is it cool enough to eat yet? ow! okay, how about now

So you’re invited to a party and decide to make chocolate chip cookies because you are that nice.

What’s the next step? Do you:

  1. Head to the store, buy a Toll House refrigerated log of awesomeness and eat half the unbaked cookie dough as you slice and bake your way to cheap, easy cookies?
  2. Stop by any supermarket to pick up your basic ingredients — eggs, butter, chocolate chips — in whatever brands that store carries (the cheaper, the better)?
  3. Go to several markets to buy high-end ingredients: gourmet chocolate chips, European-style butter, pure bourbon vanilla extract from a far-off land like Madagascar?

Here’s why I’m asking. I’m an ingredient snob, loud and proud. I believe in the basic principle that good-quality ingredients add up to a better product. When I bring food to a party, it’s as organic, high-end and homemade as I can make it. Invariably, I end up placing my fancypants baking creation/science experiment alongside a dish that looks like someone just took a bunch of stuff and let it melt all over a plate. And usually? People ooh and ahh equally over both dishes.

So it got me thinking. Am I wasting time, money and effort making my baking extravaganzas? I enlisted the always helpful, usually hungry Evite team to help me find out.

Here’s how it all went down.

The test: I printed out the original

Toll House cookie recipe and bought two sets of ingredients: what you’d find at any supermarket and a high-end equivalent (like imitation vanilla flavor and pure vanilla extract). And, of course, I bought a log. I baked everything according to the directions and brought it to work, setting the cookies out on identical plates. I told my coworkers there were three kinds of cookies and let them eat, guess which was which and comment on the look, flavor and texture.

The results: Decidedly mixed. There was no clear favorite, and very few people guessed correctly. The people who were used to the log seemed to like it best. Those who tended to eat high-end ingredients favored the expensive cookies. And people were pretty happy with the supermarket cookies too.

The conclusion: Know your audience. If you’re cooking for foodies, splurge. And if you know people will be inhaling the cookies without even really chewing, skimp. Also, know yourself. If you like to bake and want to make something decadent, do it. But if time and money are tight, don’t feel guilty if you skip a few steps or get the log.

More important conclusion: People love cookies. Bringing cookies to a party or work makes mouths happy. Are you reading this, friends and coworkers? Bake! More! Cookies!

Below are some of the comments Eviters had about the cookies I made. For every "yum!" there was a "bleah." But all of those cookies were gone pretty quickly.

Toll House refrigerated cookie dough
Look: Flatter than the others, looks store-bought.
Flavor: Most balanced flavor, not distinctive taste, a little dull, delish.
Texture: Chewy and gooey, smooth, soft.

Toll House cookie recipe, supermarket ingredients
Look: Puffy, thick, homemade but not as elegant.
Flavor: Buttery, too sweet with some aftertaste, kinda dry.
Texture: Dry, crumbly, bready, cake-like, light.

Toll House cookie recipe, high-end ingredients
Look: Homemade-looking, fluffy, more sheen.
Flavor: Buttery, heavy, spicy, bitter, a little salty.
Texture: Chewy, slight crunch, thick but crumbly.