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Brown Sugar for Chocolate Chip Cookies


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#1 Shel_B

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 09:21 AM

I am going to try my hand at baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  I have never made cookies before, so this will be a learning experience and somewhat of an adventure.  I am going to start with a simple recipe, what may be considered a standard, the Toll House recipe. 

 

The recipe calls for brown sugar, and at the supermarket last night I saw a few types of brown sugar: dark brown, light brown, some just described as brown, etc.  What does brown sugar bring to the recipe, and how do the different shades of brown sugar effect the result?  

 

Also, all the recipes I've looked at call for "packed" brown sugar.  How much do I pack it?  The degree of packing would change the amount of brown sugar in the mixture, which would, I imagine, change the result.  Are there some "packing" guidelines?

 

Is there a standard for the various brown sugars, or do different brands of dark have different amounts of molasses in them (it's molasses that makes the sugar brown, yes), so that one brand of dark may not be the same as another?  And this, then, goes back to the question, "what does brown sugar bring to the recipe?"

 

Thanks!


.... Shel


#2 DianaM

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 10:16 AM

 
The recipe calls for brown sugar, and at the supermarket last night I saw a few types of brown sugar: dark brown, light brown, some just described as brown, etc.  What does brown sugar bring to the recipe, and how do the different shades of brown sugar effect the result?  
 
Also, all the recipes I've looked at call for "packed" brown sugar.  How much do I pack it?  The degree of packing would change the amount of brown sugar in the mixture, which would, I imagine, change the result.  Are there some "packing" guidelines?
 
Is there a standard for the various brown sugars, or do different brands of dark have different amounts of molasses in them (it's molasses that makes the sugar brown, yes), so that one brand of dark may not be the same as another?  And this, then, goes back to the question, "what does brown sugar bring to the recipe?"
 
Thanks!


White sugar is just sweet but otherwise neutral, brown has interesting caramel notes from the presence of molasses. Brown will also add a tiny bit of moisture into the recipe. A dark brown sugar will have more intense flavor than the light.

How much to pack it? As much as it packs/yields when you apply firm pressure with your fingers. Don't break out the sledge hammer. :) Pack it as you would wet sand when you build a sand castle at the beach.

As for the differences between brands, I don't believe there is any significant disproportion among the quantity of molasses added. You're safe to use for the recipe whatever brand you find. If your recipe specifies dark or light, use what's called for, but I have subbed one for the other with no adverse effects.
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#3 Toliver

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 10:22 AM

Here's the transcript from Alton Brown's (from the Food Network show "Good Eats") show on chocolate chip cookies:

"Three Chips for Sister Marsha" (click here).

He explains how changing the ratio of the white sugar to the brown sugar impacts the final baked cookie.


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#4 Shel_B

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 10:34 AM

Here's the transcript from Alton Brown's (from the Food Network show "Good Eats") show on chocolate chip cookies:

"Three Chips for Sister Marsha" (click here).

He explains how changing the ratio of the white sugar to the brown sugar impacts the final baked cookie.

 

Very helpful ... thanks!


.... Shel


#5 Shel_B

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 10:41 AM

 

White sugar is just sweet but otherwise neutral, brown has interesting caramel notes from the presence of molasses. Brown will also add a tiny bit of moisture into the recipe. A dark brown sugar will have more intense flavor than the light.

How much to pack it? As much as it packs/yields when you apply firm pressure with your fingers. Don't break out the sledge hammer. :) Pack it as you would wet sand when you build a sand castle at the beach.

As for the differences between brands, I don't believe there is any significant disproportion among the quantity of molasses added. You're safe to use for the recipe whatever brand you find. If your recipe specifies dark or light, use what's called for, but I have subbed one for the other with no adverse effects.

 

 

Your tips are appreciated.  Thank you!  It's about time to start mixing and baking.  Bust one more question, though.  If I reduce the amount of brown sugar, with the intent of getting a somewhat crisper cookie, can I leave the amount of white sugar the same as in the original recipe?  And, if reducing the brown sugar while at the same time increasing the white sugar, will that also give a crisper result.  In other words, can I play around with the amounts and proportions of the two sugars to "customize" the cookie, and, if so, at what point might there be too little of the sugar or too much of the sugar?


.... Shel


#6 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 10:52 AM

Well, since I cut the white sugar entirely from the traditional Tollhouse recipe and just use the recommended amount of loosely-packed demerrera (which I like best of the available browns in North America - just enough molasses to really give good character to the cookie) I can tell you that you can customize to your heart's content without messing up the cookie too much.  My Tollhouse style cookies come out moist and chewy with crisp edges, which is just how I like 'em.

