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Frequently Asked Questions - Cookies

Recently I have been experiencing trouble in controlling the diameter of my specialized cookies. What are the main areas of concern to control cookie spread?

The first change that one should make to the formulation would be to replace 5% of the pastry flour that you are using with chlorinated cake flour or a bread flour. This will help to restrict the spread. If this does not work, then increase the replacement by another 2 1/2% and then maybe up to 10%. Eventually, you will be able to control the spread to the diameter you require and a consistency which will give you a good eating quality. Another way, would be to reduce the sugar content. Sugar is the main culprit in aiding spreading of rich specialized cookies. If you cut the sugar down from 70% to 50%, then this also would restrict and reduce the spread of the cookie. You have to consider that this would probably alter the taste of the product due to the reduction in sweetness.

I need my cookies to stay softer for a longer period of time. How would I process the cookies or formulations to achieve this?

Mainly by replacing a percentage of the sucrose or solid sugars with an invert syrup or a high fructose corn syrup. These will act as humectants and hold some of the moisture for longer periods of time, thus, helping to maintain softness from one to two days to five or six days, in some cases even more than that. An additional method of helping to keep the product soft, would be to include between one and three percent pregelatinized starch. This also will absorb and retain moisture for an extended period of time.

In one of my cookies, I have been using .5% ammonium bicarbonate of the flour weight to help give a more open texture in the cookie. However, sometimes I have been tasting a bitter taste when eating the cookie. What would be the cause of this?

Probably the moisture content of your cookie is too high, thus retaining some of the gases from the ammonium bicarbonate which had not dissipated totally. We would recommend if you have product with a finished moisture content of over 5 % , that you not use ammonium bicarbonate to prevent a residue in the product. Most cookies have an ample high percentage of sugar and shortening to develop their own texture and eating quality. Ammonium bicarbonate is generally used on leaner formulations with low sugar, low shortening content where a lot of water is used to help develop the texture of the product and where the product's finished moisture content is in the region of 2%. Therefore, products with a finished moisture content of up to 3% should have no trouble in developing a nice open structure and tender eating, without leaving a residual ammonium taste in the mouth. One should avoid using ammonium bicarbonate in any cookie product with a higher moisture content, and rely on sodium bicarbonate and the major ingredients to produce the required texture and taste.

What measures can be taken to improve the shelf life of soft cookies?

In making soft cookies, two of the objectives are to retain the moisture and to prevent crystallization of the sugar during storage. Steps which may be taken include:

  1. Decrease the sugar/syrup ratio-increase the high fructose corn syrup or invert syrup while decreasing the cane or beet sugar.
  2. Reduce baking time.
  3. Appropriate packaging permitting minimal loss of moisture.

How can we extend the shelf life of our cookies?

Some of the factors affecting the shelf life of cookies are the amount and type of sugar, shortening content, baking conditions, and packaging. Sugar/shortening. One of the first changes to be considered should be the substitution of invert sugar or syrup for some of the sugar solids. This will result in the syrup acting as a humectant and retaining more of the moisture in the cookie. Second, make certain that the shortening content is not too low; if this is the case, then water may have to be added in the formulation and this would evaporate during baking. A high proportion of sugar and low percentage of shortening would also result in a hard, dry product.

For a soft eating product, the shortening should complement the sugar. High percentages of sugar could result in a hard, dry product, and while this is desirable in some cookies, it is undersirable in a cookie which is required to have a long shelf life. Baking Conditions. Baking conditions are critical; many bakers use excessive bake time, producing a crust on the base and around the edge of the cookie. When producing a cookie to have a long shelf life, it is advisable to obtain a soft texture with no brown edges and no crust or skin on the base. It may seem very soft to the touch, but this is desirable for a longer shelf life. The cookies should be packaged in air-tight packages as soon as possible after baking, before the cookies lose excessive moisture. We have observed some products packaged in a "cling wrap" film were hard and unattractive, while similar products packed in positive seal cellophane or polylaminated materials kept their freshness for several weeks.

Summarizing, the following points need attention:

  1. Formula balance, ratio of sugar to shortening.
  2. Replace a portion of the sugar solids with invert syrup.
  3. Do not bake the product excessively, which forms crusts around the edges and on the base. Moisture content of the finished product should be in the 4 to 8% range.
  4. Use moisture proof packaging.

What is the effect of sugar particle size on cookie spread?

According to research conducted at AIB and reported in Technical Bulletin Volume V, No. 4, April, 1983, cookie spread decreases as sugar particle size increases. A coarse granulated sugar produces less cookie spread during baking than a powdered sugar.

What can 1 do to get less cookie spread?

Cause of excess spread is generally due to a weak gluten in the flour. To tighten the spread without affecting quality replace 5% cookie flour with 5% bread flour or chlorinated cake flour. Also refer to note on effect of sugar on spread.

Does starch in cookie dough gelatinize in baking as it does in cake batter?

Starch does not gelatinize during the cookie baking process. Gelatinization of starch granules occurs when starch is heated in the presence of water; high sugar and low water (20% f.b.) content in cookie dough keeps this from occurring, consequently the starch present in the cookie flour has little effect on cookie spread. Some cookie manufacturers use chlorinated flour and/or modified starch in their formulations. In this case, starch granules are damaged and will gelatinize even in the dough stage.

What is the significance of high ash content in flour and what is the impact of high ash content on cookie quality?

Ash, in itself, has no effect on baking quality. It is the material accompanying the. higher ash which is detrimental - such materials as fiber or bran. The ash determination is a good indication of uniformity of flour from shipment to shipment, but is not necessarily a direct indicator of baking quality.

We have a checking problem with a butter based rotary molder cookie. We do not see any cracks on the cookie before and immediately after cooking. In fact, this problem occurs after 24 to 48 hours and provides us with some difficulties when we mold the chocolate on the top of the cookie.

The type of checking that you are experiencing may be caused by either moisture migration or uneven cooling. Here are some things I would look at:

1. Starting at the oven, are you maintaining maximum humidity in the first part of the baking cycle. If you dry out the surface of the biscuit early on it becomes more difficult to bake the moisture out of the center.

2. If the bake time is too short the biscuits may not be baking out. Slow down the oven.

3. Is the problem on all the cookies, or is it a side to side problem in the oven with uneven heat? It may be necessary to install some burners to even out the heat.

4. Coming out of the oven, stack or form a layer of the biscuits. This allows them to cool more slowly.

5. Avoid drafts, especially cold air, directly on the biscuits as they are cooling.

6. Look at transfer points on the conveyors. Drops on the line can cause a fracture in the cookie that becomes the weak breaking point during cooling/storage.

7. The use of a Radio Frequency (RF) oven may be useful if nothing else works. This is effective, but expensive.

For more information:
Telephone: 785-537-4750 or 800-633-5137
FAX: 785-537-1493

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