You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. But plenty of people don't have time to make them from scratch. So we took a look at ways to whip up decent cookies and fill the kitchen with that fresh-from-the- oven smell without a lot of fuss.
There are two ways to go: A packaged mix to which you add ingredients or those refrigerated logs of morsel-studded dough. But would these cookies be any better than the already made cookies that you buy in a bag or box at the supermarket? And would they come close to tasting like a real homemade chocolate chip cookie?
We put three boxed mixes and five of the familiar refrigerator dough logs to the test, taking note of how the cookies looked when they came out of the oven, their taste and, with the mixes especially, how easy they were to concoct. Here are the sweet--and not so sweet--results.
NESTLE TOLL HOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH We'd tasted a few less-than-great cookies by the time we got to what turned out to be the Toll House plate, so it was a relief to bite into a cookie that not only looked like the real thing, but also tasted great too. Imagine that buttery, brown-sugar- and-vanilla taste of a real Toll House cookie, with almost no artificial flavor. Not quite the same as the real thing, but pretty close. (About $3 for 18-ounce log.) At most supermarkets.
PILLSBURY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH This was a perfectly respectable cookie, a tad too sweet but otherwise just fine. The directions say you can slice cookies off the log of dough, but that didn't work too well. Better to dig in with a teaspoon and drop the rounded dough onto the cookie sheet. (About $3 for 18-ounce log.) At most supermarkets.
SAFEWAY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH Ever gone a bit overboard with the baking powder or soda in a cookie recipe? These cookies had that somewhat odd taste, but were otherwise pretty good. Keep a careful eye on the oven with this one though; it's easy to overbake them, resulting in a cookie that's on the dry side. (About $3 for 18-ounce log.) Available at Safeway stores.
BETTY CROCKER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MIX Taste-wise this wasn't the worst cookie by far, but it just wasn't worth the time it took to make--especially given the confusing directions. You start by "mixing" softened margarine and an egg, which is a clumsy procedure at best. Plus, who wants to have to worry about leaving a stick of margarine out to soften? Aren't these mixes supposed to save time? (About $2.20 for 17.5-ounce mix.) Available at most supermarkets.
PILLSBURY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MIX All you add is water to this mix, so you can't fault it for difficulty. But, boy, does it produce an anemic-looking cookie--and one that tastes downright bad. (About $1.90 for 16.6-ounce mix.) Available at most supermarkets.
PILLSBURY ONE STEP COOKIE DOUGH Picture a tin pie plate covered with cookie dough and you get the picture. As promised, there's just one step involved in "making" this single giant cookie, but even that little bit of effort turns out to be wasted once you taste the final product. "Icky" was the most polite response our tasters came up with. (About $3.40 for one 11.4-ounce oversize cookie.) Available at most supermarkets.
PILLSBURY REDUCED FAT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH As with so many reduced-fat products, Pillsbury seems to have compensated for the lower fat by upping the sugar volume, resulting in one very, very sweet cookie. There's even a hint of mint tucked into all that sugar, resulting in a flavor that makes you think of toothpaste. (About $3 for 18-ounce log.) Available at most supermarkets.
WANDA'S DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MIX "This is why children run away from home," was one taster's reaction to a bite of this cookie, which was just plain dreadful. Wanda touts her "organically produced grain," but even the most ardent nature lover would have trouble finishing one of these hard little nuggets. (About $3.60 for 19.5-ounce mix.) Available at Fresh Fields.