About Cookies in General
About Cookies in General


Did you know that “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koekje or koekie” and refers to a small cake? ‘Cookies’ in North America are defined as small, sweet, flat or slightly raised baked goods. In the U.K. they are called biscuits; in Spain they are called galletas; in Germany they are called kels; and in Italy they are called biscotti. Every country has its favorite. In the United States and Canada it is chocolate chip, in the U.K. it’s shortbread, in France it’s sables and macaroons, and in Italy it’s biscotti.

Cookies are one of the fastest and easiest things to make. Generally they are a simple combination of all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, granulated and/or brown sugar, large eggs, baking powder, baking soda and flavorings. They come in many different shapes, sizes, textures and flavors.


Bar – a soft batter is spread evenly into a shallow pan, baked, and cut into individual bars or pieces.

Drop – a firm batter is “dropped” onto a baking sheet using a spoon or ice cream scoop. Each cookie should be of equal size and spaced evenly on baking sheet.

Molded or hand-formed – a firm batter is shaped into balls, logs, etc or pressed into a mold. The cookies are then placed on a baking sheet and baked.

Piped or Pressed – batter is either put in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip or placed into a cookie press. The batter is then piped onto a baking sheet r pushed through the cookie press into fancy shapes and baked.

Refrigerator or Icebox – batter is shaped into a log, refrigerated until firm evenly sliced into rounds, placed on baking sheet and baked.

Rolled – a firm batter is rolled into a thin layer, shapes are then cut out using a cookie cutter, cookies are placed on a baking sheet and baked.

Stamped – a firm batter is shaped into small balls, placed on cookie sheets and stamped with a cookie stamp, then baked.


If cookies brown too quickly – check to see if your oven is calibrated properly and not reading too high. You can do this with a free-standing oven thermometer. Another reason for over-browning is from using dark-colored baking pans or sheets which promote browning. Either reduce oven temperature by 25° F. (15° C.) or use aluminum pans or sheets.

If cookies brown too quickly on bottoms – the same reasons as above but also your oven rack may be too low or the batter has too much sugar in it.

If cookies brown too quickly on top and the bottoms are not cooked enough – the oven rack may be too high, the temperature is too high, or you are using dark-colored baking pans or sheets.

If cookies spread too much – dough may be too soft. This is remedied by placing the dough I the refrigerator to firm up for 15 minutes or more. Also, never place cookies on a warm baking sheet as the batter will start to soften and spread even before you place them in the oven. Cookies can also spread too much if placed on a greased baking sheet, when the recipe states using an ungreased baking sheet. Cookies made with butter have the tendency to spread more than cookies made with shortening.

If cookies are too dry and hard – it may simply be that the cookies were over baked. Also, if the oven was not hot enough, they will take too long to bake and this causes them to dry out. The batter could contain too much flour or not enough egg or liquid.

Adapted from www.joyofbaking.com/cookiesprint.html (this page is no longer on that website) by Stephanie Jaworski

Notes on Storing Cookies:  
Freshly made cookies need to be cooled completely before storing in airtight containers or the cookies will become soft from the steam they produce while they are still warm.  For frosted cookies, always let the frosting dry completely before storing or the cookies will stick together.  It is best to store filled and frosted cookies in a single layer or between layers of parchment or wax paper.  Always store each type of cookie separately.  If you store different flavored and textured cookies together they will end up taking on the characteristics of each other i.e. a dry crisp textured cookie stored with a soft textured cookie will absorb its moisture and become soft.  Likewise, a shortbread stored with a spice cookie will end up tasting like a spice cookie.  continued below

Notes on Shipping Cookies:  
If you plan to ship cookies, choose cookies that keep well and are not fragile.  Place the container of cookies in a heavy duty corrugated container or box that is larger than the package of cookies to allow for packing materials (popcorn, newspaper, bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts).  Good examples of cookies to ship:   Amaretti,   Biscotti,  Gingersnaps,  Oatmeal,  Mexican Wedding Cakes,   Plain Sables,  Shortbreads,  Spice, or   Plain Sugar Cookies.

Notes on Cookie Containers:
For gift giving try to choose a container that matches the personality or hobbies of the recipient.  Ideas for containers are: new or antique cookie jars, hatboxes, flowerpots, baskets, cookie tins, cellophane bags, lunch bags, gift bags or boxes, festive paper or glass plates, bakery boxes, or bowls.  Adorn them with ribbon, raffia, or metallic twine and attach a pretty gift tag.

From www.joyofbaking.com/ChristmasCookies.html


cookie stamp
A small, decorative disc with a handle and a design imprinted on its face. It may be round or square (or any other shape) and may be made of glass, ceramic clay or wood (some are even made of metal).

When the stamp is pressed onto a ball of cookie dough, it not only flattens it, but imprints a relief design on the surface. A square cookie stamp is especially useful in stamping an entire sheet of dough which has been pressed onto a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet.

