Refrigerating Cookie Dough: Does It Matter?

refrigerating cookie dough comparison

We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that resting chocolate-chip cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours will improve the cookies. The idea is that over time, the flour will fully absorb the egg, resulting in a drier dough, yet the finished product will have an improved flavor and texture. We decided to mix up a batch of dough and see for ourselves. We baked cookies right away, and then refrigerated the dough and baked them at one-, six-, 24-, 36-, and 48-hour intervals.

Cookies that baked immediately had a cakey interior and flabby crust. One hour didn’t make much difference. After six hours, we started to see a difference. The exterior of the cookies was a little shinier, the interior a little more chewy. But it was at the 36-hour mark that we noticed the most significant improvement. The exterior of the baked cookies was spotty brown with a toothsome caramel crunch. The inside was chewy, with a deep molasses flavor. In the image above, you can see the crispy, darker brown edge that developed in the 36-hour cookie, which contrasted nicely with the chewy center. Below we show you the fresh dough and the most aged for a distinct comparison.

chocolate-chip-cookie-comparison-2

We realize that some of this might seem paradoxical, but here is an explanation. As the flour absorbs the liquid, the dough becomes dry and crumbly. You almost have to press it together into balls before baking. And yet, because the flour is so completely hydrated, the cookies bake up chewy and moist.

Chocolate-chip cookies, fresh from the oven, are always good, but next time you bake, consider reserving and refrigerating cookie dough to bake a day and a half later, and then you’ll taste the difference between good and great.

Images: Lauren Chattman

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