As people become more interested in baking, it can generally go without saying that they also begin to learn more about the staple ingredients in baking. No matter what you choose to bake, there are a certain few ingredients that will find their way into just about every recipe you try to make.
These staple ingredients include butter, sugar, salt, and flour. While most people can understand what butter, sugar, and salt offer to most baking recipes, it can be hard to understand what exactly flour’s role is in all of this. In different recipes, flour can help with certain aspects.
For example, flour holds many properties in cookies. Flour can help the cookie rise properly in the oven, and it also plays a massive role in reaching the texture that you are looking for. Using too much or too little flour can drastically alter your cookie recipe.
If you are looking to learn more about cooking, or you simply want to have a good idea of what flour does in cookies so that you can effortlessly create the cookies that you dream of, you are going to want to learn what flour does chemically inside of cookies to create the effects that it has.
Thankfully, because of its importance in baking and cooking, many people have documented the properties of flour that are the most important in cooking and cookies. This will help you get a better understanding of how flour works when you add it to cookies.
What Is Flour Responsible for?
When trying to understand the role that flour plays in your cookies, you will first need to understand what it affects and what its purpose is in the first place. One of the easiest ways to do this is to understand what flour does when you add it to a cookie.
Typically, flour is responsible for the texture and consistency in cookies. How the cookies turn out when you take them out of the oven will depend on the ratio of flour to other consistency-altering ingredients.
In some recipes, this will mean that your cookies turn out chewy and dense, and in other recipes, this can mean that your cookies are brittle and crisp.
Flour also plays a role in cookies that have a specific shape or texture. Much like in bread and other baked goods, flour helps the cookie hold its shape during the baking process. Biscotti is one example of a cookie that needs a lot of flour, as it needs to hold a specific shape as it is cooking in the oven.
The type of flour you use is also important. Unbleached flour will have more gluten in it, meaning that if you want more air in the cookie to make it chewier, you will often want to opt for unbleached flour. More often than not, and aside from very specific recipes, unbleached and bleached flours are largely interchangeable.
Some people will use whole-grain flours for a healthier diet. Some degree of whole-grain flour will add nuttier and heartier undertones to the flavor of the cookie.
The more whole-grain flour you add to your cookies, the denser they will become, as well as becoming increasingly gritty and less chewy.
What Happens If There Is Too Much Flour? Too Little?
The proportion of flour to other ingredients (such as eggs) in the cookies is going to play the biggest role in determining the overall texture and consistency of the cookie.
Some recipes intentionally use skewed proportions to create specific textures, while other times you may come across the result of too much or too little flour by mistake.
Having too much flour in your cookies will make them tender, and even crumbly. This is apparent in shortbread cookies, which are well known for being dry and soft.
This will often happen when you use a high amount of flour in cookies that have very few wet ingredients, such as eggs and butter.
Too much flour can also result in cookies having more shape and more density than you are looking for, especially if you are looking for chewy or thin cookies. Much like in bread, flour helps the cookie to rise (as well as keep certain shapes).
This means that more flour will result in more rise, which is not always optimal if you want light, crisp cookies.
On the other hand, low amounts of flour will commonly result in crisp, thin cookies. Without enough flour to rise, the cookies will remain crisp and often brittle. They can sometimes have an airier texture than other cookies, depending on the ingredients you used to create them.
This commonly happens when there is a low proportion of eggs and butter in the cookie as well as low flour.
However, when you have a high amount of liquid ingredients and a low amount of flour (such as in brownies, which may not technically be cookies, but it works for this example), it will result in a cake-like texture.
For people who are looking for cakey brownies, or cookies that are made with a more liquid batter, using a low amount of flour will have the results of a cross between a cookie and a cake.
When all is said and done, flour is one of the key parts of baking cookies. The flour that you choose, whether it is traditional wheat flour or a gluten-free alternative, will play an enormous role in determining what the consistency and texture of your cookie is.
Because this is such a large part of finding the perfect cookie, if you are trying to perfect a cookie recipe, you can expect that you will be experimenting a lot with the amount and type of flour that you are using in the cookies.
There are enough different recipes of cookies out there that you will likely be able to find one that is close enough to your desired cookie texture and type. Once you find a recipe that you can use as a starting point, you can then begin experimenting with your cookies, working with the flour to create the cookie that you have been looking for.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.