In my Maple Walnut Snapdoodle recipe, I suggest two oven temperatures for two different cookie textures. A low 325°F produces a crisp, gingersnap-like cookie, while a moderate 350°F makes a thicker, chewier snickerdoodle-style cookie. In this experiment, we’re baking chocolate chip cookies at three different temperatures to explore the effects of oven temperature on cookie shape and texture.
Goal: To see and taste differences in cookie spread and texture as oven temperature varies
Recipe: Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies by Handle the Heat
Method: Prepare the cookie dough. Bake the cookies at 325, 350, or 375°F (160, 175, 190°C). Cool and taste.
Results: As the oven temperature increased, we noticed
– Shorter bake time
– Thicker cookies with less spread
– Softer centers
– Crunchier edges
Conclusions: As oven temperature increases, the outsides of the cookie bake faster, resulting in thicker cookies with undercooked centers.
Ingredients and Equipment
- Ingredients as listed in Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Stand mixer
Baking the cookies
- Prepare the cookie dough as described in the recipe, refrigerating 60 hours before scooping.
- After 60 hours, form 6 balls of cookie dough, 57g each. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, bake 2 cookies each at 325°F (160°C) for 18 minutes, 350°F (175°C) for 16 minutes, and 375°F (190°C) for 14 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
- Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
To better understand some of these results, I suggest reviewing the post on how fats affect cookie spread. Essentially, butter melts and sugar dissolves in the oven, thinning the cookie dough. The dough spreads until the structural proteins from flour and egg reach high enough temperatures to solidify, which sets the final structure and shape of the cookie.
Shorter bake time
As you might expect, the hotter the oven, the more quickly the cookies baked. With each 25°F-increase in oven temperature, they obtained the same color in about two fewer minutes. Because the oven was hotter, the cookie dough heated up more quickly, so its structure set sooner and it browned faster.
Thicker cookies with less spread
Because the cookies set sooner as oven temperature increased, they also had less time to spread and flatten. Although the cookies all started out as 57-gram spheres, the 375°F cookies are noticeably thicker and smaller than the 325°F ones.
The exact magnitude of the size difference depends on the cookie dough. The miso chocolate chip cookies in the photo below (recipe from A Cozy Kitchen), for example, don’t vary much in size. They contain half as much butter than the cookies in this experiment, so they don’t spread much to begin with, and changing the oven temperature barely affects their size.
However, if the oven temperature is too high, the cookie centers will not cook by the time the surface has browned. You can see that the 375°F cookies were underdone because they sank so much in the center after they came out of the oven. In the miso cookies, the centers of the 375°F cookies tasted raw even though their surfaces were darkest in color. The 325°F cookies were also soft in the center. Because the oven temperature was lower, they did not completely cook through. To make crisp cookies, I would bake them for a few minutes longer at 325°F and perhaps flatten the dough to ensure they bake through.
In contrast, the centers of the 350°F cookies were cooked through, which made them delightfully chewy. This is the temperature specified in the original recipe.
Because the 325°F cookies were flattest, they had the crispiest edges. In contrast, the thicker edges of the 375°F cookies tasted crunchy. At 350°F, the edges weren’t as crisp as the 325°F cookies, but they still contrasted nicely with the chewy center.
All three oven temperatures produced perfectly edible cookies in this experiment, but variation in oven temperature will change the texture of a cookie. Low temperatures give a cookie time to spread and flatten before it sets, making a crisper cookie. High temperatures make a thick cookie, but the center of the cookie may not cook before the outside browns. Keep in mind that other factors, such as ingredient ratios and the shape of the dough, also affect cookie spread and texture.
Corriher, S. O. Bakewise; Scribner: New York, 2008.
Crispy Gingersnap Cookies. Baker Bettie.
Figoni, P. How Baking Works, 3rd ed.; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: Hoboken, 2011.