What makes a cookie chewy - effects of ingredients question

Joined Oct 10, 2007
Something I've always wanted to know . . . if you have a recipe for a cookie or a bar, how do you modify it to make it more dense and chewy, yet still soft?

This question came up twice:

•once when I was trying to figure out how to make what were called "Ranger Bars" that were available when I was a lad - flat square shaped cookies about 1/4" - 3/8" thick, but very soft and chewy.

•and lately a project to bake a Clif type bar.

I've found recipes for these, but the results are never dense and chewy, in my opinon, but too light, dry and cakelike.
(I might be using the wrong terminology here - I'm after the consistency/texture of a Clif bar - the opposite of crumbly.)

. . . all of which leads to My Question:

If the amount of flour is kept constant, do I add more/less :  fat, sugar, eggs, leavening, etc?

Anyone know what controls to this attribute?
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Joined Aug 29, 2000
I know that brown sugar (or mix of brown and white sugars) can make a difference.... too much oil and you'll have a different effect (one I wouldn't like, but that' s just me!).
Joined Sep 1, 2007
We're learning cookies this week in school~! Straight from my book, hope it helps~!

Moisture is neccesary for chewiness, but other factors are also required. In other words all chewy cookies are soft, but not all soft cookies are chewy.

1. High sugar and liquid content, but low fat
2. High proportion of eggs.
3. Strong flour, or gluten developed during mixing.

Ever seeking Knowledge
Joined Nov 11, 2006
I once asked a pastry chef this question. He just told me to cut the time on the baking slightly. It seemed to work for him, his cookies always remained fairly chewy and soft. In school I remember reading that using inverted sugars, like corn syrup, glucose, or molasses, etc. affects chewiness, but I've never tried it out, I wouldn't even know substitute amounts in place of sugar if that would in fact work...

What about using a lower-protein flour like cake flour, anyone? Or would that only make it more soft?

I also read somewhere once that using melted butter vs. room temp butter could make more chewy cookies, but I've never tried it.

LOL, sorry if this doesn't help, but I'm a bit curious myself! :rolleyes:
Joined Oct 10, 2007
Ok, thanks everyone . . . this is all very helpful.

I'm trying my Clif Bar recipe tonight - see how chewy/flavorful that comes out.

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Joined Oct 10, 2007
Returning to my question I posted here a few years ago . . .

Later on I found a great article on Sunset.com :

The perfect chocolate chip cookie . . . where a paragraph discusses :

What makes cookies soft and chewy?

High moisture content does; so the recipe, baking time, and temperature must be adjusted to retain moisture.

Binding the water in butter, eggs, and brown sugar (it contains molasses, which is 10 percent water) with flour slows its evaporation. The dough needs a little extra flour, which makes it stiffer. The stiff dough spreads less, less liquid evaporates, and the cookies are thicker.

Mass also helps cookies stay moist--big dollops of dough make softer and chewier cookies than tiny spoonfuls of dough. Bake these thick cookies for a shorter time at a high temperature to firm them quickly and minimize spreading. Most important, don't bake them too long--remove from the oven when the cookie rim is brown and at least 1/3 of the center top remains pale. The cooked centers will be soft.

What makes a cookie crisp or crunchy?

Reducing the amount of ingredients that hold moisture--flour, egg, and brown sugar--makes it easy for liquid to evaporate, producing crisp cookies.


So to make a cookie more chewy, from all the info that I've found (including here) . . . . if the amount of flour is kept constant, then I gather you need proportionally . . .  :
(And I am not a professional or expert cook by any means, just trying to make sense out of what I've read. If anyone knows better please correct me.)

  • more sugar, especially brown sugar.  (this is the one thing I notice in all the "chewy" recipes - they all have more brown sugar)
  • more eggs (?), or at least extra egg yolk. It seems that more of whole egg will make the cookies both chewy and thicker.
  • more gluten development
  • slightly less liquid  (liquid makes the cookies spread)
    However - and this is important
    - a primary objective is to have the dough retain moisture. But the way to do it is not to just add liquid itself.
  • less baking time but higher baking temp
  • melting the butter (adding this from the "chocotuile" suggestion below, and from the "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" article/recipe cited below.
  • less fat (although I see some recipes using slightly more. In general more fat creates more internal heat which drives out the moisture, and it also causes the cookies to spread, making them thinner and crispier. )
Maybe someone reading this can clear up some of the ambiguities.
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Joined Oct 19, 2011
Melting butter goes a long way in baking for chewy cookies. Don't cream the butter and sugar; melt the butter, whisk in sugar, then follow the rest of the steps. Try it and let me know! :)
Joined Oct 10, 2007
Also my friend Kelly says midway through baking you can take the cookies out of the oven and give them a smack to drive the air out of them.

