Ready-to-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nothing beats a good homemade cookie straight from the oven, right? Or can you cheat and buy ready-to-bake cookie dough? To find out if our tasters could tell the difference, we baked up three batches of cookies: one homemade recipe taken from the back of a bag of semisweet chips; one refrigerator dough sold in the traditional log shape; and one from a new product sold as a dough bar. No need to slice or measure the dough—it’s already been cut into individual pieces. Just break off as many as you like and bake.
Our results were, well, surprising: The homemade batch didn’t win? It seems that when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, the number of chips per cookie is what counts. Both types of ready-to-bake cookies were chock full of tiny chips, and one (the winner) had more chips than our homemade cookies. While tasters praised the homemade cookies for being light and chewy and having great butterscotch flavor, they criticized their sparse dotting of chips. Granted, the chips were larger than those in the ready-to-bake doughs, but tasters wanted more chocolate bite-for-bite. Of course, this problem can be easily remedied by adding more chips or by switching to the mini-chips used in the other doughs.
Of the two types of ready-to-bake cookies, the slice-and-bake (or more accurately, scoop and bake, from a log of dough) won not only for having the most chips but also for their more natural, craggy appearance. (Because the soft dough is hard to slice, the cookies look better if you scoop the dough.) The break-and-bake cookies were a little too flat and uniform to suggest homemade.
How much does the convenience of ready-made dough cost? The break-and-bake cookies and the slice-and-bake cookies each cost $3.59 and give you between 20 and 24 cookies (made from 18 ounces of dough). The ingredients for our homemade cookies cost about $4.50, but the recipe makes at least four dozen cookies—certainly a better value.
If extra money (and artificial ingredients) are not a deterrent, the log of prepared cookie dough (not the break-and-bake variety) is your best bet. Personally, we’d rather save some money and make our own cookies. We’ll just add more chips next time.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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