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Mysteries from the Test Kitchen: Cookie Spreading

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Today, we're trying our hand at a couple of vintage recipes, the first being the best cookie recipe published in Gourmet magazine in 1954.

The South Carolina Benne Wafers call for dropping the dough (light on flour, heavy on sesame seeds) onto a buttered baking sheet by the teaspoon.

On a Silpat versus on a buttered baking sheet.
On a Silpat versus on a buttered baking sheet.

But when Test Kitchen Manager Allison Buford tried the recipe as written, the cookies flattened, spreading into one blobby mass. Not so pretty (or practical).

Next, she tried the same dough on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. And voilà: beautiful rounds, just like the image in the book.

So what happened here? Allison hypothesizes that the Silpat offers additional traction, allowing the dough to hold its shape. When the cookies are on the buttered sheet, it's like they're skating on a slippery rink, slip-sliding all around.

Is this a testament to the power of Silpat? The need to tamper with old recipes? The triumph of perseverance? Or is it simply a cookie miracle?

Share your hypothesis with us in the comments below! And stay tuned for the full recipe in December.

Tags: Bake, Tips & Techniques, Ephemera, Behind The Scenes