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What is the impact of assembling a cookie batter in a different manner than that described in the recipe? What's the best general order for combining the creamed fat & sugar, the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients?

For instance, the Toll House Chocolate Chip cookie recipe says to add the eggs to the creamed mixture, and then the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda). I sometimes add the dry ingredients, and then the eggs. What problems might this cause with the finished cookies?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Generally with baking you mix all the wet ingredients, then all the dry, then incorporate the latter into the former. This prevents clumping and helps make sure everything is mixed uniformly.

In some recipes, adding the eggs (often un par un, or one by one) also contributes (via the yolk's supply of lecithin) to emulsifying e.g. butter and milk together.

The best way to find out, of course, is to experiment. Next time you're making these cookies, make a double batch. Do one according to the recipe, and the other your way. Honestly with cookies I doubt you'll see much difference; they're basically foolproof (I have, when in a hurry, made chocolate chip cookies by dumping everything in the mixer, whacking it about with the paddle attachment, and then folding in the actual chips. Worked fine, basically). When it comes to baking things that are more finicky--cakes etc--I would follow the recipe directions.

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1  
Once I added the eggs after mixing the wet and dry ingredients, and the cookies were fine. The Toll House recipe in particular is hard to mess up. –  Neil Fein May 9 '11 at 7:17
    
I've got a recipe at home that explains how using a certain order effects how the proteins bind leading to fluffier pancakes, but I can't remember the details. I'll look it up when I get home. –  yossarian May 9 '11 at 16:04
    
I think people aren't as careful with cookie recipes because the result is still a bite-sized tasty treat. Maybe it's harder to compare, because there are several identical cookies in the jar; while a cake is going to be compared to other preparations. My mom complains that my snickerdoodles are lighter and fluffier than hers, and we use the same recipe. I believe it's because of the handling of fat, eggs and sugar in mixing (and I sift my flour). Yes, we both make tasty cookies, but there are still subtle differences. –  Scivitri May 9 '11 at 20:44
    
@Scivitri: If you're not both measuring your flour by weight, I'd bet you're both using different amounts of flour. –  derobert May 10 '11 at 21:53

I think the key in this case is making sure that you've thoroughly incorporated everything. Since (wheat) flour has gluten, the more you mix it while wet, the tougher it can become, hence mixing the egg thoroughly with the butter and sugar first. Is it going to cause disasterous results? Unlikely, unless things aren't mixed well.

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First, fat & sugar are part of the wet ingredients.

Given that, I do it different than daniel suggests. I always add the wet to the dry.

Adding the wet to the dry tends to be less messy, and allows for easier mixing when you start. It's less messy because you're not pouring powdery dry ingredients. It mixes somewhat easier at the start because you're pushing the wet into the dry instead of pulling it up through the dry. This means you're also less likely to flip a big cloud of dry ingredients across your kitchen.

This technique is explained by Alton Brown in his book I'm Just Here for More Food: Food + Mixing + Heat = Baking.

See Also:

  • A chowhound thread which contains supporters for both methods, and in which some claim that it wet-to-dry leads to less clumping.
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