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Consumer Reports mixes it up with cookie tests

May 13, 2009

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The KitchenAid Classic K45SS handled Consumer Reports’ tests for cookie-dough with ease.

The KitchenAid Classic K45SS handled Consumer Reports’ tests for cookie-dough with ease.

What does it take for a store-bought chocolate chip cookie to win high marks from Consumer Reports’-trained sensory panelists?

A top rated cookie is well-blended, flavorful and has a good chip-to-cookie ratio. CR recently unveiled two “Very Good” chocolate chip cookies: Health Valley’s Mini and Keebler Chips Deluxe Original.

CR tested 13 packaged chocolate-chip cookies. Health Valley’s cookies were slightly buttery, while the Keebler cookies were a little like shortbread and cost just 22 cents a serving, about half as much as their top competitor.

Nine other cookies were rated “Good,” including those from Great Value (Wal-mart), which cost just 7 cents per serving. The Great Value cookie tested by CR may differ from the cookies now available in stores (CR learned at press time that Wal-mart was reformulating this cookie). Other good cookies include Nabisco’s Chips Ahoy! Real Chocolate and Real Chocolate Reduced Fat (both will be made with different ingredients by this summer), Trader Joe’s Dress Circle Crispy Crunchy, Back to Nature Chocolate Chunk, Pepperidge Farm Nantucket Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Dark, Mrs. Fields Semi-Sweet, Newman’s Own Organics Champion Chip Cookies and Famous Amos Bite Size.

Price per serving runs the gamut from 7 cents a serving to 54 cents. CR found no taste benefit to going organic, noting a wide variation in quality among the three organic brands it tested: Health Valley, Newman’s Own and Archer Farms. The Archer Farms Organic Petite (Target) and Pamela’s Products Chunky Gourmet All Natural (wheat and gluten free) were rated “Fair.” CR gave these cookies low marks because they were bland, very dry and tasted slightly stale.

The right mixer for homemade cookies

For consumers who can’t live without homemade cookies, CR named two CR Best Buy stand mixers, the KitchenAid Classic and the Hamilton Beach Eclectrics.

Stand mixers are the go-to appliance for mixing big batches of cookie dough, as well as kneading bread dough and whipping cream until it’s light and airy. For a price, cooks can add attachments that transform a mixer into a grinder, ice-cream machine, or fresh-pasta maker.

CR recently tested 18 stand mixers that cost from $40 to $500, and found four that rose to the top in performance. Each of the four cost $300 or less, out-whipping the priciest of mixers. The KitchenAid Classic K45SS ($200) aced CR’s ratings and is a CR Best Buy. It handled CR’s tests for two-loaf bread-kneading, cookie-dough and whipped cream and meringue tests with ease. But it left some lumps in CR’s mashed potato test and was a bit noisier and heavier than other top mixers.

The Hamilton Beach Eclectrics 6322 ($180), also a CR Best Buy, was “Very Good” but not quite as adept at kneading bread as the KitchenAid. It has a 4-1/2-quart bowl, as does the Classic. Buy an extra bowl, for around $50, if you make two-step recipes, so you won’t have to stop between steps.

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