HOWTO make 36-hour perfect cookies in 3 hours

Inflamed by the New York Times's article on perfect chocolate cookies (in which it is revealed that the two secrets are: one, a little salt prior to baking; two, aging the dough for 36 hours in the fridge), the Ideas in Food blog tried (successfully) to shortcut the process by vacuum-sealing the dough:

From the Times story by David Leite:

At 12 hours, the dough had become drier and the baked cookies had a pleasant, if not slightly pale, complexion. The 24-hour mark is where things started getting interesting. The cookies browned more evenly and looked like handsomer, more tanned older brothers of the younger batch. The biggest difference, though, was flavor. The second batch was richer, with more bass notes of caramel and hints of toffee.

Going the full distance seemed to have the greatest impact. At 36 hours, the dough was significantly drier than the 12-hour batch; it crumbled a bit when poked but held together well when shaped. These cookies baked up the most evenly and were a deeper shade of brown than their predecessors. Surprisingly, they had an even richer, more sophisticated taste, with stronger toffee hints and a definite brown sugar presence. At an informal tasting, made up of a panel of self-described chipper fanatics, these mature cookies won, hands down.

The second insight Mr. Rubin offered had to do with size. His cookies are six-inch affairs because he believes that their larger size allows for three distinct textures. “First there’s the crunchy outside inch or so,” he said. A nibble revealed a crackle to the bite and a distinct flavor of butter and caramel. “Then there’s the center, which is soft.” A bull’s-eye the size of a half-dollar yielded easily.

Now, Ideas in Food:
What I can tell you is that the dough darkened and became fully saturated, similar to the way that the dough usually looks after a couple of days in the refrigerator. It also changed the texture of the dough, making it a bit more elastic to the touch. The just made dough was too soft to shape and needed to chill, so I left in the fridge for about three hours before baking.

The resulting cookies were pretty damn good. They had a slightly cakey texture in the center with chewy yet crisp edges and rich buttery, caramel flavors. It was impossible to eat just one and I was thankful that I had not baked off the entire batch.

Link (via MeFi)


  1. I’m pumped to try this method – making good cookies is a pursuit well worth some education and time investment in my book.

  2. I think I’ve just found the key to making my super awesome cookies even better. Unfortunatly, I don’t have a vaccuum sealer, so it’ll be the 36 hour method for me.

  3. Ideas in Food concludes: “This technique opens doors for other dough preparations from pie to biscuit to cracker to puff dough bases which would be able to be made and formed with very little working of the dough, just compression and nearly instant hydration. In fact, in looking just at the process of hydration perhaps compression can and should be applied from nuts to legumes.”

    Eh? Compression by vacuum?

  4. I love the Ideas in Food duo. Theirs is a blog worth reading for its remarkable culinary adventurousness. I always leave with new ideas and inspiration for my own cookery.

    However, as Coffeegirl, I am sadly vacuum-deprived. But I’m not even going to do the 36 hours thing cuz, well, I have managed to lose 10 kilos to the universe and I’d like to keep it that way LOL!


    when you seal the food and suck out the air from the air, the stuff gets very compressed, both by the bag itself and the fact that all the air gets pulled from the food itself.

    You can macerate sealed food with novel flavourings. You unseal the bag and the marinade gets sucked straight into the stuff.

    Actually, craisins and other dry cranberries that are variously flavoured are treated that way. Suck out cranberry juice through vacuum and obtain dry cranberries, nicely collapsed (and cranberry juice, natch). Introduce vacuumed berries into a small amount of grape juice and unseal. SLURP! Voilà, grape flavoured dried cranberries.

  6. I used to do this all the time, with a vacuum pump that I found at a flea market. What I thought I was doing was pulling out all the air in-between the flour and water therefore allowing them to get closer together and hydrate the flour better. Turns out I was technically right.

    The benefit of the vacuum pump is that you can put the entire batch into mason jars (They make them pretty big, if you look hard enough) and they keep in the fridge for MONTHS and possibly years, but I always ate them before I could get that far.

    I have no idea how many… Umm… anti-PSI? I pulled on the dough… the gauge broke (was what was wrong with the vac in the first place) and I put a plug in it to make it work. I worked out a time method and listening to the motor start to chug for my jars–but I am positive that it would be wrong for another model of pump or jar size.

    Cookies made in March taste the exact same in October. With no refrigeration. They are shelf stable, at least as long as I have tested them.

    My reasons for this are as follows:

    No air = no bacteria can form
    Vacuum = ruptured cell walls of bacteria


    Actually, I think you’ve been pretty lucky with the cookie dough sitting on the shelf. If you make it with eggs, it’s pretty risky keeping it sitting on a shelf even with a vacuum.

    Maybe the cooking process kills the bacteria before you eat it.

    The vacuum doesn’t really stop things from deteriorating–it just slows it down.

    If you doubt what I’m saying, try sealing some raw broccoli in a mason jar and stick it in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

    Then open the jar.

    Extra points if you open it inside your house.

  8. Latteberry,

    My mom did the broccoli thing when I was a kid, but with boiled broccoli, including the bonus points for opening it indoors. The smell is amazingly horrible.

  9. #4: With all the air (more or less) removed from the dough, the ambient air pressure is free to compress it. Imagine the wall of an empty container: the air inside is at ambient pressure (let’s say 1 atm, or about 14.7 pounds per square inch) and the air outside is also at 14.7 psi. Now remove the air from the inside. The pressure of the ambient air still acts on the wall: 14.7 pounds on each square inch. Hence, pressure; hence, compression.

    It might be more intuitive to imagine something like a sponge in a bag; as the pressure differential increases, the net force on the bag’s surface “compresses” the sponge like a spring.

    The Wikipedia article on “Vacuum” is pretty good.

  10. I tried the NYT recipe without a vacuum, and waited 31 hours to make the first batch, and 47 to make the second. The 47 hour batch was indeed better and browned more nicely. But the wait (and timing it for when to bake them) was tedious, and the dough very hard to scoop after refrigeration. Letting it warm up a bit interfered with browning.

    Pam Anderson has a similar Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that calls for scooping the dough, then freezing for about 30 minutes. This recipe has great results in a shorter time, and using AP flour.

    More on my results of the NYT recipe, and the Pam Anderson recipe here

  11. I’m don’t especially like to bake, so I buy the pre-made cookie dough at the store. They’re not as good as from scratch, but they’re pretty good. I’m sure the dough is more than 36 hours old by the time I buy it, but would that be considered aging time? The packages aren’t vac. sealed, but are air tight. Just wondering…

  12. I freeze my cookie dough in long cylinders, that way, I can easily make the same sized cookies, and can make only as many as I want/need to eat.

    mmm cookies…

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