During stamping, the ball of dough pooches out around the edge of the stamp and will have an uneven and cracked appearance. This excess dough may be trimmed off with a knife, or if you begin with a large amount of dough, a cookie cutter that complements the stamp design may be used to cut out the dough.

cookie mold
Generally a 5” to 9” diameter usually free-form-shape mold made of ceramic clay, resin, or wood. The cookie dough is pressed into the floured mold, leveled off with a knife, then inverted onto a baking sheet. Generally produce a much larger cookie than a cookie stamp.

cookie press
1. A cookie gun which consists of a hollow tube fitted at one end with a decorative nozzle and at the other end with a nozzle. The tube is filled with a soft cookie dough that the plunger forces out through the decorative tip onto a cookie sheet.
2. The Rycraft cookie press is a 3” diameter cookie stamp without any design on the face, which is used to flatten sugar cookies and leave no design on the cookie.

From an undated clipping, source unknown.

Cookie Types:
Cookies seem to be everyone's favorite. In fact, they are the number one dessert eaten in the US, some $3.6 billion per year. That's a lot of cookies!( Nielsen survey of supermarket sales. In the 52 weeks ending March 11, 1997).

But wouldn't it be nice to make your own? In fact, here I show you how to make them in a step-by-step fashion at home. There are even photographs to guide you through all the cookie making steps. There's loads of help if you're having a problem, including the Ask Sarah Message Board where you can post your questions.

A cookie is described as a thin, sweet, usually small cake. They can be prepared in myriad shapes, flavors and textures and are usually categorized by the way they are formed. Their dominant ingredient, such as nuts, fruit or chocolate chips, can also classify them. Whether gourmet, soft or bite-sized cookies, new categories are always cropping up; no one book could hold the recipes for all of the various types.

Note that some cookie types are subtypes of others and there may be a fine line between certain categories of cookies; for example the same dough can either be hand shaped into a ball or dropped from a spoon. There are also specialty and holiday cookies made up from all of the categories below. Happy Baking, Sarah

COOKIE INDEX: Cookie dough ranges from those soft enough to drop to those stiff enough to shape into a roll an slice for baking. Between these extremes is dough which is spread in the pan and cut after baking, dough just stiff enough to roll and those which are molded with a cookie press or mold.

Bars and Squares:
Bar cookies are an easy cookie to make. Ingredients are spread or layered in a pan -- usually an 8x8x2-inch baking pan, a 13x9-inch baking pan, or 14x10-inch jellyroll pan, depending on what the recipe specifies. They are baked in sheets and then cut into squares or bars. The most popular bar cookie is the   Brownie, plus there's lots of other   recipes, too. 

Many bar cookies use the "baking blind" technique, popular for making tarts. After preparing the crust in the pan, the rust is baked without filling to avoid the bottom from being soggy and undercooked. The filling is then placed on top of the hot crust and returned to the oven for additional baking.

Decorated cookies:
  after baking, cookies can be decorated in all sorts of ways; designs piped with a   pastry bag filled with  royal icing, a simple glaze drizzled over them, or sprinkled with   tinted sugar.

Drop cookies:  some of the most popular cookies are made from dough that is simply dropped from a spoon onto the baking sheet. Drop cookies can also be piped from  pastry bag into swirls and other desired shapes. One of the most popular type is the  Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Hauser Chocolates Cookies
Filled & Sandwich cookies:
cookies that may be baked with a filling in the dough or sandwiched together by assorted pastry fillings, jams etc. Well known filled cookies are Linzer cookies.

Refrigerated / Icebox cookies: This type of cookie is also called "slice and bake". Dough is chilled and may be Icebox Cookies, formed in logs and sliced or Drop Cookies: dropped from a spoon.  

Rolled cookies:  are made from chilled cookie dough rolled out with a rolling pin. The cookies are then cut in shapes with various cookie cutters, bottoms of drinking glasses, etc. I have included all of my favorite recipes, from the   Blue Ribbon Sugar Cookies to traditional   gingerbread and   shortbread

 Spritz or molded, stamped, piped & pressed cookies: Spritz cookies are made from dough that is forced through a cookie press. Molded cookies can either be shaped by hand, stamped with a pattern before baking or baked directly in a mold. Bagged or piped cookies are shaped with a pastry bag or a cookie gun.

 No Bake Cookies are those that do not require an oven. Some resemble candies. They are a nice, easy way to make a sweet treat or top off a cookie tray.

 Mixes in a Jar: For gift giving, cookie mixes in a jar, are so popular. What you do is layer all of the dry ingredients in the recipe and attach baking instructions. It includes combining the ingredients in the jar with perishable ones found at home, such as eggs, milk, etc to bake cookies.


The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to 7th-century Persia, one of the first countries to cultivate sugar. Each country has its own word for "cookie." What we know as cookies are called biscuits in England; in Spain they're galletas, Germans call them keks, Italians have their biscotti, and so on. The very first cookie was the drop cookie—a small spoonful of cake batter, baked before the cake so that the cook could judge the oven temperature and the flavor and texture of the batter.

 Specialty cookies.  These cookies get their distinct, well-defined shapes from special tools. French Madeleines are baked in Madeleine plaques; spicy Dutch speculaas are pressed into carved wooden molds; Swedish spritz cookies are formed into wreaths, ribbons, rosettes and other shapes using a cookie press fitted with a decorative template; German springerle  are formed using a special carved rolling pin. The dough is stamped with the design, cut out and then allowed to dry overnight to set the design before the cookies are baked.

