Cookies are an easy, go-to pastry for many home bakers, but what makes the best cookie remains up for debate. The vast variety of flavors and textures of this American staple are the crux of this debate, especially because, without knowledge of the science behind baking, it’s hard to control some of these factors. With countless combinations of textural components and a large spectrum of personal preferences, there is no exact, ideal cookie for everyone.
The first step to baking any sweet is to decide what flavor you’ll be making, a key detail usually based off of who and what the dessert is for, as well as what ingredients are easily accessible to the baker. “They’re a nice snack to have anywhere because they’re not too formal at certain events and they’re not too informal at other events, especially if you decorate them right,” said Kirstin Warren ‘21.
For example, when attending a tea party, a shortbread cookie would be more appropriate for the setting and beverages rather than a chocolate chip cookie. On the other hand, chocolate chips, typically packaged with a chocolate chip cookie recipe, are a common ingredient in American households. This convenience factor alone is enough for some bakers to make one flavor of cookie versus another.
For Leo Marandola ‘21, a cookie being easy to make is an important part of his decision-making process: “I’ve never had a peanut butter cookie that I’ve gone, ‘you’ve messed this up!’ You can’t mess it up, if you mess it up, you haven’t made a cookie and you’ll know.”
After deciding on the type of cookie, it’s time to bake! When baking, the cookies become their own, unique concoction–their flavors become richer and the texture changes. Considering the numerous variables that make up a cookie, is there such a thing as a perfect cookie?
When it comes to the flavor profile of this dessert, Jade Weaver ‘21 said, “cookies aren’t supposed to be excessively sweet. It’s not supposed to be a sugary sweet–it’s more of a pastry that you’d have. You’re not looking for something super sweet, but something that you can eat in large amounts without feeling an immense amount of guilt.”
Other than not being overwhelming sweet, cookies need to have a texture that matches the flavor of the cookies. “Some cookies aren’t good when they’re soft like a gingersnap cookie. If it’s soft, we’ve failed; it’s a gingersnap cookie…[Although,] most cookies I like when they’re soft and fresh-baked,” said Marandola.
Finally, when the cookies are fresh out of the oven, it’s either time to decorate or snack. Some cookies have minimal to no decorating that can be done before the cooking process. For example, chocolate chip cookies are adorned with morsels before being placed into the oven. Meanwhile, sugar cookies can be covered in intricate swirls of royal icing after they’ve cooled down to room temperature.
Warren said, “Depending on the cookie, [I decorate them] with frosting or just placing the chocolate chips in specific places.”
Each step of the cookie baking process can be altered to make one unique masterpiece. From the softness of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie to a cold, sweet sugar cookie, everyone has their own preferences. Cookies are an incredibly customizable pastry that can be made to match anyone’s dessert preferences.