Which brands of butter, sugar and vanilla do you use?


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Which brands of butter, sugar and vanilla do you all use for cookies? I've never had any problems making chocolate chip cookies before, but lately every batch I've made has been lousy. I haven't changed the recipe or how I make it and I've used an oven thermometer to make sure my oven is at the correct temperature. I'm thinking perhaps one of the ingredients is to blame for the lousy cookies.
 
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Which brands of butter, sugar and vanilla do you all use for cookies? I've never had any problems making chocolate chip cookies before, but lately every batch I've made has been lousy. I haven't changed the recipe or how I make it and I've used an oven thermometer to make sure my oven is at the correct temperature. I'm thinking perhaps one of the ingredients is to blame for the lousy cookies.



It’s not just the brand of the sugar and butter, but the flour that determines the flavor, texture, and color of the baked goods. All the flours listed below would be considered “all purpose.” But the specifications of each flour indicates the differences between the flours. Those differences may seem small on paper, but in baking, they are significant as they change the chemical reaction between the flour and the other ingredients.



Protein and ash content determines how the free water in the dough is absorbed. That in turn determines how the sugar and four compete for the available water.



That effects how much water is available to the flour and then rate of starch gelatinization.



Bleached and unbleached flours absorb water at different rates. They also brown differently.



I could go on and on about the flour.



For a good chocolate chip cookie, I like the following ingredients:



Flour: unbleached approximately 11.5% protein; 60% ash; malted. Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus or King Arthur All Purpose are two good flours for this application.



Cane sugars: C&H or Dominos. Sugar beet sugar is just crap. It will not caramelize. Not all cane sugar is created equal. I prefer light brown sugar to dark in my CC cookies.



Butter: unsalted 83% butterfat. Plugra is my go to brand.



Salt: Diamond Crystal Kosher. This is the salt used by many bakers and chefs because you have more control. It has to do with the way the salt is produced using a patented system that creates a pyramid shape grain. The bulk means more volume, so a teaspoon will be less than other salts, like Mortons. One cup of Morton’s kosher salt will weigh 250g and one cup Diamond Crystal only weighs 135g. There’s less chance of accidentally over salting a recipe.



Chocolate: the quality of the chocolate is important. I use block chocolate, like Callebaut, or disks like Gittard or Valrhona. If I use a “chip”, I use a Callebaut callets. Callets are real chocolate.



Vanilla: TBH your can use imitation vanilla and no one will know the difference. There have been so many blind tastes tests with trained chefs using vanilla extract and imitation, and not a single trained chef could detect the real vanilla. In fact many preferred the imitation vanilla.











King Arthur All Purpose Flour
Protein 11.7%
Ash Unknown
Hard Red Wheat
Flour Treatment: Malted Barley Flour
Unbleached



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========================================================



Central Milling Flours



Organic Beehive
Protein 10%-10.5%
Ash 0.56%
Hard Red Winter Wheat blend
Flour Treatment: Organic Malted Barley Flour
Unbleached



Organic Artisan Bakers Craft
Protein 11.5%
Ash 0.60%
Hard Red Winter Wheat blend
Flour Treatment: None
Unbleached



Organic Artisan Bakers Craft Plus
Protein 11.5%
Ash 0.60%
Hard Red Winter Wheat blend
Flour Treatment: Organic Malted Barley Flour
Unbleached



Central Milling flours are a blend of Yecora Rojo, a hard red wheat, prized for its flavor and excellent texture. It’s most notable characteristic is does not produce a bucky dough. It is great for cookies and scones.



========================================================

========================================================



Gold Medal All Purpose Flour
Protein 10%-10.5%
Wheat: unknown
Ash: unknown
Flour Treatment: Enzymes, type unknown
Bleached



========================================================

========================================================



Pillsbury All Purpose Flour
Protein 10%-10.5%
Wheat: unknown
Ash: unknown
Flour Treatment: Malted Barley Flour
Bleached
 
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I posted the standard baker’s percentages/ratios for a chocolate chip cookie in the thread right below this one. Here’s the link.




 
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It’s not just the brand of the sugar and butter, but the flour that determines the flavor, texture, and color of the baked goods. All the flours listed below would be considered “all purpose.” But the specifications of each flour indicates the differences between the flours. Those differences may seem small on paper, but in baking, they are significant as they change the chemical reaction between the flour and the other ingredients.



Protein and ash content determines how the free water in the dough is absorbed. That in turn determines how the sugar and four compete for the available water.



That effects how much water is available to the flour and then rate of starch gelatinization.



Bleached and unbleached flours absorb water at different rates. They also brown differently.



