8 favorite cookie recipes inspired by science (sort of)

     'It is my firm belief that cookies are an absolute good. And among cookies, chocolate crinkles are the absolute best.' —Amy Quinn, NewsWorks social media manager

    'It is my firm belief that cookies are an absolute good. And among cookies, chocolate crinkles are the absolute best.' —Amy Quinn, NewsWorks social media manager

    This week’s edition of The Pulse features a segment with Dr. Bethany Brookshire demonstrating the scientific method with cookies. Science is fun, but we love cookies, too. Here are some of our favorites from teh WHYY newsroom. 

    This week’s edition of The Pulse features a segment with Dr. Bethany Brookshire describing a delicious scientific undertaking. She has set out to create a gluten-free version of the much-revered Alton Brown “Chewy.”

    Knowing that replacing wheat flour with gluten-free flour is not enough to make a good substitute, she has embarked on a series of “cookie science” experiments, documented with photos on her blog, replacing and adding various ingredients to get her gluten-free cookie as close to the regular version as possible.

    Science is fun and all, but … cookies! We asked around the WHYY newsroom and came up with a few favorites among the staff.

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    Chocolate crinkles

    “It is my firm belief that cookies are an absolute good. And among cookies, chocolate crinkles are the absolute best,” said NewsWorks social media manager Amy Quinn. 

    Hers is a variation of a recipe from “an old and well-used Betty Crocker cookbook.”


    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
    2 cups granulated sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    4 eggs
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


    Heat oven to 350° F.
    In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon), set aside.
    In another bowl, stir together the oil, melted and cooled chocolate, and vanilla.
    Stir in eggs, one at a time, until just blended.
    Stir in dry ingredients about 3/4 cup at a time — do not overmix, unless you like tough cookies
    Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours, until you can pinch off a bit of dough and roll it into a ball
    In a small bowl, put 1 cup powdered confectioner’s sugar
    Take chilled batter by the teaspoonful or tablespoonful — depending on how large a cookie you want — and roll into balls
    Roll each ball in powdered sugar, and place at least two inches apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment.
    Bake 10 to 12 minutes until the cookie has spread out and the top has crackled, and they’re still slightly soft to the touch on top
    Cool on racks, though they’re really good while still slightly warm, with a glass of milk. 
    Store in airtight containers (zipper bags work well) to keep chewy

    “They come together quickly,” said Quinn, “though they benefit from a few hours in the fridge, where the batter firms up to the consistency of the best chocolate fudge you’ve ever had. If you’re making chocolate crinkles for a special occasion, you’ll want to make a double batch to make up for all the cookies your loved ones will swipe beforehand. Trust me on this one.”

    white-cake-mix 300x300Cake cookies

    “These are so easy, it’ll feel like cheating,” said NewsWorks web producer Eric Walter. “But you’ll have the comforting pablum of good old-fashioned American processed food to see you through the guilt.”


    1 box cake mix — any flavor (Do not use cake mix that has pudding in the mix.)
    1 egg
    4 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
    Confectioner’s sugar


    Combine the first three ingredients, mixing well.
    Roll into balls, then roll in powdered sugar.
    Bake in 350° F oven for at least 10–12 minutes.
    Cookies will harden a bit after removing from oven. Cool on wire racks.

    “My mom uses Duncan Hines cake mix,” said Walter. “Lemon is the best, and strawberry is good, too. Or get a white cake mix and play around with flavors and colors.”

    choc-choc-chip 600x500

    Chewy chocolate chocolate chip cookies (vegan)

    And for our friends who don’t do milk, butter, eggs … Cool Whip? What about them?

    “This one is a huge favorite amongst many vegans,” said WHYY design manager Carla Mijlin.

    Pictured above, the chewy chocolate chocolate chip cookie comes to us from Post Punk Kitchen‘s Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who warns: “Be careful not to overbake them. They may seem like they aren’t done after 10 minutes, but they are!”


    3/4 cup canola oil
    2 cups sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. whole flax seeds
    1/2 cup soymilk
    2 cups all purp flour
    3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 cup chocolate chips


    Preheat oven to 350° F.
    Grind the flax seeds on high in a blender until they become a powder. Add soymilk and blend for another 30 seconds or so. Set aside.
    In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
    In a separate large bowl cream together oil and sugar. Add the flax seed/soy milk mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla.
    Fold in the dry ingredients in batches. When it starts to get too stiff to mix with a spatula, use your hands until a nice stiff dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and mix with your hands again.
    Roll dough into 1-inch balls and flatten into a disc that’s about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about an inch apart.
    Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then set them on a wire rack to cool completely.

