, chewy chocolate chip cookies than the fault will lie in the ingredients and not techniques.

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