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Tales from the Test Kitchen: 3 Assorted Discoveries

Updated: May 16

If you've been following along with The Testing Club, you know I've been testing Chocolate Sour Cherry Cookies and S'mores Cookies for the past few months.

For Chocolate Sour Cherry cookies, I wanted to convert the recipe from a rolled-and-cut-out cookie to a drop cookie (mainly because dried sour cherries are very difficult to cut through with a cookie cutter!)

For S'mores cookies, the mini-marshmallows I used ended up more chewy than gooey and the cookies were a little bit sticky, which wasn't ideal for piling onto an assortment.

Here's what I learned:

1.Baking Soda flattens the flavor of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. If you love to bake, you've probably heard of Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder, as opposed to natural cocoa powder, since it has only "recently" (in the past 20 years or so) become available in grocery stores. Dutch-processed cocoa is alkalized, which takes the “edge” off cocoa powder, making it a little less acidic and creating a smoother flavor. Natural cocoa powder, such as the standard brown Hershey's can, is more acidic because it has not been treated.

Baking soda is alkaline, and it needs an acid to react with to leaven baked goods and achieve spread in cookies. Combining the reduced acidity of Dutch-processed cocoa powder with more neutralizing alkaline is will give baked goods a flat, some say "soapy", flavor. By using no leavener at all, I was able to avoid this, and the flavor of my Chocolate Sour Cherry cookies is now deep, rich and fudgy, just like I wanted.

2. But what about getting those cookies to spread? I'd been struggling to achieve the right flavor, the right texture, but also the right appearance - approximately the same 3" size as the other cookies I offer. I searched through my cookbooks for chocolate cookie recipes to find some clues. And a very low-science solution was presented: flatten the scoops! I scoop out all of my drop-cookie dough (cookies that spread) with spring-loaded “dishers”* - they make it easy to portion out my cookie dough so they maintain approximately the same volume. But this method results in fairly tall domes of cookie dough, which gives the dough an extra challenge to both liquify and then spread to 3" wide. Now I am scooping those tall domes, flattening those scoops with a spatula, and the cookies spread to the size I want; they just needed a little less distance to travel.

3. Size matters for marshmallow texture! My previous S’mores cookie recipe used mini-marshmallows that were incorporated into the cookie dough: but after baking, the marshmallows were more chewy than gooey and they made the cookies sticky when handling. So I tried pressing half of a standard-sized marshmallow into the tops of the cookie dough scoops instead of adding the mini-marshmallows directly into the dough. Both marshmallow and cookie dough were frozen together, waiting to be baked. I was SO pleased with the results of this test! First of all, adding the marshmallow on top is an attractive presentation: it looks different, it says “S’mores” visually, and the marshmallow toasts lightly. Secondly, that thin, toasty crust on the marshmallow makes the cookies easy to stack and keeps them from sticking to each other, other cookies, or fingers. And of course, the toasty flavor of the marshmallow adds to the overall S’mores effect! 

Stick around for more test kitchen tips and discoveries and drop any questions in the comments!

*Culinary lovers in the South Jersey should check out The Restaurant Store, which is a restaurant supply store in Pennsauken, NJ. It is open to the public and you can find kitchen treasures at incredibly low prices.

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