Holiday cookies. Holidays are often celebrated with special cookies of their own. The Greek Easter cookies, koulourakia, for example, are one of the traditional foods used to break the Easter fast. Haman's Pockets (also known as Hamantaschen) are the traditional sweets of the festive Jewish holiday, Purim. In addition, as would be expected, the baking and sharing of Christmas cookies is an age-old custom in many countries through the world.

Adapted from http://www.baking911.com/cookies/101_intro.htm

Basic Cookie Ingredients
Have all your ingredients at room temperature, unless specified otherwise. They'll mix better.
The three main ingredients present in nearly every type of cookie are fat, flour, and sugar, but you'll see other ingredients in recipes such as leaveners, eggs, milk, perhaps some chocolate, cocoanut, spices or nuts.

As in all other areas of baking, using fresh, high-quality ingredients is critical to success.

The type of flour determines the structure of the cookie, and is the main binding agent. Each type of flour has an individual protein profile suitable almost exclusively for specific uses. All-purpose flour is generally used in most cookie recipes, but other wheat flour types are found, as well. The addition or substitution of other flours, such as bread or cake flour are sometimes added to get different results in a recipe. For example, bread flour can be used instead of all-purpose flour; it can absorb much more liquid because of its higher protein content, more moisture will stay in the cookie and it will be chewier. Replacing a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour with cake flour will give you a more tender cookie. However, each cookie recipe is different and the anticipated results will vary.

FYI: Cake flour is made with soft wheat, so you get less protein (7.5%) in your flour, less gluten in the mixture, and a very tender, potentially puffy, cookie. With bread flour, made from hard wheat, you have an increase in protein (to 12%), an increase in gluten and, therefore, a chewy cookie.

Some form of sugar is used in all cookie recipes. It is a tenderizing agent, adds sweetness and affects the spread of the cookie. Granulated sugar or brown sugar is used frequently in cookie making, but honey, molasses, corn syrup and other sugars can be used, sometimes in combinations. It can be confusing as to which type to use; when a recipe calls simply for "sugar," it is safe to assume that granulated table sugar is intended. Powdered or confectioners’ sugar is referred to as 10X.
The type of sugar and how much you use plays a big role in the outcome of the cookie's taste and texture, but the recipe plays the biggest role. Most chocolate chip recipes call for both types of sugar, such as in the Nestle's Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, to get the best of both worlds.

√        To prevent cookies from cracking around the edges when baking, I like to use superfine sugar.
bullet    White sugar will make a crisper cookie than one made with brown sugar, molasses or honey. It doesn't attract as much moisture from the environment keeping them crispy.

√        Cookies made with brown sugar tend to be more soft and chewy. It's because brown sugar contains molasses which is hygroscopic and absorbs water from the atmosphere. In fact, upon standing, cookies made from brown sugar stay chewy.
√        For a chewier cookie, liquid sweetener, such as honey, corn syrup or molasses is preferred. These will act as humectants and hold some of the moisture for longer periods of time than other types of sugar, thus, helping to maintain softness from one to two days to five or six days, in some cases even more than that. Just beware: using too much honey in the recipe can cause the cookies to become really brown.
√        Cookie spread decreases as sugar particle size increases. A coarse granulated sugar produces less cookie spread during baking than powdered sugar. 

. . . such as stick butter and margarine, lard and shortening, all have their place in the cookie world. They coat the flour's gluten strands, some better than others and prevent the cookie from becoming tough when moistened and stirred. I like to use plain, pure (unsalted) butter because I find it adds the best flavor to a cookie recipe, but every baker has their own preference.

Shortening vs. Butter vs. Margarine vs. Oil:

Each type of fat used in cookie recipes separately affects the cookie's texture and taste. Generally, the use of butter means a flatter, crispier cookies because it allows the dough to spread as it cooks on the hot cookie sheet. Cookies made with shortening will not spread, however all shortening will give you a cookie without a lot of taste. This approach gives you the best of both worlds: shortening is not as sensitive to shifts in temperature and the butter gives a lot of flavor.

√        Shortening: Least spread / Least flavor, however can use butter flavored. Because of its higher melting point (98° to 100° F) than butter, cookies keep their shape as it bakes, yielding a puffier more cake-like treat.
√        Stick Butter:  Medium spread / Best flavor. Because of the lower the melting point of butter (92° to 98°F) than shortening, cookies spread and become flatter and crispier as the result. To help reduce cookie spread when using butter, freeze the formed dough on the cookie sheets. When you place the frozen cookie dough immediately in the oven, the fat will stay colder longer and when baked, the cookie will retain its shape better. For flavor, there is no substitute for butter. Cookies made with butter have outstanding taste and a finely grained, often crisp texture. Butter also helps cookies to keep well and maintain their flavor. I recommend using unsalted butter in baking.
√        Stick Margarine: Most spread / Some flavor
√        Vegetable oils: cookies are softer than those made with butter or margarine.