Not sure how the cookies feel about that.
Joined Oct 10, 2007
Can't leave my post alone. . . .

So someone gave me a print copy of Cooks Illustrated "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" from the May 2009 issue, raving about their results.

Charles Kelsey did a bunch of experiments on this subject and basically came up with the same list as I posted just above.

From the two eggs, he took out one egg's whites, but used only that egg's yolk.

In addition, he melted the butter, explaining that it exposes more of the liquid in the butter to the mix.

(He also browned some of the butter for more or a nutty flavor.)

And he used more dough for each cookie

Still, my hunch is that the major factor is the increased brown sugar.

The print article is three pages of very densely printed text, while the online article is very much abridged, here :

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Joined Jan 14, 2012

My aunt (who's a fabulous baker) told me to melt the butter (fat) in a recipe & then add the sugar, instead of creaming them together.

Also, years ago, one of my close friends told me to put the cookies in an air tight container (Tupperware) and put in slice of bread in with them.  You can't pack the cookies in because you need air circulation.  I've been doing this for years & it doesn't alter the taste of the cookie & it DOES make them chewy.  It even works on store bought cookies.

Good luck.
Joined May 30, 2013
Corn syrup is a sweet liquid and a popular ingredient for making jams, jellies, frosting and candy, since it does not crystallize. For baking purposes, it can be used as a substitute for sugar, but it should never be used to replace the full amount of sugar. Corn syrup is not as sweet as refined sugar and using it will slightly affect the taste and color of your final baked good. You can either use dark or light corn syrup, as they may be used interchangeably, but dark corn syrup will yield a slight molasses flavor.

Replace only half of the amount of sugar called for with corn syrup. If the recipe calls for 6 cups of sugar, only replace 3 cups of sugar with corn syrup.

Add 1 1/2 cups of corn syrup for every 1 cup of sugar. If you are replacing 3 cups of sugar, then add 4 1/2 cups of corn syrup.
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Joined Jul 20, 2013
Hello there

I know it's been awhile since you orignally posted, but I wanted to tell you that this has been something I've tried to answer officially for years. I finally stumbled across the right webpage, which asks this very question so succinctly! So, thank you for this great thread. I'm interested in the science aspect of cooking also, so I'm quite pleased you couldn't leave your own post alone. All the info shared here has been interesting and others have obviously found it helpful also. If anyone knows of a great food or cookbook which delves into the science of baking and food, (something more engaging than say, Gisslen) I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks kbarb! ;) 
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Melt the margarine or butter first and  add some baking soda., and a dash of simple syrup
Joined Nov 18, 2013
I know this is an old post but I found this great resource that answers your question and much more.

Joined May 5, 2010
I used to work for a Canadian Bakery franchise and we made large 5" diameter cookies that were crisp yet chewy.

The recipe was basic brown sugar white sugar eggs flour etc.......but it was the addition of both baking soda and powder that gave it that distinctive chew along with he brown sugar
Joined Jan 21, 2014
I stumbled across your post while reading replies to "What makes a chewy cookie chewy?"  You asked if anyone knows of a good book on the science of cooking.  I can recommend an excellent one,
[product="6283"]On Food And Cooking The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen  [/product]
.  I purchased this book in the mid '80s, when it was first published.  At the time I was a biology student in college and a devoted cook.  McGee's explanations about food chemistry -the "why's" about various ingredients and techniques -were fascinating.  He completely rewrote/updated this book in 2004.  You can do a search for an interview with Harold McGee on National Public Radio that will give you a taste of the type of information included.  It's a wonderful resource for any creative cooks who want to understand the recipes they use (and adapt).  Enjoy.
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Joined Jan 21, 2014
Recently, my teenage son made brownies and realized (after they were in the oven) that he had forgotten to add the oil.  I predicted that they would be extremely cake-like without the moisture and  chewy texture that I assumed the oil contributes.  Was I wrong!  These were so chewy they could barely be removed from the pan.  I don't mean undercooked - just really, really chewy... the opposite of cake like.  So I would agree with the many contributors to this thread that suggest reducing the fat to make a chewier cookie.  It seems a bit counterintuitive but proved true in this instance.
Joined Aug 17, 2014
GingerMitten ...
You wanted a book that looks into the science of whats happening as you cook, this is the one I use as a chef.

It breaks it down, talks about how they did the experiments, what the results were, why what happens happens, etc.

Amazon caries it in hardback.

Alexei B.
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