The Chemistry of Cookies

You stick cookie dough into an oven, and magically, you get a plate of warm, gooey cookies. Except it’s not magic; it’s science. Stephanie Warren explains via basic chemistry principles how the dough spreads out, at what temperature we can kill salmonella, and why that intoxicating smell wafting from your oven indicates that the cookies are ready for eating.

The Chemistry of Cookies

Class Discussion Questions

What’s the first change that occurs in your cookie dough after you put the pan in the oven?
A Water boils
B Butter melts
C Proteins unfold
D Caramelization occurs

Where do most of the proteins in cookie dough come from?
A Sugar
B Eggs
C Butter
D Flour

At what temperature does caramelization begin?
A 356°
B 400°
C 310°
D 256°

What is the leavening agent sodium bicarbonate another name for?
A Carbon dioxide
B Baking soda
C Water
D Hydrogen

What makes cookies light and airy?
A Steam evaporating
B Carbon dioxide gas created by the leavening agent
C Butter melting
D Both A and B

Can you think of other dishes you cook that involve the Maillard reaction? What about caramelization?

How would adding or removing ingredients change your final cookie?

At what temperature would you take the pan out of the oven to create your ideal cookie? What would that cookie look and taste like?