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The Science Behind the Perfect Cookie

Here at HERSHEY’S Kitchens, we offer recipes that have tested well amongst our team. But we realize that there are a few factors that can affect even the simplest recipe — oven temperature variations, order of ingredients mixed together, and how you store your cookies after baking are just some of the items that can adjust texture and taste.

And we all know that while some may love a soft cookie, others may prefer a crisper variation. No need save two separate recipes to cater to everyone’s wishes, just remember a few of our notes below and make some adjustments.

1. Butter

Butter is key for most cookies. Not only does it give flavor, but it’s the main reason your cookies will spread. As the butter warms in the oven, the dough slackens and gradually spreads out over the baking sheet. It's important to mix your butter well to ensure it’s evenly mixed throughout the dough.

2. Egg

Eggs offer moisture and water, which eventually evaporate in the baking process. Adding more egg whites to a recipe tends to result in taller cookies. Adding egg yolks often creates fudgier cookies.

3. Sugar

If you are seeking a softer and taller cookie, try substituting brown sugar for white sugar. It melts and caramelizes faster than granulated sugar. Granulated sugar will give you a crisper, thinner cookie. Many like a combination of granulated and brown sugar — it’s just a matter of taste preference.

4. Flour

All-purpose flour tends to hold up better when you bake it in cookies. Cookies made with cake flour may be soft, but often result in a cookie too tender that falls apart when lifted off the baking sheet.

5. Salt

When you think cookies you likely think of more sweet ingredients, but salt is essential. It balances the flavor of caramelized sugars. We even love sprinkling a little extra flake salt on our cookies to awaken the tongue and complement the sweetness.

6. Measuring

Some say that baking is more difficult than cooking because of the importance of measuring every ingredient properly. Measuring properly is critical, as the balance between each of the ingredients affects the final outcome.

7. Size

Consistent size gives consistent baking. Size impacts the time needed to properly bake your cookies, and unless you have individual pans to bake each cookie, your cookies will bake differently if they are sized differently.

8. Oven Temps

Carmelization happens at 356 degrees, so if you are aiming for a crisper cookie but the recipe says 350 degrees, adjust the heat slightly. Keep your eyes on the speed at which the cookie bakes. Each oven temperature varies slightly.

9. Scooping

Avoid putting your cookie dough on a warm cookie sheet. The dough will start to melt too fast and spread, resulting in a flatter cookie.

10. Cooling

Once you’ve removed your cookies from the oven, allow them to cool slightly on the cookie sheet before removing to wire rack. This cooling will allow for the dough to set a little so they do not fall apart or adjust shape when you pull them off the baking sheet.

11. Storing

If you find your cookies have come out a little overdone or dense, store the cooled cookies in an air-tight container with a piece of fresh bread. The bread will offer a little extra moisture and can slightly adjust the texture overnight. Just be sure to throw out the now-stale bread before serving!

No matter what, always keep experimenting, because then you’ll be able to see what works best for you. After all, there’s no wrong way to bake — or eat — a cookie!

The science of baking leads to happy cookies.


From all of us at HERSHEY’S Kitchens