Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Rocket Scientist's Molasses Cookies

What does a rocket scientist know about baking cookies? When Anya Stettler (one of the few rocket scientists I know) pulled these molasses cookies out of the oven, they looked perfect, smelled warm and spicy and were soulful, tender and full of buttery, sugary, molasses-y flavor. I grabbed a couple of them and asked how she did it.

She has spent her life with math, chemistry and physics and there was never any hint she baked wonderfully, but there was no ignoring those cookies on the plate. I have spent my life baking cookies and while mine taste good sometimes they look like I dropped them on the floor.

She started baking in the last few years and pretty much mastered it right away. Her scientific training let me in on why her cookies are so good.

Her big secret is that she uses a precise recipe, follows directions (who would ever think that would work?), pulls equal blops of cookie dough from the bowl, then thoughtfully rolls them into perfect balls and sets them on the baking sheet. Most people approximate the ingredient amounts in recipes, substitute this for that, flop things onto cooking vessels and might not know that glass measuring cups are for liquid and metal/plastic are for dry ingredients (they measure differently).

Because her mom is gluten intolerant, Anya made the smaller cookies on the plate with a gluten-free baking mix so she wouldn’t be left out.