Chocolate-Chip Science

Two days' hydration makes a flawless cookie, but the Kitchen Alchemists don't need to wait that long

I think that everyone in New York City read last week’s article by David Leite on the Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. One of the main tricks from the article is to rest your dough for 36 hours before baking the cookies in order to improve the flavor. In my work as a chef I have often made cookie dough in advance and baked to order. I knew that refrigeration had beneficial effects although I had never tested the theory to the extent that David Leite did for the article. I just knew that well rested and chilled cookie dough made better cookies.

Dough In Bag

Now that I no longer have cookie dough at hand, when the craving hits I look for more immediate satisfaction. The article succeeded in awakening my craving for warm, soft cookies, I just wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go through the process of making the dough and then have to wait 36 hours to bake off the cookies. Fortunately I remembered the vacuum sealer in our kitchen. In the past we had used the vacuum sealer for pasta doughs. The process sped up the process of moisture absorption, allowing us to create silky doughs with less liquid. This seemed similar to the process described in the article of allowing the flour to fully absorb the liquid from the eggs during it’s resting period. Perhaps if I vacuum sealed the cookie dough I could speed up the entire process and end up with better cookies in less time.

Dough Under Pressure

I used my standard chocolate chip recipe. I did not make a test batch of cookies with unprocessed dough so this was an entirely unscientific experiment. What I can tell you is that the dough darkened and became fully saturated, similar to the way that the dough usually looks after a couple of days in the refrigerator. It also changed the texture of the dough, making it a bit more elastic to the touch. The just made dough was too soft to shape and needed to chill, so I left in the fridge for about three hours before baking.

The resulting cookies were pretty damn good. They had a slightly cakey texture in the center with chewy yet crisp edges and rich buttery, caramel flavors. It was impossible to eat just one and I was thankful that I had not baked off the entire batch. Were they better than David Leite’s? I really couldn’t say. On the other hand I think it was clear that vacuum sealing did have a positive effect on the process, and from now on plastic wrap is out and vacuum bags are definitely in.