Monday, January 25, 2010

The science behind a cookie.

Cooking is both an art and a skill. It uses creativity, risk, science and math in order to pull out a good dish out of just about anything. Just ask Morimoto about the strange ingredients he is given and the wondrous concoctions that he creates. The biggest thing that draws me into cooking is the science and math, which is thrown together under the gastronomy term: the science of cooking. While there is a simple recipe to making chocolate chip cookies, the hard part is not making them with white chocolate chips instead of milk-chocolate, but instead taking out many or replacing many of the ingredients becomes more of a trail-and-error with science and math.

For example: I am working on a low GL chocolate chip cookie. Whoa, wait, what? What's a GL? Okay, let's start from scratch. A GL is an abbreviation for a Glycemic Load, which is the amount of sugars that enter your bloodstream and how long it stays in your body before being countered by the insulin your body releases. So, if you eat something that has a high GL, say of 50, then that means that even after your body releases insulin to deal with the sugars in it, it will take a longer time for those sugars to dissipate than an item that has a lower amount of GL's. Now GL's measure the sugars in an item and if there is too much sugar in an item, more than your body can handle, the excess sugar in your blood stream can mess with your body, causing headaches, fatigue, mood swings or get stored as fat. So watching your glycemic load levels day-to-day can help you feel healthy, stay healthy, and help you lose wait.

Now, my recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for 3/4th of a cup of packed brown sugar. A cup of brown sugar has about 1 tablespoon of molasses and 1 cup of white sugar. Well, that means that a 3rd of a cup of brown sugar has about 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of molasses. Molasses is relatively low on the GL scale and when mixed with something that can act as a sweetener in its place, like 3/4ths of a cup of Stevia, you get something that tastes like brown sugar, but has almost no GL's and almost no calories.

But while the math is there, I had to play around with the science. Sugar plays an important roll in cooking and baking. In cookies, it helps create the texture. The first step is to mix butter with the sugars, to creme them together. The idea is that the sugar mixes with the butter while it pulls air into the mixture. The sugar helps to tear pockets in the fat and air fills the gaps. This creates a creamy texture for the base of the cookies. When they tell you that the butter needs to be room temperature, this is important as the temperature and the softness of the butter determines how easy it is to create the fluffiness of the cookies. If the butter is too cold, you will have super fluffy cookies that would come up as large and crunchy and if your butter is warm then your cookies will become flat and soft and chewy.

That texture, shows through to when the cookies are cooked as well. As if the cookies have air pockets made from the sugar and butter, then the air heats up and cooks its little cell, creating a crunchy cookie. If there are not as many air pockets, then the air only heats up it's immediate area, which normally is just the whole cookie, allowing for cookies that are still soft and chewy.

In the case of my stevia/molasses use, it functions the same way, as far as tearing through the butter to create the air pockets for the cookie. However without the addition of unnecessary calories, it works better for everyone will delivering the same thing. The glycemic load of the molasses and stevia would be 4.5 GL's. Whereas the glycemic load of 3/4ths of a cup of brown sugar would normally have roughly 113 GL's.

What this is leading up to, is a low GL sugar-free chocolate chip cookie. One that doesn't taste like the sugar-free cookies in the store, but one that tastes like a normal fat filled, sugary and rich cookie. No one one a sugar-free diet will touch a sugar-free cookie, unless it tastes good. As my mantra of a chef, "if it doesn't taste good, don't eat it", there is no reason that diabetics and dieters should be forced to eat anything different than the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. Hello John, I just came across your magazine and I have the same mantra that you do! Thanks for the recipes. I'll give this one a try. Laura Lehrer