 

So, to answer your question, if you cut the brown and leave the white the same you'll end up with a crisper cookie with less molasses character in its flavour profile; if you sub the amount of brown you reduce with white, you'll end up with a crisper and much sweeter-tasting cookie.  If, OTOH, you sub white with brown, you'll be heading towards the chewier, more complex flavoured end of the spectrum.


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#7 weinoo

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 11:39 AM

I always try to follow a cookie or cake recipe verbatim the first time, then futz around with it.

 

Best chocolate chip cookie I've ever made was a recipe from CI. Lots of compliments.


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#8 Unpopular Poet

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 03:02 PM

I would agree with Weinoo --- go with the original recipe first, then meddle...If the CI and ATK chocolate chip cookie recipes are the same then I would agree -- by far the best I have ever made -- so good I am now going to make them tonight! 


Edited by Unpopular Poet, 24 January 2014 - 03:03 PM.


#9 Shel_B

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 03:17 PM

I would agree with Weinoo --- go with the original recipe first, then meddle...If the CI and ATK chocolate chip cookie recipes are the same then I would agree -- by far the best I have ever made -- so good I am now going to make them tonight! 

 

I never said I was going to change the original recipe - never!  Maybe you misunderstood the purpose of my questions.  I'm on a quest for knowledge - in this case I want to know what happens when proportions in a particular recipe are changed.  Then, if after making the cookies a few times, and know what I'm doing, I'll have the needed info to make the changes I want, if I want to change anything. Or maybe I'll never make chocolate chip cookies again <LOL>

 

The first batch is about to come out of the oven.  Gotta run ...


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.... Shel


#10 weinoo

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 03:22 PM

And this, then, goes back to the question, "what does brown sugar bring to the recipe?"

Flavor. Moisture.


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#11 Lisa Shock

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 03:22 PM

And, of course, a old-school, suzie-homemaker style recipe that gives you a volume based measurement for dry ingredients (like sugar, which chemically is more wet, but, I digress -you buy sugar by weight, you should use it by weight) won't be very accurate to begin with. You'll get plenty of variation in results just following the written instructions every time, since your measurements will vary every time you make the recipe.

 

Once again, professional bakeries use weight-based formulas so that they can get consistent results (and consistent profits) every time.


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#12 Shel_B

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 03:44 PM

And, of course, a old-school, suzie-homemaker style recipe that gives you a volume based measurement for dry ingredients (like sugar, which chemically is more wet, but, I digress -you buy sugar by weight, you should use it by weight) won't be very accurate to begin with. You'll get plenty of variation in results just following the written instructions every time, since your measurements will vary every time you make the recipe.

 

Once again, professional bakeries use weight-based formulas so that they can get consistent results (and consistent profits) every time.

 

I'm sure you're right, but as with everything else, I start at the beginning and use what I have.  Each time I make a recipe, I adjust it based on previous results.  I keep notes on how I measure, what changes I make to ingredients, amounts, and technique.  When I get a scale, I'll concern myself with weight.  Right now I'm perfecting how I measure to get repeatable results.  I've done that with my popovers and I can duplicate the results.  Now, with the popovers, it's time to start making adjustments.  The same process will be used with the cookies.

 

And, for anyone who cares, the first batch was quite a learning experience.  I made the cookies too big and laid them out too close, so a couple ran into one another.  There was, however, a nice crispness to the bottom and edges, but the middle was a bit too cakelike for my taste.  Maybe that's because I made the cookies too big.  The second batch was made smaller, and the cookies look like they may be crisper throughout.  Gotta wait until they cool further to be sure.  I made the third batch smaller still, and the spread looks perfect, with cookies that are closer to the size I wanted and plenty of room between each cookie.  They look a little thinner, so maybe they will be less cakelike in the center.  Also, I've been adjusting the baking time for each batch, and that seems to be helping some as well.

 

If nothing else, this is a fun way to spend the afternoon.

 

Thanks to all who have been helpful.


Edited by Shel_B, 24 January 2014 - 04:19 PM.

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.... Shel


#13 emmalish

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 04:23 PM

There's a great blog post here that compares several cookie recipes, including CI and ATK, culminating in a blind taste test. Not surprisingly, they ALL got high scores.


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I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?


#14 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 04:56 PM

There's a great blog post here that compares several cookie recipes, including CI and ATK, culminating in a blind taste test. Not surprisingly, they ALL got high scores.

