Happy Valentine's Day

Roses are red, violet's are blue, I have baked a special valentine just for you! Valentine's Day is February 14th.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Do you feel that baking cookie cutouts with your child is too much work?
Better Homes and Gardens and Parents magazine have the solution: The virtual cookie .
Just follow the steps and your child will decorate their very own cookie without the fuss or mess. I still prefer the old fashioned way of spending time with your child and sharing in your yummy efforts. If you just don't have the time or energy, this may satisfy your little baker. At least until the taste test!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Survey: All About Cookies

All About Cookies

We want to write about it and need to know what you like about cookies. Please help us out. The survey is very short (only 4 multiple choice questions).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Search - Test #4

Taste Test # 4 - Canyon Ranch Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Wins!


*click link for recipe
Neiman Marcus (recipe, or close to original recipe, below) (#11)
* Click link for recipe

Results (16 reviewers - 10 adults, 6 children):
Nestle, Toll House cookie - 5 votes ( 2 children, 3 adults)
Neiman Marcus cookie - 5 votes ( 3 children, 2 adults)
Canyon Ranch - 6 votes (1 child, 5 adults)

Nestle, Toll House cookie did well, but I think I may have over mixed the dough and the cookie came out much thinner. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but it wasn't the typical Toll House texture. It may be the reason for its 2nd place status.
The Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie is jammed packed with "goodies" that make it a little heavier and full of texture in every bite. Of course, the oatmeal gives it a rougher edge. In this search and experiment, I am trying to keep true to the "chocolate chip" definition and hesitated to add additional ingredients, like the Hershey bar and nuts. Many times, the nuts are optional and I usually leave them out in order to maintain the integrity of the "chocolate chip" and determine if there could be a true winner regarding the type of chip used or substance and taste of dough ingredients. Unfortunately, this is supposed to be a famous Neiman Marcus cookie and it wouldn't be right to essentially change the cookie for the sake of my intentions. I followed the recipe and was surprised that many seem to like the additions to the cookie.
Canyon Ranch's cookie was a favorite of mine in this taste test. It seemed smoother and I really liked the way the recipe called for mixing the ingredients by hand, as opposed to using a mixer. It got me thinking if I over mixed the Toll House batch and that a good cookie dough may need a gentler touch. If you have the answer to this question, please comment and instruct me as to if mixing by hand will contribute to a better (fluffier?) cookie dough. Seeing that this recipe was a contribution through the health and spa facility, I wonder if it is really healthier than the others. I guess the use of canola oil, low-fat cream cheese, wheat flour and the use of egg yolks only does sound like it would be healthier, still without the nutritional facts, I'm not sold.
Neiman-Marcus Cookie Recipe (or close to original)
* Recipe may be halved
2 cups butter
24 oz. chocolate chips
4 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp. soda
2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 8 oz. Hershey bar (grated)
5 cups blended oatmeal
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice) I used combination of walnuts and pecans
Measure oatmeal, and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda. Add chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli), Hershey bar, and nuts. Roll into balls, and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.

Stay tuned for the next taste test. Contenders will be a very "famous" brand and a few ideas of my own.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Search - #3

Taste Test # 3 - Toll House Wins Again!!
Contenders (recipes are linked):
Results (13 Reviewers - 4 children, 9 adults)
Double Tree Hotel chocolate chip cookie (best rendition) - 3 votes (all adult)
Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie - 6 votes (3 children, 3 adults)
Jacques Torres' chocolate chip cookie - 4 votes (1 child, 3 adults)
Double Tree recipe: Chewier than Nestle Toll House cookies, this recipe gets props for staying power. I felt that the cookies tasted fresh, longer. With rolled oatmeal added to the recipe, the texture may not be for everyone. Though I can't be sure if the recipe is the exact one that the Double Tree Hotel actually uses, the cookie hits the spot when you are hanker'in for something sweet. Keep in mind the cookie is served warm at the hotel. During the taste test, all cookies were delivered within 24 hours of baking, but never warm. I'm not sure if that would sway the results. - 3 stars
Nestle Toll House recipe: Still the majority favorite. Though I love the taste, I don't think that the recipe does well staying fresh. In order to keep the integrity of the cookie from faltering, my suggestion is to make the cookie dough ahead, roll into golf-sized balls, place them in a air tight container and keep in the refrigerator. Just pop each ball on a baking sheet and bake them when you want a "fix". You get fresh cookies from a favorite recipe. Pop them in the oven before company comes over and look like a hero....Martha Stewart, move over!
Jacques Torres recipe: A little more complicated than the typical recipe, I personally think it is worth the effort. Cake and bread flour is used in place of all-purpose flour. Pillsbury makes cake flour (in a box down the baking aisle at your local grocery store, but not by the regular flour). The bread flour can be found next to the all-purpose flour. I think the cake flour gives the cookie the consistency that is lacking in Nestle's Toll House recipe. The cookie remains moist, not crunchy and the 60% cacao morsel just put me over the top....YUMMY. Ghirardelli makes a morsel to accommodate the recipe, though you can find the morsels used in the recipe at Whole Foods Markets (the information is included at the end). 3 1/2 stars. I loved it and may combine parts to use with Toll House. Hmmm, I wonder...
Taste Test #4 will add a "spa" and "shopping" experience into the mix. Can you guess what recipes are next?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taste Test #2 - Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Search

