The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Wait
Does resting your cookie dough really make a difference?
Hi Bakers! I am very excited to share the results of the cookie experiment I conducted last week. Someone has to do it, and I gladly accept any challenge where I get to bake and sample fresh cookies every day for almost a week.
As we round out our Back to School - Back in the Kitchen month and before transitioning to our next topic, I thought we could use something fun and delicious like a chocolate chip cookie experiment.
If you agree, be sure to share these results with your baking buddies!
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Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite dessert. Yup, I said it. Gooey in the center, crisp around the edges, deep butterscotch flavors with a hint of salt - get in my belly!
With CCCs, even slight changes to ingredients and mixing methods can make a huge impact. There are so many variables to tweak and adjust to make the “perfect cookie,” but today’s cookie debate revolves around the wait: to chill or not to chill.
Most chocolate chip cookie adventures start by needing to satisfy an urgent craving, wanting something simple and fresh in under an hour, or the need to fill a rainy day afternoon with the kids. But many bakers will argue that chilling the dough before baking is non-negotiable. Try telling this to a 3 year old, much less a tired mom (aka me) wanting instant gratification after a long day.
So how important is it to wait? And why? Let’s find out...
What experts say:
The reasons to wait before you bake are three-fold:
Control over spread
The concept for chilling, or “ripening,” cookie dough was pioneered by famed pastry chef Jacques Torres, aka Mr. Chocolate. It is believed that he was the first to make a “gourmet” chocolate chip cookie with fancy chocolate feves and a lengthy rest time back in 2008.
Torres began his career at age 15 in France. In 1988, he came to the US as the Corporate Pastry Chef for Ritz Carlton Hotels. Just over a decade later, he opened his first chocolate store in Brooklyn, New York. You can now find his pastries all over New York and even get them shipped straight to your doorstep.
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How it works:
Since cold butter takes longer to melt in the oven than room temperature, chilled cookie dough will hold its shape better with less unwanted spread. Soft dough, in turn, melts faster and spreads more in the oven. If you have a loose cookie dough with a recipe instructing you to refrigerate before baking, this is one main reason why. Pretty understandable, right? Sometimes a chill as short as 30 to 60 minutes is enough to control the spread.
The other two arguments for chilling dough are much stronger and slightly scientific: taste and texture.
Resting the dough redistributes the liquid throughout. This allows the flour to fully hydrate. With the liquid content mainly coming from eggs, cookie dough is already relatively dry. And since eggs are rather thick, a longer rest allows the flour to fully absorb them. During this process, enzymes in the flour start to break down. In turn, this leads to better browning and more evenly baked cookies
Sugar also absorbs excess moisture. The longer the rest, the drier the dough will be. With less moisture hanging about, the dough has a higher concentration of sugar that browns and caramelizes more efficiently - meaning cookies with more complex and richer flavors.
A higher concentration of sugar also produces a cookie with more pronounced textural differences - chewy in the middle and crisp around the edges.
The Great Wait
I put these concepts to the test by baking off the same cookie recipe at different intervals. My favorite cookie dough recipe can be baked immediately without much spread, so that point was mostly moot. I use softened butter that is balanced with a cold egg to create a final texture that is scoopable and doesn’t spread much more than when the dough is chilled.
I baked the cookies immediately, after about 2 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, and finally 72 hours. For this experiment, I baked half with chocolate chips and half with chopped up chocolate chunks. The rest of the recipe remained the same throughout the process.
I was hoping for more of a visual impact between the cookies so you could quickly see the differences, but you will just have to trust my tastebuds and my fellow cookie connoisseurs that took part in this experiment.
Zero rest: a pretty good cookie. So since this is my personal CCC recipe, I designed it to still taste pretty good no matter what. I would still eat a dozen. However, if I really concentrate on the flavors, the cookies have two notes - sweet and salty. The overall texture is good, but not as pronounced as those to come. They spread slightly more than the rest, but still held their shape relatively well. They were noticeably pale with little to no browning despite being perfectly baked.
2 hour rest: No real difference. The extra chill made them spread just slightly less which also meant they were a hair puffier in the center. They browned ever so slightly around the edges. Still pretty good.
24 hour rest: This is where things got interesting. A full day later, and the taste was definitely noteworthy. Where the zero rest cookies were sweet with a bit of chocolate and salt, the 24 hour cookies developed actual butterscotch flavors. The cookies were slightly browned as well. The difference in texture between the edges and the centers were unmistakable.
48 hour rest: No real difference between these and the 24 hour rest.
72 hour rest: The differences after 3 days were definitely noticeable compared to the first bake, but only minor compared to the 24 and 48 hour cookies. They exhibited more browning and more flavor nuances. They were soft and chewy throughout with a crispy edge.
If you need cookies RIGHT NOW, then I guarantee that you will still be satisfied with cookie #1. Who can resist a warm, homemade cookie? But if you can stand to only bake off a few dough balls to curb your craving and then chill the rest, 24 hours seems to be the sweet spot. The difference is definitely worth the wait.
I don’t really see the point of a 48 hour rest. Don’t torture yourself after the initial 24 hours. The changes were so minor, but if it fits your schedule better, then there is nothing wrong with keeping them in the fridge until you are ready to bake. However, if you have the time and patience for the 72 hour cookies, then definitely give them a try!
The longer you wait, the smaller the differences become. But over the span of 3 days, it is pretty obvious that science is happening in the fridge and you will be rewarded with chewier, tastier cookies.
Find this post interesting? Share it with your favorite cookie lover, conduct your own experiment, and compare results!