I had to make some chocolate chip cookies to bring to a function recently and decided to try a little experiment for fun.
I made one batch completely from scratch, using the Nestlé Toll House recipe on the back of the package of semisweet morsels, and the other from a pouch of Betty Crocker mix, which contains pre-measured dry ingredients.
Before going to the party, I held an unscientific taste test with a highly qualified panel of judges: eight newly minted high school freshmen still giddy with excitement from finishing eighth grade and ravenously hungry after a day of celebrating their new status.
Before the results, a word first about the preparation. The homemade cookies take about five to 10 minutes longer to prepare, namely because of the need to cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer and to measure and mix the dry ingredients separately.
The Betty Crocker mix calls only for the addition of one egg and a softened stick of butter, which can easily be stirred with a wooden spoon in a couple of minutes.
Otherwise, there wasn’t much difference in terms of mixing the dough.
Likewise, they were equally easy to work with when dropping them onto the cookie sheet in rounded spoonfuls.
In terms of bake time, again, they were equal. Both cooked up well in about 10 or 12 minutes and were easy to remove from the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. I noticed the homemade cookies tended to brown a little more quickly around the edges, but that may have been a function of the lower oven rack.
Their appearance, as you can see from the photos, at left, were similar. The homemade cookies had a smoother appearance, while the Betty Crocker brand were chunkier looking, though there was no nuts or oatmeal in the dough.
When it came time for the taste test, I kept the identity of the two plates hidden, so as not to prejudice the judges. I thought it might be a close contest, all other things being equal, and secretly hoped they’d favor the cookies I’d made from scratch.
But it wasn’t even close. The Betty Crocker cookies won handily, by a vote of 7-1.
I intended to bring both plates of cookies to the party to let a more diverse group sample them and weigh in but by the time I’d finished uploading the images from my camera, my judges had finished the entire plate of Betty Crocker cookies, ending the contest prematurely.
The moral of the story depends on the extent to which you put stock in teenagers’ taste buds. But if these kids are representative of most of the cookie-consuming population, then you may be better off saving the time and trouble of making cookies from scratch and taking a short cut that not only won’t be noticed but will be preferred.
Here’s what the judges said in a blind tasting comparing Cookie “A,” made from Betty Crocker mix, and Cookie “B,” which was made completely from scratch using the Nestlé Toll House cookie recipe.
COOKIE A, FAVORED 7-1:
??“Much chewier and sweeter.”
??“Sweeter and not as much butter.”
? “Both good but A is better.”
??“I like them both. I could eat two of Cookie B, but I’d eat 20 of Cookie A.”
??“It’s softer … and not as hard and buttery.”
??“Good but too hard.”
??“Good but buttery and not as sweet.”
??“I like it better because it’s more buttery.”