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Ask the Inquisitive Cooks    

"How do different fats affect the texture of cookies when I bake them?"

Dear Anne and Sue,

I've tried using different kinds of fats in my chocolate chip cookies to learn which kind makes the cookies firmer and which kind makes them softer. I cannot detect any differences. Yet on pages 92-93 in The Inquisitive Cook, you detail information related to my inquiry, except for the "fat" problem I have. You may say, "Why fret about the fats if pages 92-93 resolve your concern?" to which I must counter, "I am inquisitive."

—From Tony Muscente
An Inquisitive mind that wants to know.


Still have more questions? You'll find more answers in our archived monthly feature articles by the Inquisitive Cooks.

(Meet the Inquisitive Cooks)

Dear Tony,

Margarine and vegetable shortening have a higher melting point than butter. So cookie dough made with margarine must reach a higher temperature in the oven before it begins to spread on the cookie sheet. This gives the cookie a little more time to set before the fat in the dough melts, which means it will more likely stay mounded and soft. Butter, on the other hand, melts quickly, so the same recipe made with butter spreads faster and farther. Because cookies made with butter tend to spread more, the cookies are often thin and crisper.

All types of fat—margarine, shortening, and butter—are tenderizers. If you want a less fragile, firmer cookie, reduce the amount of fat in your cookie recipe. Start by reducing it by 25 percent. If you want a cookie that's firmer still, reduce the fat by 50 percent.

Tailoring a cookie recipe to suit your taste is rather fun. Wishing you success as you explore more about baking. And thanks for being inquisitive.

Anne & Sue



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