Cookies are made in a wide variety of styles, using an array of ingredients including sugars, spices, chocolate, butter, peanut butter, nuts or dried fruits. The softness of the cookie may depend on how long it is baked. A variety of cookies are prepared using the four basic ingredients viz., flour, sugar, shortening, and liquids (milk and/or eggs). The ingredients used in preparation of cookies affect size, color, and sensory qualities. Additional ingredients are also added for flavor and texture. There are two main types of cookies, soft and hard cookies. Soft cookies contain more liquids to produce the necessary structure i.e., moistness and softness. Hard cookies contain a minimum amount of moisture to yield crispness and brittle cookies. Each ingredient used in cookie baking is employed for the specific characteristics influence that it has on the finished product.
Flour:Flour is the main ingredient which imparts structure, binding all other ingredients used. Either bread flour, pastry flour or cake flour can be used to make hard and soft cookies. Hard flour may cause some types of cookies to lack spread while cake flour may cause some cookies to spread too much. If available it is better to use the type of flour specified in the formula.
Sweeteners: SugarSugar in some form is used in all cookie recipes. It is an important tenderizing ingredient. The undissolved sugar crystals melt during baking contributing to the flow or spread of the cookies. Granulated SugarThe finer the granulation, the less the cookie will spread. On the other hand, the larger the granulation, the more the cookie will spread. Powdered SugarPowdered sugar is used when a fine-grained compact interior with little spread is desired. Jaggery is used to obtain a certain flavor. When jaggery is used in place of granulated sugar, it is advised to add little baking soda to neutralize the acids that interfere with caramelization. In jaggery the crystals are soft that dissolve completely during mixing leading to poor cookie spread hence, calls for formula adjustments. Molassesis used in some casesto obtain a particular flavor. The formula containing molasses have to be adjusted by addition of baking soda and liquids. Honeyis also used to obtain a particular flavor. Honey adds a chewy quality to cookies.
Shortening:Shortenings promote tenderness and prevent excessive gluten development during mixing. Shortening contributes to the spread and light texture to cookies. Regular hydrogenated fats with bland flavor are though commonly used butter or ghee are also used in specialties.
Eggs:Eggs are both tenderizers and tougheners in cookie baking. Fats in yolks helps to tenderize, the whites act as structure builders. Eggs impart moisture also.
Liquids:Liquids like milk/water or curds is necessary to form gluten and hold the structure. Liquids dissolve chemicals in baking powder to release carbon dioxide to leaven the cookie and to impart lightness.
Milk powder:Milk powder besides helping in binding also contributes nutrients. The milk sugar lactose, adds to the crust color.
Leavening agents:Leavening agents help to control the spread, volume and promote proper crust color through regulation of acidity or alkalinity (pH) of the dough. Baking powders contain an alkali and acid mixed with starch added to prevent it from lumping during storage in suitable proportions to impart the desired textural properties. The alkali is Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)Bicarbonate of soda, an alkali salt can be added alone or as a component of baking powder. The alkali lowers the caramelization point of sugar leading to faster and darker coloring of the crust. The acid used is Cream of Tartarcommon name for potassium hydrogen tartrate is used with soda as a leavening agent. A fast acting baking powder can be made by combining two parts of cream of tartar with one part baking soda.
Salt, flavors, peanuts, spices, chocolate chips and nuts can be used to produce particular flavors and textures.