Taste Test: Chocolate chip cookies

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Last Saturday night, as expectations ran high and the drama was palpable, one shining moment was held in the balance.

Inevitably, a potential Cinderella attended the Big Dance, making everyone wonder if the glass slipper would fit. Also there was an obvious "overdog" with a long history of excellence, and that one would be hard to beat. Filling in the remainder of the Final Four bracket were two contenders that looked good on paper, but you never know how competitors will perform until the heat gets turned up.

Actually I'm not talking about basketball, I'm talking about cookies.

Relatedly, how much more convenient can convenience foods get? Perhaps the answer can be found in another question: how much more lazy can humans get? Because the latest generation of buy-and-bake chocolate chip cookies appearing on store shelves apparently hopes to eradicate the alleged hardship involved in slicing cookies from a log of pre-made dough.

Thus, with these minimally challenging models, you need only toss already-portioned-out raw cookie chunks into the oven, bake, and then ostensibly enjoy. But how would they taste?

In last Saturday's Chocolate Chip Cookie Tournament, I rounded up some seasoned palates to chew on a few of these "no slicing required" varieties. Specifically, I pitted a generic store brand against two big-claim-making national players, whipped up my own homemade "control" batch of real-deal Toll-Houses, then let the chips fall where they may. Here's how the cookies crumbled.

Giant Eagle Sweet Breaks

Price: $2.60/Two dozen cookies

Testers found these seriously crispy cookies to have the least authentic flavors of the bunch. Mostly they just tasted artificially sweet and boring. Ergo, their marginally lower price tag didn't nearly offset their pronounced deficits - in other words, no Cinderella story upset for this underdog.

Simply ... Chocolate Chip Cookies

Price: $3.40/One dozen cookies

Pillsbury's "0g trans-fat, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives" entry was the most expensive of the group. Tellingly, the wholesome ingredients pictured on the package did not include butter. Overall, tasters found these super-chewy, mildly vanilla-flavored Pillsbury cookies to be simply ... bland.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip

Price: $3/Two dozen cookies

The trademarked Toll House recipe in pre-made form scored well enough with tasters to secure a strong runner-up spot. They were buttery, had a pleasant chewy-to-crispy ratio, and sported a good amount of chips. Furthermore, a couple of tasters detected an impressive caramel aspect to them, and one even deemed them "binge worthy."

Homemade Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip

Price: Roughly $6 (plus mixing, baking, cleanup time)/Four to five dozen cookies

A bag of Nestle's Toll House morsels provided the recipe and chips for this one, but we supplied the labor. All that measuring, beating, portioning, baking and cleanup resulted in caramelly, densely textured and deeply flavored cookies. In our contest, these were like the UConn women's basketball team - simply unbeatable. Sometimes an overdog is an overdog because it's a whole lot better.

Spot a new supermarket specialty you'd like Taste Test to try? E-mail gbenton@columbusalive.com