Pan banging vs. science in baking

In a miserable January, when I work at a company whose fiscal year ends in January and in a city that’s in the northeast experiencing winter, this time of year is not usually fun. It’s cold, disgusting outside, work is tense, and there doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to outside of the day-to-day usual stuff and the weekend breaks. So I end up spending more time looking for new recipes to try and techniques to experiment with to be productive.

One of the interesting chocolate chip cookie recipes I found in my Instagram Discovery tab was the concept of “pan-banging chocolate chip cookies.” The goal is to get very flat, crispy on the edges and chewy gooey on the inside chocolate chip cookies that have a beautiful, almost rippled and ridgy appearance. In order to do this, once the cookie dough balls are lined up on the baking sheet, for ten minutes, every two minutes, you have to open your oven door, lift the cookie sheet up on one side, and allow it to drop, thus “banging” it to create that rippled appearance. The idea seemed so tedious but I really wanted to make cookies that looked like that. After some research, I found another blog that explained how to get the same exact effect without the banging chaos, but instead using science: have equal proportions of brown and white sugar, increase the flour to butter ratio so that there’s more butter than you’d typically add to a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and also slightly chill the dough before baking to encourage the baking soda to spread and the flour to hydrate overall. 1/2 teaspoon for just 1 cup of flour is generally a lot in most baking situations, but here it performs two important functions: 1) promotes spread – baking soda spreads while baking powder puffs, and 2) promotes browning by way of accelerated Maillard browning reactions that produce delicious nutty, roasted, caramel, coffee flavors. Maillard browning is a reaction that happens between specific proteins and sucrose (sugar). In our cookie dough protein comes from egg, flour, and trace amounts in butter.

Sounds like a delicious kind of science to me. That’s not the science I got to learn and enjoy in school, though. No wonder I hated it then.

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