Crispy or Chewy? Sugar is the Key

When you think of your favourite dessert, the most important aspects are the taste and texture. Whether a chewy and sweet cookie, or a crispy and tart apple chip, the taste and texture can make all the difference in the world.

In general, you use sugar for sweetness, and a filler (like the oatmeal in oatmeal cookies) for texture, right? Actually… not quite. The most important ingredient in most dishes, when determining the texture, is moisture.

A dry cookie will be crispy and crunchy, while a wetter cookie will be chewy and moist.

Adding Moisture

But, how can you add water to a cookie? The answer lies in the type, and amount, of sugar you add. As the following video shows, there are easy ways of influencing the moisture of the dessert without using any actual water.

One thing to note about the cookie baking process is the heat involved. You often cook cookies at around 375 °F (190 °C), which is high enough to evaporate a lot of the water in the cookie. However, if the water is bonded to a substance, like how it bonds to the sugar, it will “protect” the moisture.

This is part of the reason why substituting sugar is not a simple as just replacing sugar with another substance. Even if you have the same sweetness, the sugar substitute will have a different chemical composition. You may have to add a filler substance to help either absorb or repel some of the moisture.

After watching this video, we did an experiment with our Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. We replaced all the white sugar with brown sugar. Wow, what a difference. At first the cookies had the same mouth feel as our white sugar version. But, with the first chew, we found the cookie completely melted in our mouths. This was amazing.

We decided that this was a bit too much, and we keep the recipe as written or replaced 1/3 – 1/2 of the white sugar with brown sugar.

Understanding how the type of sugar you use can affect the texture has many benefits:

  • When reading a recipe, you can get an idea of whether the cookies will turn out crispy or chewy
  • If you prefer crispy over chewy (or visa versa) you will know how to substitute the sugar
  • Old tried and true recipes can be played with to create new tasty versions

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