Chilling Cookie Dough
Over time, chilling cookie dough produces cookies with darker color and more pronounced flavor.
Place dough to be chilled inside a plastic bag, and flatten it a bit with a rolling pin. This will allow dough to chill quickly, and give you a head start on rolling it out later.
After mixing cookie dough, chilling firms up the fat and gives the flour time to absorb liquid evenly. This allows dough to roll out more evenly, without sticking as much, and to hold its shape while being cut and transferred to a baking sheet.
So why do we need to refrigerate chocolate chip cookie dough or for that matter, any basic drop cookie dough before baking? Does chilling cookie dough really make any difference?
The short answer yes. Chilling cookie dough prior to baking does make a difference.
The King Arthur Flour Test Kitchen recently tested this question with a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. These results can be applied to other kinds of plain drop cookie dough such as sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, peanut butter cookies.
First some of the cookie dough was baked immediately after preparing the dough without any chilling.
The remaining dough was chilled in the fridge and baked at regularly spaced intervals.
Here is what they found.
Chilling cookie dough for just 30 minutes makes a big difference.
The cookies were the same size. The cookie dough that was refrigerated spread less. The cookie dough without refrigeration also browned less.
You would think the longer the dough is chilled the more the cookies change. Well not really The longer you chill cookie dough, the smaller the changes become.
The major difference is between no chilling at all vs. chilling for 30 minutes.
Over time chilling cookie dough produces cookies with darker color and more pronounced flavor.
The cookies baked immediately tasted rather bland and their texture was soft and rather doughy, without being chewy.
Cookies baked after chilling the dough for as little as 30 minutes became chewy, and progressively more flavorful.
So, what does chilling cookie dough do, exactly?
Chilling cookie dough controls spread.
Chilling cookie dough before baking solidifies the fat in the cookies. As the cookies bake, the fat in the chilled cookie dough takes longer to melt than room temperature fat. And the longer the fat remains solid, the less cookies spread.
In addition, the sugar in the dough gradually absorbs liquid. If you bake the dough immediately, before sugar has a chance to absorb much liquid, that liquid remains “free” in the dough, and promotes spread.
Think of this in terms of thin vs. thick pancake batter: the more liquid in batter, the more it spreads, right? Same with cookies.
The longer the dough chills, the drier it becomes.
Chilling cookie dough concentrates flavor. As the dough chills, it gradually dries out, concentrating the flavors of all the ingredients.
Think of watered down lemonade, vs. lemonade with less water. It gets a dull flavor vs. bright, tangy flavor. Same with cookies.
Something else happens as the dough rests. Part of the flour breaks down into its component parts, including a simple carbohydrate, sugar. Thus, since sugar is a flavor enhancer (like salt), the cookies may taste more flavorful, as well as sweeter.
Chilling cookie dough changes texture. It is not really the chilling. It is the dough gradually drying out that’s responsible for texture change. The drier the dough, the more concentrated the sugar. And a higher percentage of sugar creates cookies with chewy/crisp (rather than soft/doughy) texture.
I hope this has been helpful and interesting. and maybe from now on you will try chilling your dough instead of being tempted to bake those cookies right away!