    Makes 3 dozen.


    For chocolate chocolate chip cherry cookies, replace 1 tsp. of the vanilla with almond extract, and replace half of the chocolate chips with dried cherries.
    For chocolate nut cookies, replace 1 tsp. of the vanilla with a nut extract (almond, walnut, what have you) and replace the chocolate chips with 1-1/2 cups chopped nuts (hazelnuts, almonds or walnuts all are good).

    shutterstock choc-chip 600x500

    Fiedler’s Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookie

    WHYY reporter Elizabeth Fiedler offers this variation on the Nestlé Toll House original. “Use half as much butter, and bake them a minute or two less than the recipe says,” said Fiedler. “Super soft, chewy, delicious cookies.”

    We did the complicated math for you.

    [Cookie image courtesy of Shutterstock.com]


    2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
    3/4 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup packed brown sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    2 large eggs
    2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
    1 cup chopped nuts


    Preheat oven to 375° F.
    Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
    Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts.
    Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
    Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

    mint-choc-chip 600x500

    Mint chocolate chip cookies

    Megan Pinto, executive producer of The Pulse, offered another variation on the stand-by chocolate chip cookie recipe. This one might be a hit on St. Patrick’s Day.


    1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix
    1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
    1/4 to 1/2 tsp mint extract
    6 to 8 drops green food color
    1 egg
    1 cup creme de menthe baking chips
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks


    Heat oven to 350°F.
    In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in creme de menthe baking chips and chocolate chunks.
    Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
    Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 3 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

    choco-pb-pillow 600x500

    Peanut butter chocolate pillows (vegan)

    Here’s another vegan option (pictured above at Post Punk Kitchen) from vegan cookbook author Terry Hope Romero by way of WHYY’s Carla Mijlin. 

    Post Punk Kitchen’s Isa Chandra Moskowitz writes: “Chocolate and peanut butter fans will totally stalk you once they get a bite of these classic chocolately cookies with a heart of sweet and salty peanut butter. We can’t deny impatience is rewarded here: these cookies when eaten warm just a few minutes out of the oven are dynamite.”


    Chocolate dough:

    1/2 cup canola oil
    1 cup sugar
    1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    3 tablespoons non-dairy milk
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/3 cup unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
    2 tablespoons black unsweetened cocoa or more dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt


    3/4 cup natural salted peanut butter, crunchy or creamy style
    2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
    2 to 3 tablespoons soy creamer or non-dairy milk
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


    In a large mixing bowl combine oil, sugar, maple syrup, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Sift in flour, cocoa powder, black cocoa if using, baking soda and salt. Mix to form a moist dough.
    Make the filling. In another mixing bowl beat together peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy creamer and vanilla extract to form a moist but firm dough. If peanut butter dough is too dry (as different natural peanut butters have different moisture content), stir in remaining tablespoon of non-dairy milk. If dough is too wet knead in a little extra powdered sugar.
    Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
    Shape the cookies. Create the centers of the cookies by rolling the peanut butter dough into 24 balls. Scoop a generous tablespoon of chocolate dough, flatten into a disc and place a peanut butter ball in the center. Fold the sides of the chocolate dough up and around the peanut butter center and roll the chocolate ball into an smooth ball between your palms. Place on a sheet of waxed paper and repeat with remaining doughs. If desired, gently flatten cookies a little, but this is not necessary.
    Place dough balls on lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and let cookies sit for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to complete cooling. Store cookies in tightly covered container. If desired warm cookies in a microwave for 10 to 12 seconds before serving.

    Makes 2 dozen cookies.

    Peanut butter no-bake cookies

    Sometimes baking can be a pain. Or maybe your oven is on the fritz. That’s no reason you should deny yourself chocolate and peanut butter. (Noticing a theme here?) Here’s another recipe from the kitchen of NewsWorks web producer Eric Walter.


    2 cups sugar
    ½ cup cocoa
    ¼ cup oleo
    ½ cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ½ cup peanut butter
    3 cups quick oats


    Boil 2 minutes the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk.
    Add the vanilla, peanut butter and quick oats.
    Drop by teaspoon on waxed paper and let them cool.

    speculoos 300x300One final option

    Hey, sometimes even not baking is too much work. WHYY reporter Carolyn Beeler has solved that problem. 

    “Here’s my favorite cookie recipe,” Beeler said. “Buy a jar of Speculoos spread. Open. Eat with spoon. Repeat. Variation if you’re feeling fancy: Put it on anything else edible.”

    Who could argue? Beeler is a science reporter. She knows what she’s talking about.

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