TED ED: The Science of Baking a Chocolate Chip Cookie
Ever baked chocolate chip cookies? Ever had your child help? Then you’ll both want to watch this adorable, informative TED ED animated video about what’s happening inside a cookie-in-the-making. (Ages eight and up.)
It’s quite the drama of chemical reactions. After all, how does a lump of dough—with the simple application of heat—turn into a mouth-watering chocolate chip cookie? Well, it’s all chemistry!
Different Reactions at Different Temperatures
- At 92 degrees, butter starts to melt. Melting makes the butter’s fat and water separate. The water expands into steam, puffing up the dough, and finally evaporating at 212 degrees, making the cookie stiffer, but leaving behind empty spaces that makes it lighter and flaky.
- At 144 degrees, the proteins in eggs—which look like tightly coiled springs—begin to unfold and link together, making the dough firmer and less squishy.
- At 310 degrees, the so-called Maillard Reactions begin: here, proteins and sugars break down and create hundreds of flavor and aroma compounds, turning browner in the process.
And there’s more, such as what happens when baking soda reacts with acids in the dough, and the final, hottest process called caramelization. But watch the video to get the whole, fun story!
Dig Deeper, Get Sweeter
As with all TED ED lessons, there are links for those with a hunger (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to learn more. A link I liked was to an NPR story, “How to Bake a Better Chocolate Chip Cookie” that features a food scientist with great tips.
For example, letting your chocolate chip cookie dough sit for 36 hours in the refrigerator makes cookies taste better and sweeter. How? Well, now that you know something about water’s role in the process of cookie-making, it won’t surprise you to learn that letting dough sit allows moisture to flow through the batter and permeate it with more flavor. And that’s just one of the tips to baking a better cookie.
So, watch the video! And next time you bake that chocolate chip cookie dough, you’ll watch it rising up and giving off aromas and know all the cool stuff that’s happening inside.
Michael Solow has worked as a teacher, journalist, and commercial writer/creative director. Michael has also taught high school English and junior high math, gaining his teaching certification from Vassar College and a master's degree in the teaching of writing and literature from George Mason University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, the San Francisco Review of Books, TheMorningNews.org, and the Hemingway Review. He is the proud dad of two grown daughters and the happy husband of an elementary school librarian.
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