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Chocolate Chip Cookies 12 ways (a side-by-side comparison of fats, sweeteners and a gluten-free flour)

Written by Hannah of Rise and Shine.

Bakers work with different fats and sweeteners for many reasons. Some use certain ingredients because they swear by them (margarine versus butter remains a great debate), and some are looking for ways to reduce calories from sugar in their diet (stevia and agave syrup being hot items these days). I did some reading on the glycemic index of sweeteners with a bit about substituting sweeteners in baking, which resulted in this post: Comparing Sweeteners in Baking and in Health. Reading up on the health facts behind sweeteners was enlightening, to be sure, and the question of results of using different ingredients in baking really piqued my interest. The questions being (among others): Can I substitute honey or agave syrup for all of the sugar in a recipe?

They say I can't replace all sugar with a zero calorie alternative but what would happen if I did? So, while I'm no expert, I did conduct an experiment. Not exactly a scientific experiment, so don't take the findings as gospel or anything...but you may find them helpful nonetheless.

I've made dozens and dozens of cookies today, based on a classic chocolate chipper recipe in a dozen variations using the following ingredients:

Granulated sugar
Brown sugar
Honey
Molasses
Pure maple syrup
Corn syrup (disguised as artificial maple syrup)
Agave syrup
Truvia (zero calories, derived from stevia)
Butter
Shortening
Margarine
Vegetable oil
Coconut flour (gluten free)

For the sake of saving time, clean dishes and sanity: When testing fats, I used half brown sugar and half granulated sugar. When testing sweeteners, I used all butter. If you want a coconut flour cookie sweetened with Truvia and greased with vegetable oil, for example, you'll have to make it yourself. And let me know how it goes!

In the following you will find every recipe exactly as I executed it to the best of my ability, along with photo results and my review of the outcome.

For the record, here is my family's ultimate chocolate chipper recipe on which I based the following recipes:

Not Exactly Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies (original)
Makes 2 to 3 dozen.

3/4 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 and 1/4 cup brown sugar or white sugar with a couple splashes of molasses
2 tablespoons whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375F. Cream Crisco, sugar, whiskey and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the egg and coconut and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and stir with a spoon until combined. Fold in chips. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color. Cool for a couple minutes on the pan then cool on wire racks before eating.

I removed the coconut in the following recipes but all else remains close to the original. When I substitute ingredients in the following cookies, I do so entirely. The honey cookie is all honey, the molasses is all molasses, etc. I will also note that for every recipe, I placed cookie dough into the oven both at room temp and chilled. There were no remarkable differences between the two with the exception of a very slight amount of additional spread in some of the room temp cookies and longer baking time in the chilled dough cookies.

Results:

Granulated sugar: More crispy than chewy, with the plain flavor of a sugar cookie. Wide spread resulting in a thin cookie.

Brown sugar: More chewy than crispy with a deeper flavor than the white sugar cookie. Wide spread similar to the granulated sugar cookie though not quite as wide.

Honey: Soft and moist with a more cake-like texture and a delicate honey flavor. This cookie tastes really good. Some spread but not much.

Molasses: Soft, very dense and cake-like with a deep molasses flavor that is strong but in my opinion, not offensive. Some spread.

Pure maple syrup: Soft, quite dry and crumbly, though not gritty. This cookie has no detectable maple syrup flavor. Very little spread.

Corn syrup (disguised as artificial maple syrup): Soft, kind of dry and cake-like with a fake maple candy flavor. Very little spread.

Agave syrup: Soft and a little pasty in texture. Very good level of sweetness. No spread resulting in an almost under-baked center.

Truvia (zero calories, derived from stevia): Soft, crumbly texture with some grittiness. This cookie tasted way too sweet but didn't have an offensive fake sugar flavor.

Shortening: Crispy on the edges and chewy in the center with a mild butter flavor. Medium spread.

Margarine: Crispy on the edges and chewy in the center with a strong fake butter flavor. Perfect looking cookie. Really nice spread and texture.

Vegetable oil: Extremely crumbly dough though once baked it holds together. This cookie is a bit gritty and interestingly, the chips stay melted even when cool.

Coconut flour (gluten free): Browned fast on the edges and top though the center remained a bit raw. This cookie has a slight grittiness and good flavor. It's very fragile until quite cool and even then, it falls apart some when eating.

Recipes:

Butter and Granulated Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 2 dozen. If you like thin, simple flavored, crispy cookies, this is the recipe for you.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375F. Blend butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Butter and Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 2 dozen. I typically bake cookies with shortening to avoid the spread of a butter cookie which results in crispiness. Using all brown sugar helps hold in some moisture and keeps the cookie a bit chewy.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
1 and 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375F. Blend butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Butter and Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 1.5 dozen. This recipe taught me that it is definitely possible to replace all sugar in a cookie recipe with honey if you are willing to give up crispiness. The flavor is great and they are really good eaten straight from the freezer!

