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Chemist Divulges How To Bake The Perfect Cookie

The holidays mean high baking season. And to avoid cookie disappointment — or disaster — cookie connoisseurs may want to get acquainted with food scientist Shirley Corriher.

In her new book Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking, Corriher has solutions for common cookie complaints: the crumbly cookie, the pitifully pale cookie and cookies that spread "in a low-moisture world."

Among the cookie problems bakers face is that the cookies can emerge from the oven soft and intact, but when the cookies travel, they may turn into a box of crumbs.

To beat this problem, Corriher suggests adding a tablespoon of water to a cup of flour that's going to be used in the cookies. The two proteins in flour — glutenin and gliadin — grip water, Corriher tells NPR's Melissa Block, and make "springy stretchy, strong elastic sheets of gluten." The gluten will hold the cookies together, she says.

Another baker's dilemma is that chocolate chip cookies can turn out flat. Corriher suggests using an unbleached flour or a bread flour because they're higher in protein. More protein sucks in more water when they join together to make gluten, she says.

Corriher also suggests making cookie batter the night before, a method adopted for the original Toll House recipe. Overnight, the proteins and the starch soak in liquid, the enzymes break the starches into sugar and big sugar breaks down into smaller sugar. Small sugars brown well, she says.

When asked her favorite recipe, Corriher picked the chocolate crinkle cookie.

"My secret weapon is I roll the dough balls in plain table sugar first," she says. "Then I roll them heavily in powdered sugar, so it stays snow white and really dramatic against the black cookie dough. When you bite in, they're crisp on the surface and gooey and doughy inside."

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