Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cookie Chemistry

It took me a long time to figure out why my chocolate chip cookies were never quite as good as my mother's. She used the recipe off the back of the chocolate chip bag, and I so did I. But, her cookies were chewy, and good, and mine were cakey, and mediocre. Eventually, I found out, that Mother was substituting shortening for butter in the recipe. To her it was just a cost cutting measure, or an old habit, not even worth mentioning. But it made all the difference in the cookies.

I've never thought of Mother's secret ingredient cookies, as a lesson in chemistry, or at least I hadn't until I came across the cookie science experiment at

The experiment involves mixing up four identical batches of cookies, but changing out the fat in each batch, and then measuring and recording the results.

I had quite a few takers for this experiment today, as we mixed up 4, half batches, of chocolate chip cookie dough. We used butter in one batch, oil in another, light margarine in the third, and shortening in the last. The children observed some differences right away, as they were mixing. Butter, and shortening cream better with the sugar and egg, than oil and margarine.

We baked them, making sure to note which row of cookies was from which batch, and observed how long it took for each batch to begin to spread.

When they came out of the oven, we measured how far each had spread.

Once they've cooled (and nap time is over), we'll do a taste and texture test, as well.

That is, if the cookies survive until after nap. I do have a fresh pot of coffee, and a cozy mystery novel to curl up with...maybe just one, or two samples wouldn't hurt.

If you're curious about how, and why, different fats effect cookie recipes differently, check out the explanation from the Home Baking Association.

Or, for more fun with children's science, click over to Adventures In Mommydom, for this week's Science Sunday link up.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


Unknown said...

OK, seriously, this is the BEST EXPERIMENT EVER (oh, and now I have the urge for a chocolate chip cookie...)!!!

I am drawn to this experiment because in my family growing up, we ALWAYS used vegetable shortening instead of butter- and guests always wondered why our cookies tasted so good! I remember learning how to make the cookies and my father telling me that I needed to use Crisco because the cookies would be puffier and, well, just plain taste better!

Good job on a fantastic experiment- now, where did I put the shortening...

Debbie said...

A great life science! The cookies look yummy too.

Here is another secret for chocolate Chip cookies that is soft and chewy: Use your recipe but decrease the sugar to 1/3 cup and add a small box of instant vanilla pudding! They will just disapear!

Butterfly said...

Thanks for the inspiration!
Look forward to hearing the verdict of the taste test.
Enjoy your cookies and novel.

Oh, and thanks for the link, I need some really cool science activities for a local home ed group I'm starting!

Kim said...

Awesome. I've always wondered why my Grandma's cookies were so good - I bet this is it. Must make cookies soon!

Ticia said...

Any science experiment that has cookies in it is a good experiment in my book.
As always you link up with such fun experiments.

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

Wow - are you awesome or what? What a nice excuse to eat at least 4 cookies... and then do a bling test and eat another one. I am amazed that you still have time to curl up with a novel in the house of six. On another hand - maybe it's a secret of your success :)

Christy Killoran said...

Very cool! So this is where your header photo came from.

When I have a few minutes, I go back and read some of your old posts.