3/4 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and honey in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Butter and Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes almost 3 dozen. It's hard to tell when these are "lightly browned" since the dough is very dark. While I used dark molasses and thought the flavor was pretty darn good, I will admit I regularly drink dark molasses from the bottle with pleasure. Try light or mild molasses if you find the dark stuff to be too strong. Also, it's fun to note that molasses is packed with vitamins and minerals and replacing all sugar with it in a cookie recipe actually makes the cookie somewhat good for you!

3/4 cup butter, room temp
1 1/4 cup dark molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and molasses in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the edges are browning slightly.

Butter and Pure Maple Syrup Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 2 dozen. My maple syrup cookies had no maple flavor, but I wasn't using the highest grade of syrup available (it's quite expensive). When tasting the syrup I had bought, I noticed it lacked a strong smokey flavor that I associate with good pure maple syrup.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and syrup in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Butter and Pancake Syrup Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 2 dozen. Artificial syrup is made with corn syrup. When I come across a recipe that calls for corn syrup, I typically use the syrup that we put on our pancakes. I included pancake syrup in this experiment not because I expect people to want to use corn syrup in baking but because I thought the flavor might be worth it. The cookies tasted a lot like the artificial maple flavor you would taste in candy and it wasn't my favorite but might suit some.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and syrup in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Butter and Agave Syrup Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 2.5 dozen. Agave syrup has a fairly low number on the glycemic index, which is a good thing. The cookie had a nice flavor but didn't spread. If I made this recipe again I would press out the dough with a glass before baking.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup light raw agave syrup
1 egg
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and agave syrup in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Butter and Truvia Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Makes 2.5 dozen. I meant to bake with stevia in this experiment but my market only carried Truvia as the next closest thing. This cookie dough was extremely gritty but the cookie wasn't quite as rough. The amount of Truvia in this recipe should probably be cut in half as these cookies were way too sweet. The dough should be pressed with a glass before baking since it doesn't spread. And to avoid the high calorie chocolate and butterscotch chips, try low sugar carob chips.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup granulated Truvia sweetener
2 tablespoons whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and Truvia in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Shortening:
Makes 2 dozen. Shortening has a reputation for being unhealthy (probably because it's unnatural) while creating desirable texture in baked goods.

3/4 cup butter flavored shortening
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375F. Blend shortening and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Margarine:
Makes 2 dozen. Margarine has gotten a bad rap for containing trans fats which are no better if not worse for the body than saturated fat (which butter is laden with). Since margarine was all the rage before falling out of grace, trans fat "free" margarine (with only trace amounts of trans fat) have become available and are recommended by some medical professionals. The margarine I used did have a little trans fat (about 10 percent of the total fat). I didn't like the fake butter flavor of these cookies but the texture was ideal.

3/4 cup margarine
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375F. Blend margarine and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the egg, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oil:
Makes 1.5 dozen. I love making quick bread with oil and was excited to try this - then surprised that this recipe was kind of a bust! The dough was insanely crumbly and I had to hand press it into a cookie shape before baking. The final product was okay though, but kind of a pain to make.

1 and 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 350F. Mix flour, salt, baking soda and sugars in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together oil, whiskey, vanilla and egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and stir with a spoon until combined. Stir in chips. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten free):
Makes 2 dozen. Hershey brand chips come in gluten free options including chocolate and butterscotch. If I made this again, I would add an extra egg to bind it up.

3/4 cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon whiskey or a similar brown liquor, or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Heat oven to 375F. Blend butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Add the eggs, whiskey and vanilla and mix well. Add the coconut flour, salt and baking soda and mix until combined. Stir in chips with a spoon. Place walnut sized scoops two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges are browning slightly and the tops are just beginning to color. Cool for at least 10 minutes on the pan before attempting to remove. Cool completely and preferably chill before eating.

Somehow I feel like that's just the tip of the iceberg, but that's plenty for today! Enjoy!

JulieE
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Joined: 03/27/2009

My favorite cookies have always been chewy-soft in the middle and chewy-crispy around the edges. I've experimented with sugar combos (white, white-brown, brown), but suspected it also had a lot to do with the fat. I've always used butter, but I've suspected from the get-go that these cookies used shortening. I've always tried to avoid using it, but I may have to break down and experiment. Thanks for your comprehensive notes and tireless testing!

Thea
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Joined: 07/25/2010

Wow, that is a lot of baking and taste testing. What a monster effort. I seem to be one of the minority who prefers a nice crisp bickie (biscuit aka cookie) and really do not like them soft or chewy. So it looks like butter and white sugar is the go for me!

CalicoSilk
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User offline. Last seen 13 weeks 2 hours ago. Offline
Joined: 12/31/2012

This is an amazing study! This opens up my mind for a whole slew of ideas on comparing this to that. Like potatoes and what happens when different types are fried, boiled, mashed, and baked. Or apples, or flours, and the list of possibilities goes on. I've read and experienced many of the "why toos" but to see the results of each, like you did, is much more helpful. Thanks for doing this.