Use only fresh eggs, of course, and at room temperature. If the recipe is simply written with the word "eggs", use large which have a volume of about 1/4 cup each. The liquid from the egg forms steam and gets trapped in the cookie, puffing it up. In addition, they emulsify the dough, bringing the water and fat phases together in a recipe for a creamier, smoother texture. On the other hand, egg whites have a drying effect and but also contribute to the structure or shape of a cookie.

Liquids are essential to cookie recipes.  When wheat flour is moistened and stirred, gluten is formed from the proteins present.  Gluten strands form the structure of the cookie, but they also have a toughening effect.  Fats, such as stick butter and shortening, shorten the strands, and give you a more tender cookie. If you add too much liquid, like milk or water, your cookie dough is going to be like a very thick pancake batter which won't bake like a cookie.

Baking soda and baking powder are the classic leaveners in cookie recipes, but beaten egg whites are also used. Used together and separately, these components affect the puffiness to some degree (baking powder), but they also affect the color of the cookie (baking soda). 

Cocoa, nuts, extracts, and other flavorings, all contribute to the character and taste of a cookie. I recommend using only pure vanilla extract, never imitation, even though you can buy quarts of the imitation stuff for the price of one good bottle of pure vanilla -- it keeps forever in a dark and cool storage cabinet. The taste of imitation vanilla is immediately detected, and is exaggerated if the dough or cookies are frozen. Use them discriminatingly but courageously. A touch of almond extract in a plain sugar-cookie recipe (add about 1/2 teaspoon at the same time you add the eggs to the dough), or a good dash of cardamom in spicy applesauce bars (add 1/2 teaspoon cardamom along with the other spices) makes a subtle but significant difference.

Other Ingredients: Don't over add ingredients, such as chocolate chips, because the cookies, although they taste great, will get too mushy from the melted chocolate and will not bake well.

√        Oatmeal means uncooked rolled oats, either old-fashioned or quick, but not instant. Instant will get too mushy in the recipe.
√        Coconut means the shredded or flaked and sweetened kind. If you have fresh coconut, grate it and soak it in milk, refrigerated, for about 6 hours, then drain. This will give it about the same moisture content as the packaged kind.
√        Raisins, which may be used interchangeably with chopped dates in most recipes, are the dark Thompson seedless variety, unless golden raisins are specified. Currants and muscat raisins are occasionally used. Raisins should be plump and soft. If they seem dry and hard, soak them in hot water for 15 or 20 minutes, then drain before using.
√        Nuts can mean walnuts, pecans, and almonds, plus others. They can become rancid quickly (in just a week or two, depending on conditions) at room temperature, and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. When a recipe calls for chopped nuts, it usually means walnuts or pecans. Almonds, with their delicate flavor, and peanuts, which are more assertive, should be used only when specified.
√        Grated orange and lemon rind (known as "zest") refers to the outer colored portion of the rind.
√        Unless you are on a diet, choose full-fat dairy products. Always use solid cream cheese and not the whipped variety.
√        Chocolate may be specified as unsweetened, sweetened or bittersweet chocolate, semi-sweet (such as the chocolate chips commonly used in Toll House cookies), or sweet. Cocoa (the unsweetened powder, not a mix) is also called for in some recipes. Be sure to use the type of chocolate specified, as substitutions may not be successful. Chocolate burns easily, so the best way to melt it is in a double boiler over hot water, in a microwave oven or in an oven as it preheats for the recipe. Experienced cooks sometimes place chocolate in a heavy saucepan over direct low heat, but that method carries the risk of scorching.

What the Ingredients Do:
Understanding cookie chemistry comes in handy -- you can tinker and fool around to your heart's content to get cookies exactly the way you want them. But, always keep in mind, I have found that the recipe pretty much dictates how the cookies are going to turn out. Fiddling with one or two ingredients does change a recipe, but you may not like the results. I have found, 99.99% of the time, for good results, others have to be changed, as well and it takes lots of trial and error.

Warning: Use this guide to help you adjust a recipe you've already made so you know what the original was like and what you'd like to change. And be sure to adjust ingredients, baking times and other elements gradually, preferably one or two at a time. You'll find that sometimes simply tweaking something by a tablespoon can make a difference. These tips are from Shirley Corriher's 1997 Cookwise (William Morrow, 1997).

√        High-protein flour = All-purpose flour: Makes cookies darker in color and flatter.

√        Low-protein flour = Cake flour: Makes cookies pale, soft and puffy.

√        Fat with sharp melting point, like butter: Makes cookies spread.

√        Fat that maintains same consistency over a wide temperature range, such as solid vegetable shortening: Makes cookies that do not spread as much.

√        Corn syrup (or molasses): Makes cookies browner.

√        Brown sugar and honey: Makes cookies that soften the longer you keep them.

√        If you want the cookies to spread more: Use all butter OR add 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid (water, milk or cream -- not egg) OR use BLEACHED all-purpose (but not one that is chlorinated) OR add 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar.

√        If you want the cookies to spread less: Use solid vegetable shortening or substitute some solid vegetable shortening for an equal amount of butter OR use cake flour OR cut the sugar by a few tablespoons OR switch from baking soda to baking powder OR chill the dough before baking it.

√        If you want the cookies to have a chewy quality: Melt the butter instead of simply using it at room temperature.

√        If you want the cookies to have a cakey quality: Use the butter at room temperature or use equal parts butter and solid vegetable shortening.

√        If you want the cookies to be more tender: Use cake flour OR add a few tablespoons of sugar OR add a few tablespoons of fat.

√        If the cookies are too tender and you want them to be more substantial: Substitute a few tablespoons of bread flour for an equal amount of all-purpose flour OR cut the sugar by a few tablespoons OR cut the fat by a few tablespoons.

√        If you want the cookies to brown better: Substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup for an equal amount of sugar OR substitute a few tablespoons of unbleached or bread flour for equal amounts of the all-purpose flour.

√        If the cookies are browning too much, despite the correct oven temperature: Substitute water for for an equal amount of liquid ingredients OR use cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour.

FYI - Nutritional Values of Cookies:

How some of the traditional favorites measure up nutritionally:
One Piece Weight Calories Carbohydrates Protein Fat
(ounces) (cals) (gm) (gm) (gm)
Oatmeal Raisin 0.5 61.0 9.0 0.75 
Shortbread 1.0 40.0  
5.0 0.5 2.0
Peanut Butter 0.5 61.0 7.0 1.0 3.5
Chocolate Chip  0 .4 49.0 7.0 0.6 2.0
Sugar Cookie 0.4 60.0 8.0 0.5 3.0
Brownie w/Nuts 0.7 95.0 11.0 1.3 6.3

From http://www.baking911.com/cookies/101_tips.htm



For the glossary-minded, here’s a list of the different kinds f lour, and what the baking gurus say they’re best suited for:

As one baker put it, this flour is OK for everything but great for nothing. A blend of hard and soft wheat, it may be bleached or unbleached. Bleached is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. Baking teacher Shirley Corriher recommends unbleached for yeast breads, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, éclairs, cream puffs and popovers.

The Wheat Foods council calls this a “fine-textured, silky flour milled from soft wheats with a low protein content.” Since it has a greater percentage of starch and less protein, it’s best for keeping delicate cakes tender. General Mills says you can use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour in recipes by increasing the cake flour by 2 tablespoons per cup, but that in some recipes the substitution may cause sinkage or collapse. Similarly, you can use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour by decreasing the all-purpose flour by 2 tablespoons, but General Mills does not recommend this substitution for delicate cakes such as angel food or sponge.

Sometimes referred to as phosphated flour, this is a low-protein flour with salt and leavening already added. It’s most often recommended for biscuits and some quick breads but never for yeast breads. According to the Wheat foods council, 1 cup of self-rising flour contains 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. It can be used instead of all-purpose by reducing the sAlt and baking powder according to these proportions.

Gold Medal’s version is called Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour, Pillsbury’s is shake & blend. They’re granular in texture and, because they disperse instantly in cold liquids, are best for preparing smooth gravies and sauces.

This is white flour made from hard, high-protein wheat. It has more gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour and absorbs more water. It is unbleached and sometimes conditioned with ascorbic acid, according to the wheat council.

Milled from soft wheat, this falls somewhere between all-purpose and cake flour in terms of protein content and baking properties.

Grown in the United States almost exclusively in North Dakota, durum is a hard spring whet used to make noodles. It’s finely ground semolina.

Used to make couscous and pasta, this is the coarsely-ground endosperm of durum.

1/9/96 from the Corvallis Gazette-Times, by Carole Sugarman

BLEACHED VS. UNBLEACHED: There Really is a Difference

Bleached’s lower protein level better for delicate baked goods
The label on the bag of Pillsbury’s bleached, all-purpose flour claims that “bleaching improves baking performance.” At the same time, the label also says that all-purpose bleached and unbleached flour can be used interchangeably.

Interchangeably? Shirley Corriher, an Atlanta cooking teacher and biochemist, begs to differ. She maintains that since Pillsbury’s unbleached is slightly higher in protein, it therefore is not as good for making tender cookies and pie crusts. (The company acknowledges this protein difference, but the nutrition label does not reflect this.)

In fact, she says an experiment she devised proves that even a small difference in protein can make a big difference in your dough: Place 2 cups of unbleached flour in a food processor and add 1 cup of water. Process for 10 seconds. Then do it again with the bleached flour.

The flour higher in protein (and, thus, with stronger gluten strands) should for a sturdier, stickier mass than the smoother, lower-protein flour, which will be more delicate and relaxed.

We tried it. And we agree. And we, who didn’t think there was any difference – and who bought unbleached flour because it seemed the thing to do – are about to change our ways. When it comes to delicate baked goods, bleached is the way to go.

Flour, the workhorse of baked goods, gets taken for granted. After all, with Valrhona chocolate and real vanilla in the world, who can get excited over an ingredient so dull and common?

Or is it? For as Corriher’s disagreement with the advice on the Pillsbury package shows, it is also supremely misunderstood. That’s because flur is far more complex than that sack of white fluff lets on.

And knowing what’s what could make the difference between people’s saying merely “That’s good” and “Wow! Gimme the recipe!”