I could go on and on about the flour.



For a good chocolate chip cookie, I like the following ingredients:



Flour: unbleached approximately 11.5% protein; 60% ash; malted. Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus or King Arthur All Purpose are two good flours for this application.



Cane sugars: C&H or Dominos. Sugar beet sugar is just crap. It will not caramelize. Not all cane sugar is created equal. I prefer light brown sugar to dark in my CC cookies.



Butter: unsalted 83% butterfat. Plugra is my go to brand.



Salt: Diamond Crystal Kosher. This is the salt used by many bakers and chefs because you have more control. It has to do with the way the salt is produced using a patented system that creates a pyramid shape grain. The bulk means more volume, so a teaspoon will be less than other salts, like Mortons. One cup of Morton’s kosher salt will weigh 250g and one cup Diamond Crystal only weighs 135g. There’s less chance of accidentally over salting a recipe.



Chocolate: the quality of the chocolate is important. I use block chocolate, like Callebaut, or disks like Gittard or Valrhona. If I use a “chip”, I use a Callebaut callets. Callets are real chocolate.



Vanilla: TBH your can use imitation vanilla and no one will know the difference. There have been so many blind tastes tests with trained chefs using vanilla extract and imitation, and not a single trained chef could detect the real vanilla. In fact many preferred the imitation vanilla.











King Arthur All Purpose Flour
Protein 11.7%
Ash Unknown
Hard Red Wheat
Flour Treatment: Malted Barley Flour
Unbleached



========================================================

========================================================



Central Milling Flours



Organic Beehive
Protein 10%-10.5%
Ash 0.56%
Hard Red Winter Wheat blend
Flour Treatment: Organic Malted Barley Flour
Unbleached



Organic Artisan Bakers Craft
Protein 11.5%
Ash 0.60%
Hard Red Winter Wheat blend
Flour Treatment: None
Unbleached



Organic Artisan Bakers Craft Plus
Protein 11.5%
Ash 0.60%
Hard Red Winter Wheat blend
Flour Treatment: Organic Malted Barley Flour
Unbleached



Central Milling flours are a blend of Yecora Rojo, a hard red wheat, prized for its flavor and excellent texture. It’s most notable characteristic is does not produce a bucky dough. It is great for cookies and scones.



========================================================

========================================================



Gold Medal All Purpose Flour
Protein 10%-10.5%
Wheat: unknown
Ash: unknown
Flour Treatment: Enzymes, type unknown
Bleached



========================================================

========================================================



Pillsbury All Purpose Flour
Protein 10%-10.5%
Wheat: unknown
Ash: unknown
Flour Treatment: Malted Barley Flour
Bleached
Something I've always wondered: does stuff like ash content really matter for cookies or other pastries? I know that there's much more to flour than protein % (such as ash content, glutenin vs. gliadin ratio, type of wheat, etc.), but my understanding has been that those factors much more for bread making where the flour plays a more significant role, and isn't normally worth bothering over for the pastry side of baking. From what I've seen in terms of cookie, cake, pastry dough formulas, it's only the protein % of the flour and maybe bleached vs. unbleached that are specified, but not the more detailed qualities of the flour.
 
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Something I've always wondered: does stuff like ash content really matter for cookies or other pastries? I know that there's much more to flour than protein % (such as ash content, glutenin vs. gliadin ratio, type of wheat, etc.), but my understanding has been that those factors much more for bread making where the flour plays a more significant role, and isn't normally worth bothering over for the pastry side of baking. From what I've seen in terms of cookie, cake, pastry dough formulas, it's only the protein % of the flour and maybe bleached vs. unbleached that are specified, but not the more detailed qualities of the flour.


While we referred to ash as the mineral content it actually gives the baker some idea of the extraction rate.



Extraction rate is the amount of bran, endosperm, outer endosperm, and germ is in the flour.



When flour is milled it is normally separated into these parts. The parts are than milled separately and then the flour is blended.



Extraction rate refers to how much of the kernel is used to make a particular type of flour. When 100% of the kernel is used, that would be a 100% extraction.



A 100% extraction would be a whole wheat flour.



A flour with 40% extraction would mean 40% of the kernel is used. Such a flour should have a lower ash content because little of no bran and germ is used. It would be a cake or pastry flour.



But there are some robust pastry flours with higher protein and ash. Central Milling makes an organic pastry flour type 70. It has a protein content of 10%, with an ash of 70%. This flour would be used in more rustic pastries, savory tarts, and cookies like chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin.

Flour two or three generic flours on the retail market are very limiting. The flours to the trade come in a vast variety to give the baker a lot of creative freedom.
 

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