While crisp, crunchy cookies and soft, cakey bars each have their devotees, what’s truly irresistible to us are cookies and bars that are satisfyingly chewy, with delicate crackly tops.
And we know that making just-right versions of these humble baked goods is an accomplishment.
As we worked toward our goal of developing ideal—and to us that means chewy—bake-sale favorites, we discovered two important criteria to consider, both concerning fat: temperature and type. For chewier cookies and bars, we melt our butter instead of following the usual procedure of creaming softened butter with sugar. This simple switch frees up the water content of the butter so that it can freely interact with the flour in the dough or batter. This allows gluten—the protein that gives baked goods their chew—to develop.
While that free interaction is a good thing, too much water can compromise gluten development, so we also like to brown the melted butter, since this not only allows a little of the water to evaporate but also gives the butter a deeper flavor. We also choose unsalted butter, since it typically contains less water than salted butter.
For even more chew, both saturated and unsaturated fat are necessary. Their combination forms a sturdier crystalline structure that requires more force to bite through than the structure formed from saturated fat alone. Butter is predominantly (but not entirely) a saturated fat, and its great flavor makes it our preferred choice for baking. In some instances, though, replacing some of the butter with vegetable oil (predominantly unsaturated) helps create chewier texture without sacrificing flavor.
Sugar also plays a role in making bars and cookies that stay chewy. All sugar is hygroscopic, which means it pulls water from wherever it
can be found—the best source is the air. Brown sugar contains molasses, which is an invert sugar, a type of sugar that is especially hygroscopic. So cookies made with brown sugar more readily absorb moisture from the air after they are baked, which keeps them chewy.
To boost the chew factor even further, stir the dough or batter by hand, which doesn’t incorporate nearly as much air as using a stand mixer does. Less air leads to denser, chewier cookies and bars rather than fluffier, cakey ones.
1 Mix flour and other dry ingredients together inbowl.
2A Melt butter in small bowl in microwave and letcool.
2B Or, if browning butter, melt in skillet over medium-high heat and cookuntil dark golden brown with nutty aroma.
3 Whisk melted browned butter together with sugar, other fats (if using),and eggs.
4 Fold in flour mixture until batter is justcombined.