March 19, 2008

cookie taste test

is it cool enough to eat yet? ow! okay, how about now

So you're invited to a party and decide to make chocolate chip cookies because you are that nice.

What's the next step? Do you:

  1. Head to the store, buy a Toll House refrigerated log of awesomeness and eat half the unbaked cookie dough as you slice and bake your way to cheap, easy cookies?
  2. Stop by any supermarket to pick up your basic ingredients — eggs, butter, chocolate chips — in whatever brands that store carries (the cheaper, the better)?
  3. Go to several markets to buy high-end ingredients: gourmet chocolate chips, European-style butter, pure bourbon vanilla extract from a far-off land like Madagascar?

Here's why I'm asking. I'm an ingredient snob, loud and proud. I believe in the basic principle that good-quality ingredients add up to a better product. When I bring food to a party, it's as organic, high-end and homemade as I can make it. Invariably, I end up placing my fancypants baking creation/science experiment alongside a dish that looks like someone just took a bunch of stuff and let it melt all over a plate. And usually? People ooh and ahh equally over both dishes.

So it got me thinking. Am I wasting time, money and effort making my baking extravaganzas? I enlisted the always helpful, usually hungry Evite team to help me find out.

Here's how it all went down.

The test: I printed out the original Toll House cookie recipe and bought two sets of ingredients: what you'd find at any supermarket and a high-end equivalent (like imitation vanilla flavor and pure vanilla extract). And, of course, I bought a log. I baked everything according to the directions and brought it to work, setting the cookies out on identical plates. I told my coworkers there were three kinds of cookies and let them eat, guess which was which and comment on the look, flavor and texture.

The results: Decidedly mixed. There was no clear favorite, and very few people guessed correctly. The people who were used to the log seemed to like it best. Those who tended to eat high-end ingredients favored the expensive cookies. And people were pretty happy with the supermarket cookies too.

The conclusion: Know your audience. If you're cooking for foodies, splurge. And if you know people will be inhaling the cookies without even really chewing, skimp. Also, know yourself. If you like to bake and want to make something decadent, do it. But if time and money are tight, don't feel guilty if you skip a few steps or get the log.

More important conclusion: People love cookies. Bringing cookies to a party or work makes mouths happy. Are you reading this, friends and coworkers? Bake! More! Cookies!

Below are some of the comments Eviters had about the cookies I made. For every "yum!" there was a "bleah." But all of those cookies were gone pretty quickly.

Toll House refrigerated cookie dough
Look: Flatter than the others, looks store-bought.
Flavor: Most balanced flavor, not distinctive taste, a little dull, delish.
Texture: Chewy and gooey, smooth, soft.

Toll House cookie recipe, supermarket ingredients
Look: Puffy, thick, homemade but not as elegant.
Flavor: Buttery, too sweet with some aftertaste, kinda dry.
Texture: Dry, crumbly, bready, cake-like, light.

Toll House cookie recipe, high-end ingredients
Look: Homemade-looking, fluffy, more sheen.
Flavor: Buttery, heavy, spicy, bitter, a little salty.
Texture: Chewy, slight crunch, thick but crumbly.

Posted by Eva on March 19, 2008 in Food and Drink , Tips

Permalink | Comments (8)

8 responses to "cookie taste test"

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Fascinating! Yeah, it's amazing how much it depends on what a person is used to eating. ...Just like the stale Peeps, everyone likes different things.

I say, go with what matters to you. For instance, I'm fine with Tollhouse chocolate chips but I try to only buy milk from cows that aren't injected with hormones and that are grass-fed.

Eva, I applaud your ingredient snobbery. I just made a lemon granita for a dinner party last weekend with fresh Meyer lemons from the farmer's market, though I could have done it for a lot cheaper using ReaLemon juice from concentrate in the little plastic bottle or, heck, Crystal Light. But as Alice Waters says, good cooking starts with good shopping. And it's not solely about the taste, either. Even when I'm eating dessert, I want it to be made with pure ingredients, not a bunch of chemical flavors and additives that aren't good for your body or for the planet (how are these things made? should food come from a factory or from a nearby farm?). Feel free to bring your highfalutin, fancy-schmancy chocolate chip cookies to my house anytime!

Great experiment! It's so true - my non-foodie friends can't always see what I like so much about my more expensive and homemade food. They often like the cake mixes better.

I can't make chocolate chip cookies from scratch to save my life - and I've tried. My secret?? Trader Joe's individually frozen chocolate chip cookies. You decide the quantity, you bake them to order and you get that fresh out of the oven taste with delicious results! No one will know that they aren't homemade. Enjoy!

With my friends, I can feed them pretty much anything regardless. I would say there taste buds are at half mast. When it comes from me though, I really like to do stuff the old fashioned way and use the best stuff available. People eat up the cookies like they are going out of style!

This was fascinating. You should do other taste tests! I'm sure your coworkers would appreciate it.

I wrote about this blog post on Cupcake Project. Check it out here:

http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2008/04/my-favorite-chocolate-cream-cheese.html

You sound a lot like me. I'm a total chocolate chip cookie snob. The best recipe I've ever made is from top secretrecipes.com. It's the Double Tree Hotel choc. chip cookie with a few minor alterations. i usaully double the recipe. I omit the nuts, and I use 1 bag of Giradelli Semi-sweet chocolate chips and 2 bags of Guittard milk chocolate chips. I'm a firm believer that if you are going to eat a chocolate chip cookie, then there should be chocolate in every bite. I've tried other brands, but they are just not as good as Guittard. Enjoy.

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