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Sweet Alchemy

The chemistry of cookie creation

When you make chocolate chip cookies, you’re not only a home baker – you’re also a food scientist.

Tessa Arias knows this firsthand. The local baker, self-taught food scientist and author of The Ultimate Cookie Handbook says becoming familiar with the science of baking will also unlock a wealth of understanding and confidence in the kitchen.

“If you know how and why a recipe, an ingredient or a technique works, you’re able to master it so much more easily,” says Arias, who has a degree in culinary arts.

In the case of chocolate chip cookies, adding baking powder, baking soda, or a combination will affect the finished product.

While they are both chemical leaveners that create a light texture in baked goods, Arias notes they are very different and cannot be swapped in recipes.

“With chocolate chip cookies, you can consider baking powder to puff up cookies for a taller rise and lighter, fluffier texture,” she says.

“Baking soda, on the other hand, elevates the pH level in the dough and increases spread as well as browning for darker crisper edges.”

Since Arias loves the contrast of crispy edges with a slightly gooey center, she prefers to make chocolate chip cookies with only baking soda.

“If you prefer softer and fluffier cookies, opt for a recipe that uses baking powder instead. Or, get the best of both worlds by selecting a recipe that uses both!”

Find Arias at or @handletheheat on Instagram. Her cookbook,The Ultimate Cookie Handbook, is available on Amazon.

Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: about 26 large cookies


·      3 cups (380 grams) all-purpose flour

·      1 teaspoon baking soda

·      1 teaspoon fine sea salt

·      2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

·      ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

·      1 ¼ cups (247 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar

·      2 teaspoons vanilla extract

·      2 large eggs, at room temperature 

·      2 cups (340 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla and eggs, beating well after each addition. Slowly beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. 

4. Using a spring-loaded scoop, divide the dough into 3-tablespoon sized balls and drop onto prepared baking sheets.

5. If time permits, wrap dough balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours but no more than 72 hours. This will improve both the flavor and texture of the cookies. Bake as directed.

6. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

  • Photo by Lauren Hansen
  • Baking powder only
  • No baking powder or baking soda
  • Baking soda only