The Science Behind Making Cookies (For Kids!)

I was chatting with a friend recently about her daughter’s “evolution” of cooking.  With no experience whatsoever, this preteen braved the kitchen.  She started with cookies.  Simple enough.

Or so she thought.

She didn’t realize she needed to cream the butter and sugar together.  And seriously?  Who knows what cream means?!?!  The next time, she forgot to whip the eggs in.  Then she was out of baking soda, so she substituted it with salt.  (I’m sure you can imagine how those looked and tasted).


As we chuckled over her misadventures, I realized that with a little bit of food science knowledge, this adventurous girl could learn not only the basics of cookie-making, but move quickly on to all types of cookies, or even better, create her own recipes- with success.

So the nerdy dietitian in me, pulled out my food science background and created this tutorial for you and your kiddos to work through.  As you go through this recipe for “The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie” be sure to take the time to teach what each ingredient does and why it’s needed.  It’ll give them an arsenal for future cooking.

(And as you eat the delicious creations, dipped in ice-cold milk, be sure to check out a quick activity for you to connect with your kiddo at the end!)  Enjoy!


The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie


  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1/2 cup Shortening
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips


  1.  In an electric mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar.

Cream together means to work together.  Make sure the ingredients get mixed thoroughly and then become a little bit fluffy (not marshmallow fluffy, just a bit lighter in texture.)  Using an electric mixer makes this much easier.

Why?  All this creaming together creates tiny air pockets throughout your batter that will help your cookie rise once it’s in the oven.  Don’t skip this step.  It’s important!  It should look similar to this:


2. In a small bowl, beat together the two eggs.  Then add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Beat together until smooth.  Add the vanilla.

Beating the eggs together will create more air pockets for your cookies to rise.  

Why do we even need eggs?  Cookies would be lost without eggs!  Here are a few things they do for your cookie dough:

  •  They provide moisture so that the air bubbles can expand and rise while cooking.  
  • They are a binding agent- they hold your dough together.  
  • And as it cooks, the egg yolks help brown the cookie to a beautiful color (google Maillard reaction for more information!!)  
  • The egg protein also helps set up the texture of your final cookie


3. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups of flour, the salt, and the baking soda.  Slowly mix this into the butter/sugar mixture.   Mix until just combined.  Slowly add the remaining flour until the batter is not sticky and you can roll a ball in your hands without getting too messy.

Why does baking soda do?  Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.  When it meets with acid it immediately produces carbon dioxide (a gas).  This carbon dioxide gets caught in those air bubbles you made while creaming and beating your eggs.  When you cook your dough, this gas expands—- and then your cookies rise up!!

The acid that baking soda reacts with in this recipe is the brown sugar (or more specifically the molasses in the brown sugar).  Other recipes use vinegar, yogurt, lemon juice, buttermilk, chocolate.  So in future recipes, remember- your baking soda is going to need an acid to react!

The difference between baking soda and baking powder.  Baking powder comes with it’s very own acid to react with!  So unlike, baking soda, you do not need another ingredient to help it do it’s magic.  But it is not as powerful, so if you substitute it for baking soda, you will need to use 2-3 times more.  But be careful– too much baking powder can make your cookie taste bitter.  It’s a tricky balance.

What are the salt and flour for?  Salt provides flavor!  If you forget the salt, you’ll know.  It tastes bland and very unexciting.  The flour provides the gluten and structure to your cookie.  Without flour, you cookie would be a sloppy mess of goo on the pan.


4.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Roll your cookies into a greased cookie pan.  Make sure they are a few inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  When they reach a slight golden-brown color around the edges they are done!  Cool on a cooking rack.  Enjoy!


How did your cookies turn out?  I hope beautifully. 🙂  Now that you have the basics of how to make a cookie- do you have any ideas of new recipes you can create?  Or how you could adjust this one?  What would happen if you added more baking soda?  Less?   Cooking is exciting!  Especially in the eyes of kids.

A note to moms and dads:  Instead of pulling out your phone to catch up on emails, while your kiddo dunks and eats their cookies, here are a few questions to ask them:

  • What did you like about making cookies?
  • What kind do you want to try next?
  • Would you want to be a chef someday?  If not, what do you want to be?
  • What is your favorite treat?

Catch you guys soon!

Love Dawnie




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