What restricted cookies' spread?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

I have a cookie recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons of half-and-half. The other day I used fat-free half-and-half instead, and while the cookies tasted fine, they didn't spread like they normally do. What happened? The recipe also calls for one cup of butter.

It's doubtful that what's not in fat-free half-and-half was the culprit here, because 2 tablespoons of even full-fat half-and-half would add only a bit more fat to 1 cup of butter. Instead I would blame what is in fat-free half-and-half: nonfat milk, milk, corn-syrup solids and carrageen, among other ingredients.

Carrageen, derived from seaweed, is commonly used as a thickener and an emulsifier - it makes foods denser and prevents fat from separating out from a solution. I have a feeling that the carrageen did it.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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