The biggest misconception about flour is that it’s simply a commodity, that flour is flour. As Brinna Sands, one of the owners of King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Ft., said, “It’s kind of like wine. It has a lot of characteristics that change from year to year.”

Those characteristics are largely influenced by weather and growing conditions, but there are many other factors that make flour not as monolithic as it seems.

There are six different classes of wheat, distinguished by winter and spring (depending on the growing season) and hard and soft (depending on the protein content).

The largest class is Hard Red Winter, grown primarily in the Great Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, according to Jim Bair, vice president of the Millers’ National Federation, a trade association of the nation’s millers.

Three’s the relatively new Hard White, also grown in the Great Plains, which makes a milder flour, and Hard Red Spring, grown in the Northern Plains.

Moving onto the soft wheats, there’s Soft White, grown in the Pacific Northwest and Michigan, and Soft Red winter, grown east of the Mississippi. And finally, there’s durum wheat, grown almost exclusively in North Dakota.

So why should you care?

Because it’s a big deal. The hardness of the wheat determines the baking qualities of the flour produced from it – the harder the what, the more protein the flour will contain.

And why should you care about protein?

Protein is the largest single distinguishing feature of flour. When you mix flour with liquid – as in Corriher’s experiment or in everyday use – it’s the proteins that form rubber-band-like strands of gluten, the stuff that makes dough elastic and traps gas from yeast, allowing the dough to rise. The more protein in a flour, the stronger the gluten and the sturdier the dough.

This means that hard wheats, with more protein, produce flour that is best suited for baking breads. Bread flour, for example, made from hard, high-protein wheats, has a protein content of 12 to 14 percent, according to the Wheat foods Council.

Soft, low-protein wheats, which produce flour with weaker gluten strands, are better bets for cakes, cookies and pastries, where lightness and tenderness are key.

Cake flour, for example, milled from soft, low-protein wheat, has a protein content between 7 and 9 percent. All-purpose flour is usually a blend of hard and soft wheats, and thus its protein content is somewhere in between, varying from 8 to 11 percent.

What’s malted barley flour, anyway? Malted barley flour often appears as the second ingredient on flour labels – primarily those used for baking bread and other yeast doughs. But even though it’s second in weight, the ingredient is actually only a tiny percentage of the flour. The food and Drug Administration says that the amount of malted barley flour may not exceed 0.75 percent of the weight of the flour.

And why  is it there in the first place? As “food for the yeast,” says Judi Adams, president of the Wheat Foods Council. That’s because in order for yeast to grow, it needs a starch that has been turned into a simple sugar, adds Sands of King Arthur Flour. So when yeast is added to flour, it gets a jump start from the malted barley flour.

Although it is not a requirement, many flours are also “enriched” with three B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin and thiamine) and iron. Enrichment of flour began during World War II, according to the FDA. The purpose? To deal with pellagra, a niacin-deficiency disease that once flourished among low-income people, particularly in the South. Pellagra is no longer a problem, but enrichment has continued.

In fact, enrichment does replace some of the nutrients lost during the milling of all-purpose flour. It is at that point that the endosperm, or center of the kernel, is separated from the wheat germ and wheat bran – two sources of some of those nutrients, according to General mills, which makes Gold Medal flour.

Yu may also have heard of bromated flour, although this practice is largely being phased out among millers in the United States. Bromates were traditionally added to bread flours to strengthen the dough, but questions about possible carcinogenicity spurred the industry to back off, says Bair of the millers’ group. Ascorbic acid and natural enzymes have replaced the bromates, which are still legal, although the FDA is currently reviewing their safety.

Bleached vs. unbleached is one of the enduring questions in the modern world of flour, and the one that elicits the most differences of opinion.

First, there’s disagreement as to why flour is bleached at all. Bair says that its primary purpose is not to make flur whiter, but to age it and improve its baking qualities.

Flip to Marlene Johnson, spokesperson for Pillsbury, who says that flour is bleached a bright white because of consumer preferences established years ago. “It came out of the premise that only the wealthy could eat white bread,” she said.

Whatever the reason, bleaching does make flour whiter; in doing so, it’s simply fast-forwarding nature. That’s because right after flour is milled, it’s a yellowish color. But while oxidation turns a pear or apple brown, air turns the carotenoid pigments in flour white, explains Nick Malgieri, author of “How to Bake” (HarperCollins, $35). And like a stew that improves with age, flour functions better with some maturity under its belt.

Of course 100 years ago, by the time flour was packed into barrels, shipped by railroad and sat around in a general store for a while, the flour was plenty grown up. Even nowadays, by the time unbleached flour gets from a miller to a warehouse to a supermarket to your house, sufficient aging has taken place.

If so, why resort to chemicals to bleach flour? Sands of King Arthur, which sells only unbleached flour, just doesn’t like the idea. At the same time, Corriher, the Atlanta biochemist, believes that the notion that unbleached flour is somehow better for you is “a batch of hooey.”

In fact, the nutritional value of flour is not changed during bleaching, according to the Wheat Foods Council. Corriher agrees, adding that trace amounts of vitamin E may be lost, but flour was never a very good source of it anyway.

