I am a terrible baker. But I LOVE cookies. For many years my lack of desire to put in the preparation and careful measuring that is required of baking battled with my desire to enjoy fresh, warm, delicious cookies. And then, I discovered The Franklin Institute’s Cookie Lab. The first few times it was held, I cautiously assisted, watched from the sidelines, and was skeptical that experimenting with the science of cookie baking could ever result in my favorite dessert. Yet, visitors left happily munching.
Still not totally convinced, I decided to plan a Cookie Lab for a Homeschool Workshop in December 2017. If I could bake good cookies with 20 elementary & middle school students in a classroom, then maybe, just maybe I would be confident enough to try them at home. I learned everything I could from the fellow staff member who started the program, my team and I prepped ingredients, the ovens in the kitchen were preheated, and the students arrived. Over the next four hours, we made some big messes, I realized that most kids need more practice cracking eggs, and we ended up with several very different, yet all tasty batches of chocolate chip cookies. We tried 5 different recipes that helped us learn about gluten, acids & bases, and browning reactions. You can find those recipes here if you and your family would like to do some cookie experiments this holiday season.
It was an awesome experience watching the students be so proud of their creations, while seeing first-hand the chemistry of baking in action. AND finally, I went home that weekend and made my own family their first batch of well-baked, delicious cookies. I still don’t bake often, but now when I do, I remember my cookie science and get to mixing. This year’s Cookie Lab at Homeschool workshops we are going to experiment with Snickerdoodles. I wonder how many new kitchen scientists we will cook up this year!
For a great video on the chemistry of cookie baking, check out this TED-Ed video.