Why you need to chill cookie dough

Happy July 4th everyone! While whipping up a batch of star-shaped sugar cookies, I realized I was pinched for time and wanted to skip over the “chill dough for 1 hour or overnight” step. The dough was already visibly firm and didn’t seem like it really needed to be chilled.

So why does cookie dough (or any other dough with flour) often need to be chilled? Apparently it’s because the gluten strands in flour will absorb more moisture in the dough the longer it is chilled. In addition to making some dough easier to handle once chilled (since butter and other liquid ingredients become more solid), there are also subtle differences in taste.

A taste test by David Leite of the New York Times revealed that chilling cookie dough for 36 hours resulted in the best taste, compared to chilling for 12 or 24 hours. Who knew that 3-day old cookies tasted the best?! Though drier when shaping the cookie before baking, David tasted more subtle flavors of the cookie after baking.

“At 12 hours, the dough had become drier and the baked cookies had a pleasant, if not slightly pale, complexion. The 24-hour mark is where things started getting interesting. The cookies browned more evenly and looked like handsomer, more tanned older brothers of the younger batch. The biggest difference, though, was flavor. The second batch was richer, with more bass notes of caramel and hints of toffee.

Going the full distance seemed to have the greatest impact. At 36 hours, the dough was significantly drier than the 12-hour batch; it crumbled a bit when poked but held together well when shaped. These cookies baked up the most evenly and were a deeper shade of brown than their predecessors. Surprisingly, they had an even richer, more sophisticated taste, with stronger toffee hints and a definite brown sugar presence. At an informal tasting, made up of a panel of self-described chipper fanatics, these mature cookies won, hands down.”

Click here to read the full article that I read about chilling dough. Very interesting!

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