Now that's a research program

Dan makes an excellent observation:

Author's investigations suggest x is between 12 and 36, however some scholars find x to be much smaller, including some studies finding x < 0

Now, in my pre-2008 experience, I’d possibly be on board, debating the staleness/salmonella trade-offs. But then, two days after my birthday, something happened. Something big. And that was the New York Times’ cookie recipe.

See, the key is a giant cookie, big chocolate chips, and then there’s this:

Given the opportunity to riff on his cookie-making strategies, Mr. Rubin…lets the dough rest for 36 hours before baking…

To put the technique to the test, one batch of the cookie dough recipe given here was allowed to rest in the refrigerator. After 12, 24, and 36 hours, a portion was baked, each time on the same sheet pan, lined with the same nonstick sheet in the same oven at the same temperature.

At 12 hours, the dough had become drier and the baked cookies had a pleasant, if not slightly pale, complexion. The 24-hour mark is where things started getting interesting. The cookies browned more evenly and looked like handsomer, more tanned older brothers of the younger batch. The biggest difference, though, was flavor. The second batch was richer, with more bass notes of caramel and hints of toffee.

Going the full distance seemed to have the greatest impact. At 36 hours, the dough was significantly drier than the 12-hour batch; it crumbled a bit when poked but held together well when shaped. These cookies baked up the most evenly and were a deeper shade of brown than their predecessors. Surprisingly, they had an even richer, more sophisticated taste, with stronger toffee hints and a definite brown sugar presence. At an informal tasting, made up of a panel of self-described chipper fanatics, these mature cookies won, hands down.

Through careful empirical confirmatory experimentation, I’ve found that it’s a runaway by 36 hours:
Thus endeth the lesson.

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