And then there’s the question of performance – the bleached flour vs. the unbleached.  Corriher is not the only food professional who differs with the Pillsbury-bag claim. Many baking experts agree that there are substantial differences in performance, as do we (see accompanying story*).

According t Jim Vetter, vice president of technical research at the American Institute of Baking, bleaching agents help the flour hold onto the shortening and sugar in cakes, resulting in  better crumb. The agents also modify the protein in flour, resulting in more elastic gluten. The  net result is flour with a silkier, finer grain, says Vetter. The chemical and physical reasons for all this are not well understood, he added.

This is why professional bakers such as Malgieri recommend bleached flour for soft cookies and cakes. But Malgieri sys he sticks to unbleached flour for “any kind of bread or yeast product.”

Like other bakers, Malgieri also does a lot of mixing and matching of flours in a single recipe; he’ll use a combination of bleached all-purpose flour and bleached cake flour for biscuits, for example.

From the Corvallis Gazette-Times 1/9/96, By Carole Sugarman, LA Times-Washington Post Service

The proof is in the pie, poundcake and cookie

If you’ve ever wondered why Aunt Minnie’s cookies taste so much better when she makes them, we may have the answer. Depending on the baker, there are many reasons one cookie recipe my produce a variety of different final products, but wow, what a difference the flour can make!

The Washington Post’s Food section worked with three recipes – for a sugar cookie, a pie crust and a poundcake. Each recipe was made a number of times, the only variable being the type of flour. Our central question was whether unbleached and bleached flour are really any different.

They are.

We made the sugar cookies two ways, with Pillsbury’s all-purpose bleached, and then again with the company’s all-purpose unbleached. The cookies made with the bleached version were much lighter and had a much better butter flavor. The unbleached flour produced a chewier, dnser and tougher cookie that was not nearly as buttery-tasting.

Ditto for the pie crust Again, the version made with the bleached flour was much lighter and more buttery-tasting than the unbleached version.

We also made a crust using King Arthur all-purpose unbleached flour. The flour is really more recommended for bread-baking, although the company maintains that it works well in other baked goods, too. Not surprisingly, there was a much larger difference between both unbleached flour crusts and the bleached than between the two crusts made with unbleached flour.

With poundcake, w tested the same recipe with four different kinds of lour: Softasilk cake flour, Pillsbury bleached, King Arthur unbleached, and Pillsbury bleached with a partial substitution of cornstarch. (Some baking books suggest adding cornstarch to all-purpose flour as a substitute for cake flour, because cornstarch dilutes gluten strength. Not everybody agrees that this is a complete solution, however.)

The poundcake recipe called for cake flour, but we wanted to see just how much difference the type f flour would make. The result? The cake-flour version was clearly the lightest in density and texture. Next on the tenderness scale was the cake made with Pillsbury bleached. For some reason, the version made with bleached flour plus cornstarch was denser-tasting than that made with all bleached flour. And finally, the King Arthur poundcake was tougher and gummier than the rest of the bunch.

Although the bleached and unbleached flours in all the recipes produced more than just shades of difference, none of the baked goods actually tasted bad or flopped.

But one lesson rang clear: When it comes to sugar cookies and pie crusts, we’re using bleached flour from now on.

1/9/96 from the Corvallis Gazette-Times,  by Carol Sugarman and Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.


If different flours have different protein levels, why do most flour-bag nutrition labels say th same thing: 3 grams of protein per 1/4 cup?

Shirley Corriher, an Atlanta cooking teacher and biochemist, knows why, and she’s frustrated by it. She can’t tell whether the flour she’s buying is high in protein, and thus better for baking bread, or low in protein, better for making pie crusts and quick breads.

The nutrition label once assessed 1 cup of flour. If the protein content on the label said 9 grams, it was a low in protein, according to Corriher. If the protein was 14 grams per cup, it was high-protein.

But when the Food and Drug Administration’s labeling law went into effect in 1994, the official serving size of flour dropped from 1 cup to 1/4 cup. Not it’s impossible to tell how high in protein a particular four is.

Here’s why: The 3 grams in a 1/4 cup of flour could range from about 2.5 to about 4 grams (a combination of rounding up or down plus FDA permission for food manufacturers to under-declare protein content), which means that a whole cup could have anywhere from 10 to 16 grams of protein.

In other words, th flour could be high or low in protein and the label would say the same thing.

This could be good, if the goal is realistic portion sizes, but is not very helpful if you want to know how to use a particular flour.

1/9/96 from the Corvallis Gazette-Times by Carole Sugarman

For Foolproof Cookies, Here's What You Need to Know


Start with the right stuff. Use only butter or margarine that comes in sticks; don't use whipped, reduced-fat or tub products. Read the label to be sure the butter or margarine contains at least 80 percent fat; any less means there's a higher percentage of water, which is not recommended for baking. Printed measurements on stocks of butter make measuring easy and convenient.

To prevent cookies from spreading, the butter must

From an undated  magazine clipping sent in by a customer

TIP: Use Land O'Lakes Margarine instead of BUTTER

To prevent cookie designs from melting away in the oven, and if you cannot find a high-fat-content butter (one with as little water in it as possible), try using Land O' Lakes Margarine which has NO water and has good flavor.

