A few weeks ago, my Cup of Jo coworker Maureen shared a pro tip with the rest of us…
When people come over for dinner, Maureen slips in a batch of supermarket slice-and-bake (also called “break-apart”) cookie dough while her guests are wrapping up their meal, then serves everyone freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with milk for dessert. “Everyone loves warm cookies,” she pointed out. Best of all, Maureen says, she just plunks down the plate of cookies before even clearing the table. That way, no one feels compelled to get up and help, and it takes the formality out of serving a capital-D Dessert Course. It also cuts back on the dishwashing. As she says, “Who wants to load a whole set of dessert bowls and spoons into your already full dishwasher?”
A woman after my own practical heart! I loved this idea and decided it was just the excuse we needed to figure out the best supermarket brand refrigerated cookie dough. I began collecting the ones that showed up most often in my shopping exploits (pictured above) and invited some experts over to my house to help name a winner — for flavor, for texture, for warm-and-fuzzy-memory-making potential, you know, all the normal variables when dealing with cookies right out of the oven.
You might recognize those experts! Joanna’s boys, 12-year-old Toby and 9-year-old Anton, suffered through an excruciatingly long dinner with the grown-ups and finally got to sit down with the contenders. Because we are good parents, we decided it was unfair to leave all the hard work to them, so a couple of the adults (Joanna and my husband, Andy) joined them in the tasting.
But first, the highly rigorous methodology! As always, the taste test was blind — no one except me knew which cookie was which — but everyone weighed in on the same cookie at the same time, which probably means that the science of social pressure was in play a teeny tiny bit? Either way, it was an opinionated and authoritative group of eaters — they rarely needed more than a bite before offering confident feedback, chasing everything down with cold milk, then revisiting bites if necessary for comparison. I took an audio recording of the commentary and determined the top two that garnered the best reviews for the finals. Here’s what they said about each one. (Prices are rounded to the nearest dollar.)
1. Pillsbury Ready to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ($5 for 24 cookies) Purely on sight, Toby decided one looked “the worst,” but changed his mind shortly after taking his first bite. “Very buttery,” he said. “And the dough crushes the chocolate, which is what I like.” (Translation: He liked that the chocolate didn’t overpower the dough.) There is still plenty of chocolate, you just can’t see it until you flip it over, which is probably why it garnered low marks for the visuals. Other analysis: “Got a good crunch,” said Andy. “Overall, a very solid cookie.”
2. Stop & Shop Break’n Bake Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip ($4 for 12 cookies) “Oh, yeah,” said Andy. “That is real good.” Definitely “crunchy-crispy,” agreed Joanna, even though she initially observed that it “looks wheaty.” Overall, we agreed that this one was the least artificial of the bunch, almost tasting homemade. “The chocolate is very good,” declared Anton.
3. Nestlé Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bar ($4 for 24 cookies) I had high hopes for this one because it’s Maureen’s go-to and also because it’s an iconic brand, but almost immediately the critiques came pouring in: “Not my thing,” said Andy. “No taste,” said Joanna. “Actually,” she said, “I take that back, it tastes sorta…gassy, like when the stove is left on.” Everyone commented on the dryness and Toby went in hard, giving it a “negative zero out of ten.”
4. Sweet Loren’s Chocolate Chunk Gluten Free Cookie Dough ($7 for 12 cookies) The only gluten-free option of the bunch (“It looks gluten free” — Andy; “It looks healthy” — Joanna), this one tasted “like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” said Toby and “like a piece of sweet toast,” said Anton. We all guzzled our milk after a single bite because of its dry and cakey texture, and also its aftertaste which was “persistent” and “really not great,” according to Andy.
5. Annie’s Organic Chocolate Chunk Cookie & Share Dough ($5 for 12 cookies) “Anton, you didn’t even finish this one,” observed Joanna. “That itself is a bold statement!” Indeed, this one was criticized all around for our “chalky” and “sandy” and “dusty” experience eating it.” I was surprised because I have long been a fan of Annie’s products.
Based on a complex auditory data breakdown of the oooohs and ahhhhh on my recording, we determined that the last three were, “meh” (sorry to be so academic). The Pillsbury (shown here) and the Stop & Shop generic brand were by far the best — especially Stop & Shop which tasted homemade. I feel certain you all have opinions on this, so please do share!