Aging Cookie Dough

In the last couple posts, we’ve seen that the temperature of cookie dough affects its spread and texture, which explains why many recipes chill the dough for a couple hours. But what about chill times that range from one to three days? That’s more than enough time for the dough to cool. These long periods of refrigeration, which are also called “aging” or “ripening,” are meant to improve the flavor and texture of our cookies. In this experiment, we’ll explore how significant these changes really are.

Red Bean Dessert Soup (紅豆湯)

Red bean soup (紅豆湯,) is a popular dessert throughout China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. It’s made from red beans (紅豆, also called adzuki beans) which are incorporated into many East Asian desserts. Red bean soup itself is versatile. It can be eaten hot or cold, plain or with toppings, liquid or frozen. When my mom first dictated her version to me, she cautioned, “糖最後加,不然紅豆煮不爛!Don’t add the sugar until the end, else the beans will never soften!” Today, I’m sharing my mom’s recipe, adapted for a typical Western kitchen and pantry, then discussing the science behind her words.

Miso Saltine Toffee

Saltine cracker toffee, or Christmas crack, is a popular holiday treat. It’s a layer of saltine crackers coated in toffee topped with chocolate and sometimes with nuts. I enjoyed the rich, buttery taste, but I’d double the layer of saltines and use dark chocolate in an effort to cut the sweetness of the toffee. Even so, I could only take so much. In this version, I added miso for a salty note that elevates the toffee and complements the chocolate. I can’t get enough of it! As always, I’ll share the recipe and then talk science.

Sugar in the Kitchen: Candies

In the past few posts, we focused on sugar’s roles in baked goods and its interactions with other ingredients. But sugar is also crucial to candies like caramel, fudge, and fondant, for which careful control of sugar crystallization is paramount for texture. In this post, we’ll explore the chemistry of crystal formation in the candy making process.

Apple Pie

In the last post, we discussed how sugar preserves the structure of cooked fruit. This comes in handy for fruit pie fillings, which often become a mushy and wet (but nevertheless delicious) mess. In this recipe, apples are tossed with sugar and drained. The drained liquid is cooked into a thick syrup that’s added back to the apples and baked. The apples maintain some crunch, not much water leaks into the pie, and the syrup adds an extra punch of flavor. Let’s take a look at the recipe and then discuss the science!

Sugar in the Kitchen: Special Applications

Over the last few posts, we discussed a lot of sugar’s roles in baked goods. It’s important for flavor, texture, structure, and color in cookies, cakes, and muffins. But sugar’s roles in baking extend further. Sugar is important in meringues as a stabilizer, in yeast breads as a source of energy for the microorganisms, and in fruit desserts to preserve the structure and texture of the fruit. In this post, we’ll explore sugar’s myriad roles in these sweets.

Maple Walnut Snapdoodles

Over the last few posts, we discussed the effects of sugar on cookie spread and texture. For this recipe, I played around with maple syrup, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. I also experimented with oven temperature. The result is these Maple Walnut Snapdoodles, one cookie dough that can be crunchy or chewy depending on the oven temperature. In addition to the recipe, I’ll share some of the test batches. We’ll talk about the changes I made, the results of each batch, and the science behind it all.

Sugar in Muffins

In an effort to be health-conscious, it’s tempting to just reduce the sugar in a recipe when we bake. Often, the result is still plenty sweet. But sugar is not just a sweetener, and merely using less sugar will lead to drastic changes in a baked good’s texture and structure. In this post, we’ll explore some of these changes in muffins.

Sugar in the Kitchen: Partners with Water

In the introduction to sugar, we discussed the chemistry that makes sugar form crystals and attract water. That attraction gives sugar its roles in the texture and structure of baked goods. In this post, we’ll explore how sugar’s interactions with water make it such a versatile ingredient.