Cookie Chemistry: The Proof is in the Pudding
This month we are focusing on how an experiment is conducted. Typically, we are presented with an experiments’ results, without actually knowing the process behind how scientists got them. When scientists perform an experiment, they carry out 6 important steps, known of the Scientific Method:
- Ask themselves a question: what do they want to investigate?
- Do research to get an idea of what has already been discovered
- Form a hypothesis, which is what the scientists think will happen when they perform the experiment
- Perform the experiment (the fun part!)
- Observe results by seeing what actually happened
- Develop a conclusion: summarize what was predicted and whether that happened or not
In our experiment today, we’re going to perform an experiment on sugar cookies! Because the only thing that makes experiments more fun is if you can eat it at the end. Baking typically involves a very precise recipe that has exact measures of ingredients. But what if we changed that? What happens when we change an element of a sugar cookie recipe? This is our question.
What you will need to do is find a simple sugar cookie recipe (here you are performing research) and create a batch. This is our control and therefore will show us what results from changing the recipe. After this, you are going to make another batch with the same recipe but change one ingredient: this ingredient is called a ‘variable’. This could be changing the quantity you use, changing the ingredient completely, or removing an ingredient; whatever you like! (Just ensure the ingredient you use is edible!)
Before you bake the second batch, you should discuss and try to predict what will be different about this batch. Will it have a different texture? Will the cookies be a different color? What will the change in the recipe result in? This is forming a hypothesis. And the best part? You don’t have to be correct! You’re trying to guess what might happen but even if something else happens, your results are meaningful.
Now you’ve baked your second batch and it’s time to observe and possibly eat. Compare your experimental batch of cookies to your initial control batch. Do they look different? Do they smell different? The bravest of you might even see if they taste different! In this step, you are finding your results and this will help you develop your conclusion. Your conclusion is a summary of what you did, what you predicted, what you found, whether you were correct or not, and what you found out.
For example: I replaced the sugar in the recipe with salt and predicted that my cookies would taste amazing. I performed my experiment and ate one of my cookies and it tasted awful! I was wrong in my hypothesis and found that replacing sugar with salt in a sugar cookie recipe is a very bad idea.
Simple Sugar Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp milk
- Powdered sugar for rolling
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl
- In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugar together until the butter becomes lighter in color
- Beat the egg and add it to the butter and sugar and mix well
- Whilst mixing, gradually add flour mixture until a dough forms
- Divide dough into half and wrap in wax paper
- Refrigerate for 2 hours
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- Sprinkle rolling surface with powdered sugar and roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness with rolling pin
- Use cookie cutter to make cookies then place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper at least 1 inch apart
- Bake for 7-9 minutes
Share your experiment results with us by tagging us at @sciencemuseumofwesternvirginia on Facebook or #smwvexperiment on Instagram!
Developed by Hannah Weiss and Koren Smith