The chocolate chip cookie is said to be the most popular cookie in the United States. Nestle Toll house cookies are the "gold" standard in making chocolate chip cookies. My grandmother baked the recipe, and I decided to use it as the baseline for my search of the best chocolate chip cookie. Follow me in my quest. I will bake each recipe and distribute to my neighbors, family and friends for review. I am baking up the original recipes from the brands we know, seeking out some famous recipe favorites, then combining the results to see if I can find the best. It may end up that we already have it with our baseline, but it will be fun and yummy to find out.
Here are the results from Taste Test #2....
Nestle Toll house Chocolate Chip Cookie Wins!
The cookie recipes used in this taste test:
The results (14 reviews received)
Crisco chocolate chip cookie: 4 votes (2 adults, 2 children)
Nestle Toll house chocolate chip cookie: 9votes (6 adults, 3 children)
Land O Lakes chewy chocolate chip cookie: 1 vote (adult)
Personal Reviews:
Crisco chocolate chip cookie recipe - I didn't enjoy the texture on this cookie. Though it was chewy, the cookie flattened out as you baked it. Refrigerating the dough may help to keep the cookie looking a little plumper and limit spreading. I also didn't feel I added enough chocolate chips (as per the recipe). This is one of the possible flaw in every batch of dough, but after tasting and knowing the ingredients I added, I didn't think the recipe called for enough chocolate chips. If using this recipe again, I would add an additional cup of morsels. Due to the number of votes, I would rate it a 2 1/2 - 3 star cookie, but for me, it was my least favorite of the three options.
Nestle Toll house chocolate chip cookie - The old standard. They still seem to bake up crunchier than the other cookies, even if I limited baking time. What I love about these is the way they look after baking. Each cookie has a smooth surface on the top and inviting. They look like the Nestle Toll house pictures and I like that. The taste rarely lets me down, but I still think that there may be room for a little competition. You can't imagine what I have in store for the next round of taste testing.
Land O Lakes chocolate chip cookie - This cookie was very dense and "cakey". Though I liked it better than the Crisco cookie, it didn't out shine Toll house. This cookie baked up plump, but cracked on the top, similar to that of the Crisco cookie. What can I say? I don't like the cracks. The cookie's color was a nice buttery color and, visually, looked more pleasingly than the Crisco cookie. Still, only 1 voted for it and must be rated as such - 1 star (if that).
Taste test #3 coming soon....Look for some of the finest rated recipes tested and reviewed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Yum or Yuk? Doodles Cookies Review

Gluten free, double chocolate chip habanero cookie mix review

In expanding the area of gluten-free baking, I wanted to give readers a convenient option and decided to take a closer look into gluten-free cookie mixes. I reached out to a small company, featured in the most recent edition of Gourmet News, named Doodles Cookies. I wanted to review one of their (gluten-free) cookie mixes. As soon as I received my sample of gluten free double chocolate chip habanero cookie mix, I was excited to try them out. I am a bit of a chocoholic and the cookies looked yummy on the box.

Following the directions on the back of the box, I mixed the ingredients with my hands instead of a mixer. With plastic gloves on, I kneaded the margarine, vanilla, and egg into the previously poured out bag of cookie mix. In less time than you can say chewy chocolaty, chocolate chips, I had the batter ready for scooping. The preparation was extremely easy and great for a young child to help out with. Using a cookie scooper, each scoop was roughly the same in diameter. A slight press, on top of each scoop, allowed for a nice rounded cookie. I selected to keep the cookies baking for 9 minutes, then cooled them off on the cookie rack.

Review (Yum? or Yuk?):


Aside from myself, neighborhood and family reviewers consisted of 7 adults, 2 children (all said Yuk).

