The "Pyler says" series explores excerpts from Baking Science & Technology, a textbook that teaches readers a range of baking and equipment concepts. The following passage is from Chapter 8: Formulating. 

While acceptable cookies can be made from hard wheat flours — with appropriate increases in the formula levels of sugar and shortening — cookie flours are generally milled from soft white winter and soft red winter wheat varieties. Flours of low starch damage are preferred.

Cookie flours are normally long patent or straight-grade flours that may be, but generally are not, chlorinated, depending on the spread factor required by the baker. The spread factor is obtained by dividing the width in mm by the thickness in mm of a baked round cookie whose raw dough dimensions are standardized to 7 mm in thickness and 60 mm in diameter. Typically, these flours fall within the following range of specifications: protein content 9% to 10% ash content, 0.40 ± 0.05%, pH, 4.0 to 6.0; and spread factor 5.5 to 9.5 (Mansour 1982).

The changes in flour proteins that result from chlorination tend to interfere with cookie spread. Heavy chlorinated flours produce cookies with reduced spread and correspondingly greater thickness (Brenneis 1965) so chlorination of cookie flours is normally omitted. Exceptions are flours intended for the production of soft cookies in which greater strength is required to carry the higher levels of tenderizing and enriching ingredients.

The flour most commonly used for deposit cookies is a soft white winter wheat flour with a protein content of 7.5% to 8.5%, an ash content of 0.38% to 0.42%, a viscosity of 30 to 50°MacMichael, a spread factor of 90 to 100 and pH of 5.8 to 6.0.

When stronger flours are used to prevent excessive cookie spread during baking and to preserve any top design imparted by extrusion, the levels of shortening and sugar need to be increased to retain optimum tenderness.

Standardized cookie formulations for wire-cut and sugar snap styles are used by AACC International Approved Methods for testing to study the effects of flour qualities on cookie properties. The sugar snap is the most widely used procedure (Hoseney 2007).

Brenneis, L.S. 1965. Qualitative factors in the evaluation of cookie flours. Bakers Digest39 (1): 66.

Hoseney, R.C. 2007. Flour quality for cookies and crackers. Presented at the Biscuit and Cracker Manufacturers’ Association 82nd annual technical conference, held Sept. 23-26, 2007, at Niagara Falls, NY.

Mansour, K.H. 1982 Quality control in soft flour. Cereal Foods World 27 (7): 315.