Chilling Cookie Dough

Many cookie recipes ask us to chill the dough before baking. Sometimes this makes the dough easier to handle and shape. But in other cases, chilling just seems like more time to wait before we can get to our cookies. How much of a difference does it actually make? In this post, we’re exploring how the temperature of cookie dough affects its bake.

Oven Temperature for Cookies

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.

Fats in the Kitchen: Flavor

Over the last few posts, we’ve discussed some different textures fats can create, such as tenderness and flakiness. But we haven’t yet explored one of the most important functions of fat. As my grandmother told me, “有油才會香!” You need fat for flavor! Fats like butter and olive oil have a unique taste, but more importantly, all fats carry flavor in our food. They’re also responsible for textures such as creaminess and moistness. And of course, we can’t forget the distinctive taste of fried foods. Today, we’re going to break down the many flavors of fat.

Oil in Muffins

Fats get a bad rap for being unhealthy, but they determine texture in our bakes. They’re also an integral part of our diets. Nevertheless, we often minimize the fat in recipes for health reasons. But how low can we go? In this post, we’re reducing the fat in muffins and exploring the subsequent effects on shape, texture, and shelf life.

Liquid Fat in Muffins

Many muffin and quick bread recipes use oil for a moist, tender crumb. But butter has a superior flavor, and it can melt into an easy substitute for oil. Although both butter and oil are fats, they differ at the molecular level, so a direct substitution won’t create the same exact bake. To learn more about the effects of substituting oil with melted butter, we compared the texture and taste of muffins made with both types of fat.

Pumpkin Spice Custard Buns

These buns are a twist on the classic Chinese egg custard buns (奶黃包, nǎihuángbāo). They still have the creamy custard and the fluffy steamed bun, but I added pumpkin and fall spices to both the filling and the dough to create a pumpkin spice version. Notes on ingredient substitutions and the science behind the custard filling, dough, and steaming process follow the recipe!

Fats in the Kitchen: Flakiness

We’ve seen that fats add tenderness to many of our baked goods, both by preventing tough structural molecules from forming and by contributing to leavening. But in bakes like pie crust, biscuits, croissants, scallion pancakes, and baklava, fat has another function: flakiness. In this post, we’re exploring how fats add flake to gain a better understanding of how to work with them.

Fats in the Kitchen: Tender Textures

In the last couple posts, we explored the chemical structure of fats, learned why fats repel water, and discussed how they melt. Moving forward, we’ll focus on how these properties affect our baked goods. As we’ll see, fats are crucial for the texture, flavor, and sensory properties of our food. Let’s start with a closer look at the molecular interactions that create tender textures in our bakes.

Poaching Time for Bagels

One of the defining features of a bagel is its chewy, shiny skin, which forms when the bagel is briefly boiled before it’s baked. In this post, we’re taking a closer look at the poaching step, its effect on the bagel’s crust, and how it gives a bagel its characteristic appearance and texture.

Water Temperature in Dumpling Wrappers

In the recent post about starch in flour, we discussed the effect of water temperature on doughs. In Chinese cooking, different ratios of hot and cold water are combined with flour to make dough for everything from noodles to chive pockets to dumplings, all of which differ in both texture and cooking method. To explore how water temperature adds so much versatility to dough, we made dumpling wrappers using a cold water dough and a hot water dough. We then boiled or steamed both types of dumplings and compared their textures.