Cornstarch in Cookies??

Jane Dough

Just made a batch of Orange Sable Cookies that had 3/4 cup of cornstarch for approx. 4 dozen cookies. I have never seen cornstarch in a cookie recipe and read the ingredients twice to make sure it was 3/4 cup. Does anyone have any experience or tips on baking with cornstarch in cookies? (I'm wondering if it is similar to baking with cake flour.)

badge posted by: Jane Dough on December 03, 2010 at 11:18 am in General discussions
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reply by: KIDPIZZA on December 03, 2010 at 11:56 am

Good morning. Yes, I do have experience using cornstarch in baked products. As you know authentic shortbread cookies use A/P flour & some rice flour is used in conjunction. However, cornstarch can be used instead of rice flour...that is what I use. I employ 1/3rd in weight of the AP flour. EX: 24,oz AP/10 oz cornstarch. You can use a little more however I do not think it is wise to go higher that this amount. You can use this technique in yeasted bread baking to insure a softer dinner roll or sandwich rolls as well. Yes it is similiar to cake flour but only in helping to produce a softer baked product. Cornstarch doesn't have any gluten in it but cake flour does although it is a very weak amount.
Good luck to you & enjoy the rest of the day young lady.


reply by: PaddyL on December 03, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Corn starch isn't the same as pastry flour at all, or cake flour, as KidPizza said, even cake/pastry flour has some gluten in it. Corn starch is traditionally used in what are called 'melt-in-your-mouth' shortbread or cookies. I use rice flour in my shortbread but would never substitute corn starch.

reply by: KIDPIZZA on December 03, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Paddy you need to learn how to read English. Do what I do...when I think I do not understand what I am reading I will read it as much as 6 times till I understand it. Try it & come back & tell me what you read!!!!.

Not So Friendly Yours,

reply by: pjh on December 03, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Folks, you're both regulars here, and we value your contributions. It's OK to disagree and have different opinions, but it's important to express them in a friendly manner. As we say here at King Arthur, in our interactions with one another: We can agree to disagree agreeably! Thanks for keeping this in mind.

reply by: KIDPIZZA on December 03, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Thank you for your interest in this matter. But & however, this isn't a matter of agreement or otherwise. It is a matter of posting erroneous information due to failure to understand matters of baking science & reading comprehension. Nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing. In any event "Thank You" very much for trying to smooth this over but It will take 3 days for me to calm down. I am not fit to be with during this time.
Good luck & have a nice day young lady.


reply by: PaddyL on December 03, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Sorry, KIDPIZZA, but I thought I had agreed with you. You're probably right in saying that you can substitute cornstarch for rice flour; all I'm saying is that my shortbread recipe traditionally calls for rice flour so that is what I use. I am truly sorry if I misunderstood you in any way. Please forgive me.

reply by: karenbrat1 on December 03, 2010 at 4:26 pm

My mom makes "shortbread buttons" every Christmas, the cornstarch helps the cookies melt in your mouth as one poster mentioned.

reply by: Jane Dough on December 03, 2010 at 5:18 pm
Jane Dough

My FIORI DI SICILIA just arrived from KAF and now I'm thinking about making another batch or Orange Sables using this in place of the vanilla. These cookies are fast becoming my new favorite.

reply by: uninvited-guest on December 03, 2010 at 11:06 pm

PaddyL, I thought you were agreeing with kidpizza as well. When I went back and read your reply, I can see how kidpizza misunderstood what you were saying.

It ain't nothin' but a thang. In print, it is sometimes hard to understand what exactly is meant... IRL, the tones and inflections of the voice make it far more obvious.

Such are the trappings of cyberspace!

reply by: vibeguy on December 04, 2010 at 4:10 am

Backing up a're exactly right; you're simulating cake flour's lower, damaged protein by adding a gluten-free starch source to regular flour.

Cornstarch will provide bulk and water retention in your baked goods. While it doesn't directly promote tenderness, per se (fudge is "tender", and is just sugar and fat, no starch), it will not contribute to toughness like flour will. So, if you were to compare the two:

Flour: adds bulk, retains water (through starch gel), contributes to structure/toughness (through protein + water interaction)

Starch: adds bulk, retains water (through starch gel), can't contribute to structure/toughness (no protein to interact with water)

One way starch gets used in cookie recipes is to simulate lower-protein flour. Imagine you have 100 grams of KAF unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 of a cup of red label, measured in the KAF style). In that, you're going to find 11.7 grams of protein. Many flours, like certain ones grown and milled in Northern Europe, will be "softer" and have less protein, say, 9%. If you have a recipe that calls for 100 grams of 9% flour, you could acquire some 9% flour and bake away. One *other* way you could get there is to use 75 grams of KAF unbleached all purpose and then 25 grams of some non-gluten starch like corn, tapioca or rice. That's what's going on here. The sable cookies want a sandier, shorter texture, so they replace some of the water holding capacity of the flour with water-holding starch, which doesn't bring any chewy gluten with it.

It's also used in, say, cakes. The "pudding in the mix" craze of the 70s was nothing more than adding modified food starch (usually waxy maize) to a cake mix - all of the other ingredients of pudding (sugar, eggs, liquid, flavor) were already there.

The biggest advice I have is to let the dough get good and hydrated before you shape and bake, and remove while the cookies are still soft and tender and let the carryover heat set the starch gel.

Best of luck; I love sables, too. Try making them with brown butter sometime. Mmmmn.

reply by: sofia100 on December 04, 2010 at 2:28 pm

A healthier substitute is arrowroot powder. Can buy in bulk in health food stores. It's good for you, where cornstarch is just more processed corn. Arrowroot cookies, for ex. are a 'digestive' especially for young kids and old adults! It makes a good thickener for puddings and sauces as well.

reply by: omaria on December 04, 2010 at 3:07 pm

No comment, just saving all this knowledge on my page.

reply by: calico on December 04, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Sofia, I really like the idea of arrowroot as a healthier substitute for cornstarch. I have a cookie recipe for Shortbread Gems that calls for a 1/2 cup of cornstarch. These easy to make cookies are made in a mini muffin pan. After cooling slightly, the cookie is indented so that it can be filled with a reduced jam, lemon curd, or ganache. I use the lemon curd from King Arthur, and these cookies turn out to be as tender and delicious as can be. Thank you for the healthy tip!

reply by: beachdee on December 04, 2010 at 4:32 pm

(Healthier) particularly if you are not buying organic or non-GMO cornstarch, since close to 90% of corn grown in the US nowadays is genetically-modified (GM or GMO) with bacteria (Bt) genes. I found "Let's Do...Organic" brand organic tapioca (manioc) powder, and also "Rapunzel" makes organic cornstarch. I'm going to go look for some arrowroot, I don't think I've tried that. Woo-hoo, I have my monthly 10%-discount coupon for my beloved PCC co-op and am going shopping today, maybe they will have it!

Does one sub the arrowroot 1:1 for cornstarch in a recipe?

reply by: wingboy on December 05, 2010 at 9:35 am

Thanks vibeguy! I learned quite a bit from your post.

reply by: bocca on December 05, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Vibeguy, very good info. I bake gluten free, it helps to understand whats going on with these ingredients.

reply by: Jane Dough on December 06, 2010 at 8:50 am
Jane Dough

Thanks for all the comments. They are very helpful!! I am so happy to have found this site.

reply by: sofia100 on December 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm