Unless I have a recipe written down from who knows where or I have it in a cookbook, I generally, like you, search for something on the web and see how I can adapt it. Some things are easier to adapt than others, and that’s especially true in baking, because of the impact that changing a small but significant ingredient can have on texture and taste. If you want to be able to craft some baked goods to your liking, you need to know more about the ratios of essential ingredients like butter, sugar, and flour to each other and what results those changes will make. What it means, for example, is that that you could have in your baking arsenal a collection of chocolate chip cookies—crisp, chewy, or soft—to make for different purposes.
Today I ordered Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio:The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, but I’m not waiting for it to arrive to get started playing with food ratios.
I was in the mood for a cookie this weekend, and one favorite is the White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut cookie, but all the recipes seem to have so much sugar in them that I just had to see if I could make one a little less sweet (maybe you would want to make yours more sweet!). I have noticed that most recipes use a combination of white and brown sugars, totaling anywhere from 1.5 to 2 cups. The recipes mostly suggest 1 cup of butter, so some of the recipes are using twice as much sugar as butter. I found interesting information about the effects of butter and sugar in a cookie on these good sites:
Recipe Building: Chewy Cookies: a discussion of building and reading baking formulas and a chart for ratios in one particular type of cookie.
Anatomy of a Chocolate Chip Cookie: contains a chart comparing ingredients in three different cookie recipes, showing how different amounts of ingredients affect outcomes.
How Ingredients Behave In A Cookie Recipe: easy to read, and might be the one that convinced me to keep my butter and sugar equal.
The Science of Baking Cookies: discusses the basics of ingredient ratios and gives a link to a cookie recipe maker where you can choose ingredients to go in your own cookie creations.
I made only one change to the common ingredients I found for my cookie—taking out all the white sugar and keeping the butter to brown sugar ratio equal. Here are the changes I expected:
- I know that white sugar will make crisper cookies and will make them spread more, so taking some of it out should make a softer, more rounded cookie.
- Taking all the white sugar out might make a cookie that holds a shape better since it will be less likely to spread out.
- The texture of the cookies should be the same all the way through, without crispy edges.
- The sweetness of the dough should be affected, but I’m not sure by how much.
The result was a soft cookie that holds its shape with no spreading on the cookie sheet and no browned edges. I found them to be the right sweetness and my husband, the sweet lover, agreed and ate handfuls of them. I’d like to try them again to experiment with just how much—or how little—white sugar would make them spread a little, but not to the stage of a flat, crisp cookie. I left some as balls, which held that ball shape, and flattened some. That’s good to know if you want to create a cookie that holds its shape for a decorative purpose.
White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies
Preheat oven to 350°
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar*
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
*The original recipe used an additional 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth, then add the vanilla and eggs, beating until smooth. The result is very thick without white sugar.
- Add the dry ingredients (soda, salt, flour) and mix to combine.
- Stir in the white chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
- Form in 1 tablespoon balls and place on lined cookie sheet—they do not spread, so you don’t need to worry about setting them far apart. The dough itself has a nice feel and is easy to shape. You can flatten the balls if you want that shape.
- Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. They will be done with only slight browning.