Whats better than a cookie dough caramel swirl ice scream sundae? One of my favorite desserts made with the right ingredients will give way to the rich cookie dough and the semi-sweet caramel in contrast with the light vanilla ice cream.
Ever wonder why butter makes a rich and succulent cookie dough meanwhile most cooking oils will make sweet and moist cookie dough? Or why caramel might turn out a beautiful light brown color or a dark appalling brown?
Here is some scientific background to make such a comforting dessert.
Fats: what are these controversial yet necessary ingredients? Fat is another way of indicating triglycerides. Triglycerides contain three long chains known as fatty acids that are connected by glycerol. These fatty acids are labeled as saturated (no double bonded carbons) or unsaturated (having double bonds). The unsaturated fatty acids are able to have cis or trans stereochemistry seen in the diagram below. The trans fatty acids are a result of hydrogenating oil to make it a solid only done by unnatural processes. These trans fatty acids–and saturated fats–are able to line up better than the odd shapes of the cis fatty acids. Most cooking oils that are liquids at room temperature, such as olive oil, canola oil, and hazelnut oil, are mainly composed of cis unsaturated fats.
So why would cookie dough with butter taste and feel much more appetizing than cookie dough with oil?
The answer is in the amount of unsaturation in the two fats. Since butter has a majority of saturated fat, it is a solid at room temperature and will encapsulate the flour and sugar. The sugar in the cookie dough is able to poke holes in the crystalline butter to cause encapsulation and aeration. Since the butter is aerated it produces thicker and drier cookie dough. It doesn’t have an overwhelming sweet taste because the butter is able to mask it with its own flavors. The cooking oil has many natural cis fats, causing it to be a liquid. Oil doesn’t have the crystalline structure so it won’t have the ability to hold the flour and sugar inside its structure. The oil made very moist and sweet cookie dough. When I am looking to be comforted by cookie dough, I tend toward the rich and crumbly batch.
Caramel’s main ingredients are sugar and cream. These ingredients undergo chemical changes when heated and mixed. The sugar starts off as sucrose, a glucose and fructose molecule bonded at the 1,1 hydroxy positions seen below. As heating continues caramelization occurs producing many products that add flavor and smell. These products can range from sour to bitter to fruity. If the temperature does not exceed 330oC or heated until burnt, these products will offer an amazing balance of tastes. Some of these products are seen below.
This week we did an experiment where we made caramel to three levels of darkness to observe how this sucrose molecule breaks down. As sucrose is heated to around 330oF it undergoes caramelization generating the flavor and brown color. In our experiment, the third trial was exposed to the highest heat for the longest period of time causing the black glossy caramel on the left. The caramelization process occurred past the point where bitter and sweet molecules are balanced. This caramel was heated for so long that the carbohydrates were dehydrated leaving mainly carbon giving the burnt taste and smell. This however doesn’t prohibit the Maillard reactions from occurring when the cream is added. The Maillard reaction produces decomposition products from the carbohydrates and proteins in the cream. These products add more complex flavoring to the caramelization products.
The time sugar is heated is based on personal preference as long as it does not turn black, as in the photo to the left. The darker caramel has more of a nutty flavor while the lighter caramel has a sweeter touch since there is more sugar left that did not react.
Keeping these concepts in mind, a comforting and delicious dessert can be prepared. Now, the amount of cookie dough or caramel added to the ice cream is up to you. Last but not least is the ice cream. Some slow churned old fashioned vanilla ice cream is my favorite way to supplement the sweet caramel and crumbly texture of the cookie dough.