The Unique Secret Ingredient For The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies

The key to the softest baked goods is increasing the dough's hydration without sacrificing its structure. If a soft chocolate chip cookie is the way to your heart, we've already done the selfless research for you, ensuring you'll never be disappointed by a crunchy cookie again. By creating a tangzhong, a classic Asian technique used by yeast breadmakers, bakers can create the softest chocolate chip cookies that stay soft longer than traditional recipes.

Tangzhong is a cooked roux made from a small percentage of the recipe's flour content and a liquid (usually milk or water). It is commonly used as a starter for making Japanese milk bread or pai bao, giving the dough an ethereal, cloud-like texture. After cooking the two ingredients on the stovetop for a few minutes to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, a thick paste, tangzhong, is created, which is added to the remaining ingredients once cooled slightly.

Heating the flour alters the starch's chemical properties, enabling it to absorb twice the amount of liquid compared to mixing the ingredients at room temperature. The additional liquid gets trapped inside the starch, creating a gel that can withstand mixing and baking. Cookies made with a tangzhong will have a greater moisture content, allowing them to bake higher (versus wider) due to the increased steam. This technique only adds five minutes to the preparation time, but it can extend the cookies' freshness, keeping them soft for days.

Tips for using a tangzhong in recipes

Baking is a science, and success is not only determined by using the proper ingredients at the right temperature; other factors contribute to the outcome. Understanding how ingredients react enables you to manipulate recipes to achieve the desired results. 

Incorporating a tangzhong lets you create a soft texture without changing the ingredients. Recipes that contain high-fat ingredients, like butter, oil, and eggs (found in buns, loaves, rolls, cookies, and muffins), will benefit from adding a tangzhong. However, it's not worth the time (or clean-up) for recipes that require a chewier crumb and crispy crust, like bagels and focaccia or biscotti. See the difference for yourself the next time you bake cinnamon rolls, hot cross buns, brioche, or your family's OG chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Using a tangzhong will increase the recipe's hydration without adding more liquid, making the batter or dough more challenging and sticky to work with. To add a tangzhong to your favorite recipe, follow this simple formula: Cook 10% of the flour content over medium-low heat with twice the amount of liquid for roughly five minutes until a paste has formed. For example, if the recipe requires a total of three cups of flour, make the tangzhong with ⅓ cup of flour and ⅔ cup of the liquid listed in the recipe. Avoid overcooking the paste, as too much liquid will evaporate, defeating the purpose of this step. Remember, you are using the ingredients in the recipe, not adding to it. 

Additional tips for creating soft chocolate chip cookies

The type of ingredients used in your recipe plays a crucial role in determining the texture of your cookies. While both brown and white sugar sweeten the cookie dough, brown sugar contains molasses, adding moisture. Substituting the recipe's white granulated sugar with brown sugar increases the cookies' hydration, making them softer without affecting their sweetness. Even adding two tablespoons of brown sugar to your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe will create a softer cookie. 

Brown sugar has unique chemical properties and caramelizes at a lower temperature than white sugar, allowing it to absorb more moisture. While cookies baked with both sugars are soft when they come out of the oven, as they cool, it takes longer for brown sugar to recrystallize, leaving you with softer cookies for longer. 

Try swapping bread flour for all or half of the recipe's all-purpose flour to obtain a more pliable and floppy cookie. Bread flour's higher protein content gives cookie dough a soft, chewy texture that lasts for days.

Another way to keep cookies soft is to prevent the dough from spreading too much while baking. You can achieve this by allowing the cookie dough to chill in the refrigerator for up to three days after rolling it into balls. This also enables the flavors to develop more, delivering a deeper-tasting cookie. Alternatively, you can freeze the portioned cookie dough and bake it directly from the freezer.