Also this one from the Food Lab on Serious Eats that was just published last month and compares results from white vs. brown sugar (among many other variables).


Edited by FrogPrincesse, 24 January 2014 - 04:56 PM.

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#15 emmalish

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Posted 24 January 2014 - 05:02 PM

Also this one from the Food Lab on Serious Eats that was just published last month and compares results from white vs. brown sugar (among many other variables).

 

 

GREAT link! Thank you :-)


I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?


#16 Rozin Abbas

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 07:52 PM

Tollhouse cookies might be my least favourite chocolate chip cooke I've made out of all the ones I've made. I've pretty much made the "best of the best." The NYTimes' CCC is by far the best one. The CI cookies are pretty good but the NYT one is just monumental. 

 

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

Regarding brown sugar: 

It's hygroscopic, as Alton mentions, but it also contains more glucose and fructose because of the molasses. This has implications of the maillard reaction. Also, maltose is produced when glucose caramelizes, which you'll get more of with brown sugar due to the presence of molasses. Note, though, that for maltose to caramelize it requires a minimum temperature of 356F. The NYT cookie doesn't go this high and I've always wondered whether this makes a significant difference in flavour. 


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#17 annabelle

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 08:12 PM

I never bake CCC the day I mix the dough.  I allow it to ripen in the refrigerator overnight or up to three days if I'm busy.  The gluten has a chance to relax and the cookies don't spread as much and are more uniform.

 

I'm kind of pedestrian, I guess, since I use the recipe on the back of the bag of chips.



#18 Shel_B

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 10:44 PM

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

Regarding brown sugar: 

It's hygroscopic, as Alton mentions, but it also contains more glucose and fructose because of the molasses. This has implications of the maillard reaction. Also, maltose is produced when glucose caramelizes, which you'll get more of with brown sugar due to the presence of molasses. Note, though, that for maltose to caramelize it requires a minimum temperature of 356F. The NYT cookie doesn't go this high and I've always wondered whether this makes a significant difference in flavour. 

 

What is "really good brown sugar?"

 

Interesting comment about maillard reaction.  Something to look into.  Thanks!


.... Shel


#19 emmalish

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 11:17 PM

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

I've never made those myself, but a friend of mine made them shortly before Christmas. Amazingly good cookie. They're on my to-do list.


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#20 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 07:35 AM

 

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

Regarding brown sugar: 

It's hygroscopic, as Alton mentions, but it also contains more glucose and fructose because of the molasses. This has implications of the maillard reaction. Also, maltose is produced when glucose caramelizes, which you'll get more of with brown sugar due to the presence of molasses. Note, though, that for maltose to caramelize it requires a minimum temperature of 356F. The NYT cookie doesn't go this high and I've always wondered whether this makes a significant difference in flavour. 

 

What is "really good brown sugar?"

 

Interesting comment about maillard reaction.  Something to look into.  Thanks!

 

 

Really good brown sugar is in the eye of the beholder, but I'd suggest that the criteria for judging it include moisture sufficient for the sugar to clump slightly when pressed, a pleasing molasses or caramel scent, and a balanced flavour profile.


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#21 rotuts

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 08:11 AM

Shirley Corriher has a couple of very interesting books:

 

http://www.amazon.co...ywords=corriher

 

and

 

http://www.amazon.co...ywords=corriher

 

these are 'How and Why' books, extremely interesting published way before this became popular.

 

In CookWise pp 132 and 133   she has a 2 tables, first for Choc.Chip then cookies in general:

 

how to fine tune a cookie Rx to suit your tastes based on the "physiology of baking"

 

maybe your lib has these books?   well worth looking into.


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#22 Rozin Abbas

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 09:18 AM

 

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

Regarding brown sugar: 

It's hygroscopic, as Alton mentions, but it also contains more glucose and fructose because of the molasses. This has implications of the maillard reaction. Also, maltose is produced when glucose caramelizes, which you'll get more of with brown sugar due to the presence of molasses. Note, though, that for maltose to caramelize it requires a minimum temperature of 356F. The NYT cookie doesn't go this high and I've always wondered whether this makes a significant difference in flavour. 

 

What is "really good brown sugar?"

 

Interesting comment about maillard reaction.  Something to look into.  Thanks!

 

 

Sorry for the vagueness. 

The "light" and "dark" brown sugars your typically see in grocery stores are simply granulated sugar with molasses put back in. I've seen some suggest using Muscovado or molasses sugar.

