Which Leaveners Make the Best Cookies?

One of my favorite cooking blogs, Averie Cooks, swears cornstarch is the magic bullet for soft, pillowy cookies. The idea makes sense: cornstarch is the main ingredient in pudding mix, which many bakers (including Averie) swear is the secret to soft, chewy cookies. However, when I started adding cornstarch to my cookie leavening, my creations flattened. Maybe the dough is a fan of reverse psychology?

I bake because I'm a huge fan of sweet things, mixing dough, dangerous implements, and experimenting. In True Science Fashion, last June I carried out a leavening test. I made a double batch of dough, divided it into 6 sections, and calculated how much of each leavener I needed to keep the necessary leavener-dough ratio called for in my original recipe. I baked each group at 375°F for 10 minutes, rotated once.

Here were the results:

As you can see, cookies with cornstarch, regardless of other leaveners added, ended up flatter and thus crispier and less cooked in the middle than their cornstarch-free brethren. Not a recipe for cookie success.

Here are the winners:

The baking powder cookies were quite fat and didn't spread as much.

Ye standard baking soda chocolate chip cookies.
A nice Goldilocks combination.
As you can see, cornstarch in cookies, at least with my oven, is generally a bad idea. Baking soda alone gives cookies a nice chewy, slightly flatter texture. Baking powder prevents cookies from spreading, giving them a heavier, chewier form. Half of each yields a resilient but reasonably flat cookie, ideal for the indecisive. Use the fruits of my labor in your next baking adventures, and let me know which leavening combo is your personal favorite!


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