1 1/2 teaspoons of baking… powder?

The perfect chocolate chip cookie

I became a chocoholic early on in life. My mother was a home economics teacher, so I also learned to bake pretty early on. By the time I was 7, my mother had made me memorize a chocolate chip cookie recipe. I would get quizzes in the kitchen… “OK, now it’s 1/3 cup margarine, 1/3 cup shortening, then what?”

To this day I still know the recipe by heart, with one exception. I can never remember if it is baking soda or baking powder I need 1 ½ teaspoons of. I wrote out a recipe card once from memory and that single line is crossed out and rewritten a dozen times. Every time I go to make cookies I think- wait- did I do it right last time? If not, did I think to change it on the card? And I’m back to square one.

That’s why I was so excited to see this handy chart posted on Facebook recently. Tessa at handletheheat.com has devised a handy pictorial guide to help all of us “make the PERFECT batch every time, whatever you consider to be perfect.

Now Tessa’s base recipe is a little bit different from mine, but it is easy to see from her post the effect each of these ingredients will have on your final product. So what’s the difference? Why would it matter so much which leavening agent you use?

You may remember from high school that baking relies on chemistry. (I promise, this part will be quick!) Baking powder contains more acid, so it interacts differently with different ingredients. If you want to know more about the science behind it all, click here. The Cliff’s notes? Well, according to La Petite Americaine, “cookies using baking powder… bake faster and spread less.  Baking soda reduces acidity causing the cookie to spread a bit more and brown faster.

So there you go. You can make reasonable cookies using either, but your specific recipe and individual tastes will help you make the best choice.

As for Mom’s recipe? I checked in with the source (thanks, Mom!) and she is pretty sure it’s baking powder. Looks like I will HAVE to test that recipe soon. Everyone in my household will be SO disappointed by all the cookies.



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