 

 

 

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

I've never made those myself, but a friend of mine made them shortly before Christmas. Amazingly good cookie. They're on my to-do list.

 

 

They're great! Give them a try soon.

 

To this day, though, the ones I made from Gourmet is the one I get asked about most. I don't make them really anymore because I prefer the TK but I may have to revisit them.


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#23 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 10:58 AM

 

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

Regarding brown sugar: 

It's hygroscopic, as Alton mentions, but it also contains more glucose and fructose because of the molasses. This has implications of the maillard reaction. Also, maltose is produced when glucose caramelizes, which you'll get more of with brown sugar due to the presence of molasses. Note, though, that for maltose to caramelize it requires a minimum temperature of 356F. The NYT cookie doesn't go this high and I've always wondered whether this makes a significant difference in flavour. 

 

What is "really good brown sugar?"

 

Interesting comment about maillard reaction.  Something to look into.  Thanks!

 

 

If you want the last word in brown sugars, though, look for Piloncillo or Panela.  These are sugars where the molasses and other minerals that give dark sugars their distinctive flavour were never removed in the first place.


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#24 andiesenji

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 11:21 AM

I'm a bit late to this discussion but I would like to note that I do experiment with recipes fairly often and about a year ago I got some of the Piloncillo from Rancho Gordo and made a batch of carob chip cookies (I can't have regular chocolate) using only this sugar, no white sugar at all. And I did not substitute the piloncillo for the white sugar so in my recipe, used half the amount of total sugar. 

The cookies were crisp, with a slightly chewy center, not as sweet as "regular" cookies, which to me are often much too sweet (and have too much sugar for my diabetes). 

 

I'm not recommending you switch over to this immediately but keep in mind that there are other options for the various types of "brown" sugars. 

 

I follow a forum that has mostly Australian cooks and bakers and many of their recipes specify "rapadura" or "sucanat", which is a "raw" or unrefined sugar similar to piloncillo or panela and seems to be universally available in other countries while difficult to find in the U.S. where the "sugar giants" have a monopoly.   I have purchased sucanat at Trader Joe's.

 

Brown sugar in the US is simply granulated sugar to which molasses has been added.

You can make your own brown sugar substitute - using this formula - Light brown sugar - 1 cup granulated to 1 TABLESPOON of dark molasses. Dark brown sugar - 1 cup granulated sugar to 2 TABLESPOONS dark molasses - blend with a fork until thoroughly mixed. 

Mix as needed because it hardens rapidly.

 

This link has some good information about this "raw" sugar. 

 

I'm fortunate in that the local Mexican supermarkets now carry the granulated panela but a few years back, when I still had neighbors who regularly visited Mexico, they would bring me back 2-kilo bags of granulated panela when I asked them (along with other goodies not then available here). 


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#25 Shel_B

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 11:32 AM

 

 

If you want the last word in brown sugars, though, look for Piloncillo or Panela.  These are sugars where the molasses and other minerals that give dark sugars their distinctive flavour were never removed in the first place.

 

 

Yes, you've mentioned that before, back about two years ago in a thread about making dulce de leche.  I had no luck using it in ddl, but I may try it again in the chocolate chip cookies.  As andiesenji suggested, I'll see if I can find a granulated version.  All I've seen this far have been cones.


.... Shel


#26 Tri2Cook

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 01:01 PM

I'll back Andiesenji on the Sucanat being tasty. I use it frequently. I like doing chocolate chip cookies using all brown sugar and brown butter... they are a bit on the rich side though.


Edited by Tri2Cook, 26 January 2014 - 01:06 PM.

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#27 merstar

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 01:07 PM

 

Keller's vanilla extract-free cookie is my go-to quick cookie. Use really good brown sugar for them because that's where the flavour is. 

 

I've never made those myself, but a friend of mine made them shortly before Christmas. Amazingly good cookie. They're on my to-do list.

 

They're my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookies, along with a few of my tweaks. Here's a link to the recipe with photos:

http://www.foodgal.c...-thomas-keller/
 


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#28 Kerry Beal

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 01:15 PM

Not forgetting our own paulraphael's Browned Butter Muscavado Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Discussed extensively in this thread.


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#29 andiesenji

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 01:57 PM

Whole Foods used to have rapadura available in bulk.  

Winco also had it in bulk last September.  I haven't been to the store since then as it is not exactly handy to my home but if you have a co-op or similar store in your area, phone and ask if they carry one of these raw sugars in bulk. It's much cheaper than the pre-packaged. 


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