Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sugar and Spice and Everything Else

Kids in general are fairly curious people, wouldn't you say?  Some kids are dangerously so, while others are spiteful about it.  For example, what parent hasn't told their child to not touch a hot stovetop?  Not many.  And many sensibly curious kids will not touch the stovetop, because after all, a parent's warning is good enough for them.

But for those edgy, spiteful types?  The warning is not enough.  The curiosity burns inside them.  And, later, outside of them burns too when they defiantly place their hand on the red-hot burner.

For the record, I was not the latter type of child.  And probably for that reason, I've never had a broken bone (save a fractured nose), a hospital stay that did not involve birthing my children, or a Twitter-Instagram-Youtube worthy "situation".

I do hope my latest fit of curiosity does not land me in any trouble, on Facebook or otherwise.

In my baking class, we've been talking about cookies, and I've noticed that most recipes call for granulated sugar, or in the case of chocolate chip, etc, a brown sugar-gran sugar mix.  For whatever reason beyond reason, I was impelled to ask my instructor if I could substitute powdered sugar for all the granulated sugar in the recipe?  He chuckled, and explained that it likely wouldn't turn out right (Think: parent tells child stovetop is HOT).  So then, I ask what would happen.  Patiently he gives me another reason why the switch is a bad idea, but I forget what exactly he says because I'm already thinking about trying it (Think: child contemplates the warning and puts her hand on the hot stove anyway, despite the very prudent warning).

And that indeed is what I did spend my afternoon doing (no, not touching hot stovetops).  Referencing my baking textbook, Professional Baking, I did three separate batches of chocolate chip cookies, three different sugar variations.  Three test subjects, three different opinions.

The cookie at the bottom of the triad is the original recipe - brown sugar and granulated sugar.  Going clockwise, the next version is the brown sugar-powdered sugar mix.  The lightest-colored cookie is 100% powdered sugar.  Just by looking, the color of all three is the obvious difference.  The original version browned the most (all three were in the oven for 12 minutes), and as expected, the 100% powdered sugar is the lightest.  Also, 100% powdered cookie is cracked on the top, and has a definite sugar cookie look to it.  It's hard to tell here but the brown sugar-powdered mix has slightly more spread, while the 100% powdered seemed to have raised the most (but not by much more than the original).  

Tastewise, there honestly was not much difference between the first two...they were both yummy.  However, the 100% powdered was more crumbly and definitely tasted more like a sugar cookie (except with, you know, chocolate chips).  

I'm not really sure what I was expecting, something radical, I'm sure...but there's not much to say regarding this experiment.  There are nuances in tastes, sure, and a serious chocolate chip cookie lover (or my baking teacher) would probably taste the brown sugar-powdered sugar version and suspect something was amiss.  The rest of us would probably blissfully scarf them down, oblivious.

In regards to my test subjects' opinions, Kirby liked the brown sugar-powdered sugar version better, whilst Spencer preferred the original.  Elliot asked me to repeat the question, and I was distracted by something else before I heard what his preference was.

So there you have it.  Use powdered sugar.  Or don't.  Put your hand on the searing hot stovetop.  Or don't.  Either way, you'll probably learn something!

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