I truly feel bad about giving this review, but the fact is that the dried habanero pepper should not and does not belong with double chocolate chip. The texture of the cookie was great. It was chewy and the double chocolate chip part was satisfying. Unfortunately the zing from the dried habanero pepper worked its way to your taste buds way too fast, then left your mouth with quite a bit of a hot, spicy aftertaste. It just doesn't work and left you remembering the flavor that you most wanted to forget.

I didn't receive the "heart felt hug for my tummy" and wouldn't recommend this flavor (double chocolate chip habanero) of cookie mix. In fairness, I did not try the other mixes (chocolate chip, sugar cookie, and, nut free, nut butter) and suspect that they may be more satisfying to the palate because of the mainstream flavors. On the healthy meter, all of Doodles Cookies cookie mixes are made with organic ingredients.

Each box of cookie mix costs about $6.50/box. The company indicates that each serving size is 4 teaspoonfuls of the dry mix or 21 servings per container. What that actually equates to once the the cookies are baked is uncertain. I was able to bake up 15 cookies from the mixture equaling out to a cost of $.43/cookie.

About Doodles Cookies:
Started in 2008 by Deborah Sievers who is a 15 year veteran in baking delicious and healthy cookies. Based in Aurora, Illinois, Doodles Cookies decided to expand its organic cookie mixes to include a gluten-free(GF) variety to accommodate people turning to a GF diet. The products can be purchased directly through their website at http://www.doodlescookies.com/

What is gluten-free? As a consumer, it is important to educate yourself. A comprehensive video about gluten sensitivity and the meaning of gluten-free can be found at: http://www.glutenfreesociety.org/video-tutorial/gluten-sensitivity-what-is-it/

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taste Test #1 - Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Search

The search for the best chocolate chip cookie
(taste test #1)


The results are in for taste test #1:
(Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe vs. Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe)

Voters included myself, family and neighborhood families (12 adults, 7 children):

Cookie #1-Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie: 7 votes (4 children, 3 adults)
Cookie #2-Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookie: 4 votes (4 adults)
Cookie #3-Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie: 8 votes (3 children, 5 adults)

Each participant (other than myself) did not know the difference between all three cookies. In this case, it was the chocolate morsel and a slight variation of the recipe. Ghirardelli cookies contained less salt and more vanilla than the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe. The voters were given a set of the three cookies, freshly baked within 24 hours of distribution, wrapped and labeled with a number on each (#1 cookie was Ghirardelli milk chocolate morsel, #2 cookie was Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate morsel, and #3 cookie was the tollhouse morsel). After the tasting, I asked for a vote of their favorite out of the three. I also asked to differentiate themselves based on age group. I was curious to see if age has any impact on the decision.
It is becoming clear that taste testers have personal preferences for either milk vs. darker chocolate, chewy vs. crunchy, or salt vs. sweet. Understand the room for error in each cookie and the subsequent decision of the tester. Error #1- though I tried to bake each cookie in the oven for the exact amount of time, my oven temperature must fluctuate because some cookies were done in the 9 minutes and some needed to stay in a little longer because I didn't feel they were cooked enough. Add in the workings of my home, and the consistent yells from other rooms asking for help at the exact time the timer is going off, and some cookies were crunchier than others. I will say that the chewiness or crunchiness of the cookie is completely based on the baking time; want chewy, bake for less time and vice versa...crunchy, more time. Error #2 - the amount of chocolate morsels in each cookie. It is the luck of the draw when scooping out each tablespoon of cookie dough and the amount of morsels that ultimately end up in each cookie. There is a possibility that some testers were jipped of morsels in a cookie which may have effected their vote or preference.
My opinion: I am unclear as to weather any batch was better than the other. I really feel the Ghirardelli chocolate morsels (milk or semi-sweet) are a much smoother chocolate than the Nestle Tollhouse brand. The cookie dough recipe in each had their own strengths and weaknesses. I felt the Tollhouse cookie dough was a bit grainier and had more crunch (regardless of baking time). The thing is, many of the voters really enjoyed the saltiness of the Tollhouse cookie dough and felt it was a great distribution of salty and sweet...something many of us do enjoy. The Ghirardelli cookie dough was sweeter. With the extra pinch of vanilla extract, it could satisfy any sweet tooth.
Verdict: Nestle Tollhouse wins this round, but by a hair
Tasty Tips:
  • salty/sweet lover = Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie
  • chocolate connoisseur = Ghirardelli milk chocolate

  • sweet tooth = Ghirardelli (milk or semi-sweet) chocolate chip cookie

  • dark chocolate lover = Ghirardelli semi-sweet) chocolate chip cookie

  • chewy = all of the above, just bake less time

  • crunchy = all of the above, bake for more time

Award Winning Cookie Cutter and Kit