What happens in that oven?
March 24, 2006 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Why does cookie dough taste better than cookies?

It's the same story with brownie batter, cake batter, and any number of other pre-baked batters and doughs - I contemplated this question tonight as I licked the bowl clean after putting a loaf-to-be of banana bread in the oven.

While you may personally disagree, look at ice cream companies, who have offered "cake batter," "brownie batter," and - of course - cookie dough ice creams for ages.

My question is, what are some concrete reasons for why batters taste so incredible? What happens chemically during the baking process to alter the taste and in what ways does it change? What exactly is so satisfying about the raw dough?

Oh, and this is my first ever MeFi post, after so many years of watching. Hello, everyone!
posted by coolhappysteve to Food & Drink (20 answers total)
Best answer: Hello, from stupidsexy to coolhappy. (however, I'm really neither)

My guess is it's all about texture. Before it goes from batter to baked good, all the ingredients in it we crave -- the fat of the butter, the sweetness of the sugar -- retain their original texture and probably more intense flavor, not having been evaporated or absorbed into the flour by the baking process.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:35 PM on March 24, 2006

Even more sugar
posted by growabrain at 9:56 PM on March 24, 2006

A round, mouth-sized blob of cookie dough translates into roughly an entire cookie. So basically, eating the stuff raw is concentrating the amount of sugar and fat you're getting per bite.
posted by bardic at 9:58 PM on March 24, 2006

Yep, I think tupidsexyFlanders is onto it -- the raw state of dough or batter is based on the texture/intensity of fat + sugar, which (especially when there's butter in there) is basically frosting.
posted by scody at 10:10 PM on March 24, 2006

don't have any answers but i must say: IT'S SO TRUE!

i am rather curious though about how they get cake batter ice cream to taste *exactly* like cake batter.
posted by wilky at 11:01 PM on March 24, 2006

As a kid, I'm an expert on the subject of cookie dough and must say that I prefer not to bake the batter. However, my mom always trys to sabotage me. I definitely think it has something to do with the texture because softer cookies are also better than harder ones.
posted by joshuak at 11:08 PM on March 24, 2006

Baking the batter causes it to undergo a chemical reaction, changing its chemical makeup. It has different chemical properties. This must have something to do with it.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:44 PM on March 24, 2006

It's the texture and the chemical reactions due to cooking. It's not that the raw dough is better, per se. It's just a completely different animal when it's cooked. Melted ice cream is the same material as cold ice cream, and no one likes melted very much. Cookie dough is an example of the other end of the spectrum.

Food also offers very important psychological associations -- the tastes and smells and even just the thoughts associated with cookie dough or cake batter infers childhood, home, mom, getting away with something you shouldn't be doing, Veruca Salt-like cravings to have it all now, and pure indulgence.

If you saw "briny sturgeon roe" on a menu, you wouldn't be impressed. But if it said "caviar," you're immediately inferring the unusual, exclusive and expensive.
posted by frogan at 11:59 PM on March 24, 2006

Best answer: Hot gooey chocolate chip cookies with melty chocolate chips (self link) can give cookie dough a run for its money, but I certainly see what you're getting at.

Here's some semi-informed speculation: When you bake cookies or cake or whatever, the dough or batter solidifies into a solid matrix as liquid evaporates. Yet it's liquids and oils that deliver flavor to your taste buds on your tongue. So you have to smash up the cookie with your teeth and then mix it with saliva before you can taste it, and by that point it's all gross and covered with spit.

The raw batter or dough, having a higher liquid content, transfers flavor to your tongue more readily, due to the increase moisture content.

Another theory I've read in my favorite dessert cookbook is (he's specifically trying to answer the question why does the barely baked gooey 'fallen chocolate cake' taste so good, but the answer may be more broadly applicable) that while it's baking it makes the whole house smell delicious. All those aromatic flavor molecules you're smelling are NO LONGER IN THE CAKE.
posted by aubilenon at 12:16 AM on March 25, 2006

One the other thing to think about is the history of baking itself.

Baked goods are less perishable than non-baked goods -- cookie dough will go rancid faster than a finished cookie. It wasn't until relatively recently in human history that in the common household kitchen, the raw foods that go into dough -- milk, butter, eggs, etc -- are safe enough to eat raw without taking huge risks with contamination.

This is why cookie dough didn't take off as a taste treat sensation 200 years ago. Sure, it still tasted good, but back then, the raw dough was probably fairly dangerous to eat before cooking it. So the idea that dough = good wasn't hammered into our heads until refrigeration and late 20th century farming.
posted by frogan at 12:44 AM on March 25, 2006

Here's a Freudian take on it -- soft, sweet, calorie-rich foods remind us when we were babies.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:48 AM on March 25, 2006

2 main things:

1. Eggs are liquid in the dough and solid in the cookie. Cooking them is sort of like frying an egg to where it's all brown and dry around the edge. Yuck.

2. What was already said about incorporating air and making it less dense.

Are you overcooking your cookies? I try to make my usually choco-chip cookes "medium rare". They will seem totally undercooked when they come out of the oven but by the time they're at room temperature they'll be perfect. Overcooking the cookies will make that whole dry-egg thing really bad.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:12 AM on March 25, 2006

Welcome, Steve. :)

I think rhapsodie and rxrfrx are on the right track. You're changing the chemical makeup of (some of) the ingredients, so they're literally different substances.
posted by danb at 9:34 AM on March 25, 2006

Raw eggs can harbor salmonella. It does not appear to be a huge risk, but it's real.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:42 AM on March 25, 2006

However, my mom always trys to sabotage me.

getting away with something you shouldn't be doing

My money's on these interpretations. It's forbidden fruit, like.
posted by scratch at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2006

wilky: They get cake batter ice cream to taste like cake batter, because they put actual cake mix in the ice cream. My ex worked in an ice cream shop and loved to share ice cream info (and ice cream!) with me.
posted by gatorae at 9:58 AM on March 25, 2006

This is almost eponysterical, given that it wasn't posted by bakedhappysteve.
posted by tangerine at 10:49 AM on March 25, 2006

If you have reservations about incompletely cooking your eggs, use farm-fresh eggs that are less likely to be contaminated with salmonella, or use a liquid pasteurized egg product from the supermarket.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:17 AM on March 25, 2006

This thread makes me want to eat some cookie dough real bad .
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:54 PM on March 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

It doesn't taste better, it just tastes different. I personally can't stand cookie batter (I hate hate hate the undercooked cookies they serve at perkins) I wouldn't eat Browne batter for fun.

I don't eat raw eggs, and I don't eat foods with raw eggs in them.
posted by delmoi at 4:24 PM on March 25, 2006

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