Ah, the humble cookie, one of life’s true pleasures! Easy to make, tasty and loved by all. You can’t go wrong with a batch of cookies, and with some many different type cookies out there, there is a cookie for everyone! However, they are not without their controversy. The debate rages on about which is better: chewy vs crunchy cookies.
Everyone has an opinion on this, and we all have our preferences. If you want to weigh in on this debate, but are not sure where to start, I have just the article for you. I’ve compared the ins and outs of chewy and crunchy cookies so you don’t have to. Let’s find out what the difference is between chewy vs crunchy cookies.
What Are Chewy and Crunchy Cookies?
I think most of us out there know what a cookie is, but in case you’re new here or you’re just starting off your baking adventures, here is a more definitive description. The Cambridge Dictionary describes a cookie as “a small, flat, sweet food made from flour and sugar”. Essentially, cookies are little round pieces of happiness that are usually full of a chip of some description – chocolate, fruit or nuts. They go great with a cup of tea, glass of milk, or a coffee and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Who wouldn’t want to eat a cookie for breakfast, right?
Cookies, not to be confused with biscuits, come in many forms and flavors, but the two most popular textures are chewy cookies and crunchy cookies. Chewy cookies, as the name suggests, have a softer texture, tend to bend rather than snap, and aren’t very crumbly. Crunchy cookies, on the other hand, are harder to the touch, snap when broken, and produce a lot of crumbs.
What Makes a Cookie Chewy or Crunchy?
The main ingredients in cookies are; flour, sugar/sweetener, fat, eggs, flavor (e.g. vanilla essence), raising agent, and a chip of choice. The type of flour, flavoring or chip used usually doesn’t have an effect on the texture of the end result.
The type and amount of sugar and fats that you use have the most impact on whether your cookies will be crunchy or chewy. There’s a bit of science involved in this bit so we’ll tackle each ingredient individually below.
Types of Sugars or Sweeteners
Brown sugar, white sugar, honey, and syrups are the most common types of sweeteners you’ll come across when researching cookie recipes. Brown sugar comes in a number of different forms; light brown, dark brown, muscovado, or demerara – each of which has its own texture and moisture content. White sugar is usually available in caster or granulated varieties.
Honey and syrups, such as maple or corn, can also be used in making cookies. As these are liquid-based, their use tends to lead to a softer, chewier cookie. Brown and white sugars also have different moisture contents, which will affect the end result.
Recipes that use only white sugar (especially granulated sugar) will result in crispier, crumblier cookies. This is because white granulated sugar has a lower moisture content when compared to a white caster or brown sugar. Sugar cookies or shortbread usually contain white sugar only. This makes them perfect for cookies you wish to stamp or cut as the dough will be stiffer and the end result sturdier.
Brown sugar has a higher moisture content and its use results in cookies that are soft and chewy. Most recipes will have a combination of white and brown, with a higher ratio of brown sugar equalling a softer chewier cookie.
Types of Fat
Butter or vegetable shortening are the best types of fats to use when making cookies. To the naked eye, they look very similar but they have some distinct characteristics.
Butter contributes water and milk solids to cookie dough. The addition of these elements softens the cookie and leads to a chewier end result. In addition, butter has a lower melting point, which means that it will melt in the oven, causing your cookies to spread and thin out slightly while baking.
Vegetable shortening, on the other hand, has a lower moisture content. Therefore, its use will not add as much liquid to a dough and results in crumblier cookies. It also has a higher melting point, meaning the structure of your cookies will not change as much while baking.
Use of a Raising Agent
A raising agent does exactly what it says – it raises things! Common raising agents are baking powder or baking soda. The addition of this ingredient to a mixture that contains moisture produces carbon dioxide gas which results in the rise seen in cakes or cookies.
Preparation and Dough
Cookie recipes usually follow a similar structure of beating together butter and sugar, adding eggs and flavor, and then adding the flour and chips. Once combined, the dough is chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes before being shaped and cooked.
When making the dough, ensure you are measuring your ingredients accurately. It is very easy to get a dough that is dry, crumbly, and unworkable if you add in too much flour, or you overwork the dough. On the other hand, too much moisture results in a soppy, wet dough that won’t hold its shape when baked.
Cookies that will be hard and sturdy when cooked, are made with a dough that is described as being “short”, meaning it has a high-fat content, resulting in a dough that holds its shape well. You should be able to easily handle this dough, roll it out, and shape it.
Alternatively, if you are making a chewy cookie, your dough will have a wetter, sticker consistency that is spooned onto a baking sheet rather than being rolled and shaped.
The thickness of your cookies will also affect the final texture. Thick cookies are more likely to have a chewy, cakey center while thin cookies are more likely to be crispier and crumblier. Baking time will also change depending on the thickness of the cookie you are baking. More on that in the next section.
If you want the ultimate cookie recipe, check out the video below!
Cooking, Cooling and Storage
A good tip for ensuring a good bake every time is to preheat your oven properly before you use it. It can also be helpful to know the actual interior temperature of your oven by using an oven thermometer. Knowing this will make sure that you’re cooking at the right temperature to ensure the desired results.
Cookies are easy to overbake, leading to a crispy, hard, inedible end result. Keep a close eye on them as they bake. They should be just golden on the outside, while still a bit soft in the center. Once removed from the oven, the residual heat in the cookies and on the baking sheet will continue the cooking process. Even an extra minute or two in the oven can drastically change the end result, turning your lovely chewy cookies into hard, crumbly ones!
As I said above, the thickness of your cookies will affect the baking time. A thicker cookie will take longer to cook through and set, while a thinner cookie is the opposite. If you are opting for a thin end result, be extra careful when baking as these can overcook and burn really easily.
Storing your cookies is just as important when it comes to the desired texture. If you want them to remain soft and chewy, store them in an airtight container. Leaving them uncovered will let the air in and dry out the cookie.
Chewy vs Crunchy Cookies – Which is Better?
To sum up, if you are looking for a soft, chewy cookie, opt for a recipe that uses butter, more brown than white sugar and has a shorter cooking time. If harder, crispier cookies are your jam, choose a recipe that uses more white than brown sugar and has a longer baking time. You could use vegetable shortening in this recipe to help reduce the moisture content a bit further.
Either way, there are few things better than a batch of freshly baked cookies. They fill your house with a delicious aroma, make everyone happy, and are so much better than store-bought. What’s more – you choose the flavor! Almond and cherry? Pistachio and white chocolate chips? Or maybe dark chocolate chips and orange? The possibilities are endless.
My personal favorite is a soft, chewy cookie with an ooey-gooey center. Yum!