Tip from a customer who phoned us 9/09.

Cookies at high altitude:

Most cookie recipes, except for bar cookies, require no high altitude adjustments. However, should problems occur, correct them by decreasing baking powder and sugar slightly. For very rich cookies, increase flour by 1 tablespoon for each cup required at sea level and increase liquid by 1/2 tablespoon for each additional 1 tablespoon flour. If surface or bottom of cookies is oily, decrease shortening, butter or oil 1 to 4 tablespoons.

What happens at high altitudes:

High altitudes call for a different kind of baking. One of the first changes you’ll notice is the lower boiling point of water. You may be used to 212 degrees at sea level, but at 5000 feet, it’s 202 degrees. As altitude increases, air pressure decreases. Water will boil more quickly, but will never be as hot at boiling as it would at sea level, so you’ll have to simmer that stew longer. The rate of evaporation is faster, which means you might have to add more liquid to foods during cooking. Rapid evaporation will cause sugar solutions to become concentrated sooner than at sea level, so you’ll want to watch cooking closely to avoid scorching. You’ll find that your flour will dry out faster so you may need to use less. Lighter air will allow bread doughs and cake batters to expand more and faster, making it necessary to reduce baking powder or baking soda and sometimes to use larger baking pans. Although most high altitude adjustments are not necessary below 3500 feet, minor recipe adjustments may be needed as low as 2500 or 3000 feet.

How to tell if adjustments are necessary:

Much of your high altitude baking and cooking, at least initially, will mean experimenting. You might want to try your favorite sea level recipes once before deciding to make high-altitude adjustments. If the appearance or texture of the food at high altitudes is different than at sea level, you’re probably going to want to make some changes. If you feel adjustments are necessary, make them one at a time so that you can evaluate each one as it is made. . . . Make your own record of foods, times, temperatures and baking methods to tell you what adjustments you’ll need to make in the future for your favorite recipes at your specific altitude.

From a 1993 article from the Betty Crocker® Food and Publications Center



Ingredient per CUP per CUP per TBSP per TBSP
Almond Extract

12.6 0.45
Anise Seed

7.6 0.27
Baking Powder

12.9 0.424
Baking Soda               

14.5 0.5
Butter 224.0-227.0    8.0        14.0 0.49
Cheese, cheddar 113.0    4.0

Cheese, cream 226.0    8.0

Chocolate - Fine cut 106.1 3.75

Chocolate - Melted 247.6-255.0 9.0 15.5    0.55

8.5 0.3

7.6 0.27
Cocoa 112.0    4.0 7.0 0.25
Cocoanut - Long thread 64.0 2.25

Cocoanut - Moist, canned 85.0 3.0

Coffee - Ground 80.0-85.0 3.0 5.3 0.18
Cornstarch 128.0-148.5 4.5 8.0 0.27
Corn Syrup 326.0-328.0 11.5

Fats, Liquid - Corn, Olive,
Peanut & Cottonseed oil
220.0 8.0

Fats, Hydrogenated 188.0 6.6

Flour - All-purpose, sifted 110.0 4.0

Flour - Bread, sifted
112.0-121.7 4.0-4.3

Flour - Bread, unsifted
144.8 4.6-5.1

Flour - Corn
116.0    4.0

Flour - Potato, sifted
177.0    6.25

Flour - Rice, sifted
126.0 4.5

Flour - Whole wheat, packed
198.0 7.0

Flour - Whole wheat, loose 144.9 5.1

Ginger, crystallized diced 170.0 6.0

Honey 338.0-346.6 12.0 20.3 0.72
Lemon Extract

10.4 0.37
Lemon gratings   

5.8 0.21
Lemon juice strained 273.3 9.7

Lemon juice unstrained 247.6 8.7

Molasses, cane 328.0-333.2    11.5-11.8 20.5-25.0 0.72

7.8 0.27
Peanut Butter 227.0-247.7    8.0-8.75

Salt, cooking 226.0 8.0

Salt, free-running 288.0 10.25

Shortening, hydrogenated 208.0 7.3 11.7 0.42
Spices, ground

7.2 0.25
Sugar - Brown, packed 200.0-206.0
13.2 0.47
Syrup, corn 328.0 11.5

Syrup, maple    312.0    11.0

Vanilla Extract

13.0 0.36
Water 227.0 8.0 14.0 0.49


Multiply By To Obtain
Cups 236.6 Cubic Centimeters
Cups 14.437 Cubic Inches
Cups 2.0 Gills
Cups 0.5   
Cups 0.25  
Cups 16.0   
Cups 48.0   
Tablespoons 14.8 Cubic Centimeters
Tablespoons 0.903 Cubic Inches
Tablespoons 0.6025 Cups
Tablespoons 0.5 Liquid Ounces
Tablespoons 3.0 Teaspoons
Teaspoons 4.9 Cubic Centimeters
Teaspoons 0.2987 Cubic Inches
Teaspoons 0.333 Tablespoons

Provided by Pillsbury