Published April 1, 2005. From Cook's Country.
To determine if we could cheat and buy ready-to-bake cookie dough, we baked up cookies from homemade dough, cookie dough sold in the traditional log shape, and the new dough bars.
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.