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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Column: Taste tested

Raise your hand if you like cookies! Okay, put them down. Now, raise your hand if you think homemade cookies taste the best. Do you think you could taste the difference between a cookie made from scratch and a cookie made with prepackaged dough? Even in a blind taste test?

In an attempt to “answer” these questions I conducted a little survey. It was my hope to test and see if people could taste the difference between three types of cookies and pick out the homemade one out of the three. One cookie was made from prepackaged dry ingredients – all I added was eggs and butter. Another cookie was made from refrigerated prepackaged dough. The last cookie was made completely from scratch.

Having made all three kinds of cookies multiple times before, I knew they all looked very different. So to keep a bias from forming based on the look of the cookie, all taste testers were asked to close their eyes during the consumption of the cookies. After they ate the cookies each taste tester filled out a short survey.

In the survey they matched the cookie with its preparation style. Then they were asked how they determined the difference between each cookie. They were not asked which cookie they liked best, but a lot of them gave verbal responses.

My poll consisted of 20 people (I made more cookies, yet they mysteriously kept disappearing if I didn’t keep them in my sight at all times).

Of the 20 people, 11 people correctly identified the homemade cookie. The other nine participants were split almost equally, believing it was one of the other two cookies.

The packaged dry ingredients cookie threw the most people off. Only seven people correctly identified it. Eight people thought it was the homemade cookie, and five thought it was the “break-n-bake” cookie.

For the cookie made from the refrigerated prepackaged dough, the results were split down the middle. Ten people correctly identified it. Only one person thought it was the homemade cookie. Nine people thought it was the prepackaged dry ingredients cookie.

Almost every single person said that texture was the deciding factor between cookies (19 out of 20). Additionally, most people said that the prepackaged dry ingredients cookie tasted the best (before they knew which cookie was which).

I think this could be attributed to the fact that a little extra baking soda ended up in the homemade cookie, throwing off the flavor and texture a little bit. This didn’t seem to change their ability to discern which cookie was homemade, but left it a little less desirable than hoped. Yet, when asking for extra cookies, people usually went for the homemade cookie. This could be from knowing and simply wanting that which was homemade, which is what I believe to be a generally held preference.

Despite the fact that I wish my sample size had been a little larger, I am satisfied with the overall results of my experiment. Most people were able to determine which cookie was homemade (so all those bake sale cheaters out there are wasting your time, we know you didn’t make those by hand).

In case you were wondering, the most cost effective cookies were the refrigerated, ringing in around $2.50 for 24 cookies. The prepackaged dry ingredient cookies were around $2, but they’re not considered the most cost effective because they required eggs and butter, so if you didn’t already have some on hand your cost goes up.

I was able to get the chocolate chips on sale for $2, but if you factor in the cost of flour, sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt … you get the picture. And because time is money, cookies made from scratch also take longer to prepare than cookies you break apart from a square and place on a cookie sheet.

Another important factor to this experiment was the cookie dough. In a taste test conducted between my roommate and myself we decided that homemade cookie dough tastes the best. The next best dough was the refrigerated prepackaged dough. One reason the prepackaged dry ingredients dough was the least appealing was the preservative-y taste of the dough itself and hardness of the chocolate chips.

All in all, cookies are cookies. As long as they’re soft, they’ll be delicious. No one should ever complain when presented with free cookies.

If you get salmonella from all the cookie dough testing, let SABRINA VIGIL know how much you had to eat at svvigil@ucdavis.edu.


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