Few foods conjure a feeling of childhood comfort better than a still-warm cookie and a cold glass of milk. Texture is a critical element in this feel-good scenario, and preferences vary. Everyone’s ur-cookie is different. Yours may be chewy; mine might be cakey and light. And for yet someone else, crisp and lacy would be the only way to go. I won’t pick sides, but instead, I’ll arm you with some of the reasons for textural differences between one cookie and the next.
To achieve a soft, cake-like cookie, the first step is to first blend wet and dry ingredients separately and then together. A higher ratio of flour to fat also contributes to the cakey texture. Finally, they should be cooked at a lower temperature than usual (think 325 degrees F instead of 375 degrees F) and cooled directly on the sheets once they come out of the oven.
Using brown instead of white sugar will please those who prefer a soft and chewy cookie. Brown sugar absorbs moisture after baking which helps to maintain a nice soft and chewy texture. Substituting vegetable shortening for butter, in part or in its entirety is also a key. Although using shortening can result in a paler colored cookie, they will hold their shape nicely and have a longer shelf life than those made with butter. A few minutes before they’re done, take them out of the oven and rest them on the sheets. The cookie will continue to cook right on the sheet and should then be moved to a wire rack to cool.
For a crispy cookie, look no further than the same recipe for a chewy one. Cook them for a minute or two longer and a chewy cookie turns crispy. There’s no reason to alter the recipe. However, to maximize crunch, because brown sugar helps make a cookie moist, it is best to use granulated sugar when you’re goal is a real crispy cookie.
Hopefully this will bring you closer to that perfect cookie that you’ve been searching for.
– Jason Greenberg