Last year, Tessa Arias, a food blogger, began a fun series about chocolate chip cookies. She wrote The Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies, followed by several more posts. Arias is a culinary grad with a personable style. I enjoyed her viewpoint but was rather surprised to read in the Ultimate Cookie Troubleshooting Guide that, “The posts illustrated the science behind cookie baking.”
I am not a food scientist. I am a former bakery owner and have baked thousands of cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins, coffeecakes, breads, rolls, etc. I learned by reading and making the same recipes over and over and over. I write about food but my results are not science.
A basic principle in science: testing must be done numerous times and results must have the ability to be independently reproduced. Where’s the science behind the cookie testing results? While Arias’ posts are fun to read, they are not scientific. Calling a fluff piece “science” is misleading. It attempts to elevate recipe development to a higher status but only succeeds in devaluing the true nature of scientific testing.
I wouldn’t have addressed this issue, but then Anne Miller wrote, The Science Behind Baking the Most Delicious Cookie Ever and referred to food blogger “…Tessa Arias, who writes about cookie science on her site, Handle the Heat.”
Christa Savery Dunn, Baking Outside the Box, an avid writer and recipe developer wrote, “I need to do this experiment myself because I have had different results than some of the ones shown here. What do you think of the science behind this? … I have had brown sugar cookies come out flat and white sugar cookies come out fluffy, so I question that. Also, beating speed and time are not mentioned in this article, and I think that is a major omission.”
Dunn made some excellent observations. And I have more concerns. Does the author use weight or volume measure? If you’ve been hanging around the food/baking world for any length of time you no doubt have heard that weight is accurate and volume is inaccurate with inconsistent results. Volume measure is fine for home bakers, but frowned upon for commercial baking and absolutely unacceptable for scientific results. This blog series gave volume measure for flour, with the caveat, “if you’re interested in the weight…”
In Miller’s piece, a couple of things are right. But there’s a lot wrong, such as “Ooey-gooey: Add 2 cups more flour.” WRONG WRONG WRONG. Adding 2 more cups would be a disaster. Is there no proofreader on duty? Churning out these types of food articles is what happens when food becomes trendy.
We are blurring the lines between science and pseudoscience. But everyone does it so that makes it okay? Unfortunately, Miller’s well written but not-so-scientific article was reposted in Time and again in NPR.
I can certainly see why a food blogger would write about baking chocolate chip cookies. But I’m disappointed with how “science” has evolved. There are similar “science” pieces out there, some good and some not. But really, please, stop already with this pseudoscience.
Our society worships everything food and everyone wants in. Media stars, marketing personnel, lawyers, English professors, home cooks – far too many people who have no business discussing and writing about food “science” have crossed the line. The food hobby has gone crazy. Enough already.
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