Blog | Taste Test: Gluten-Free Chocolate Ch . . .
Taste Test: Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
May 9, 2013
As a community, we gathered again to taste test cookies! (So hard, right?) The lovely Sari from Tiny Tots Tearoom hosted the event. And we didn't just taste cookies. Oh no! We chatted about living gluten-free, local restaurants that offer gluten-free menus, and other stuff that only gluten-free folks understand.
I'll be hosting more of these events. I hope you can make it to the next one. Tickets (which are free!) go quickly so be sure to sign up as soon as the event is announced.
These brands are available throughout the United States or on-line.
No Homemade Cookies? Why?
Several folks knew that there's recipes for chocolate chip cookies cookies in both my Easy Gluten-Free Baking (my first cookbook) and How to Cook Gluten-Free (my second). They asked why I didn't include a homemade cookie in the taste test. Good question! I thought about this A LOT while organizing the event. In the end, I decided that taste tests will include only store bought items. Lots of gluten-free eaters don't bake. So I wanted try what's on the market. Home baking, as you know, is very different from store-bought. I didn't want to muddy the waters by including something home baked in the tasting.
We tasted blind, of course. Each cookie was sealed in small bag with a number attached. Since “palate fatigue” happens during taste tests, I asked folks NOT to eat the cookies in numerical order. Someone might have sampled the cookies in this order: 2, 4, 1, 5, 3, 6. While someone else might have tried 6, 1, 3, 4, 2, 4. This means that no cookie was favored over another.
We didn't chat about the cookies during the tasting to prevent biasing each other. Tasters rated the cookies on a scale of one to ten.
1. Tate's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Tasting Notes Thin and crisp, several tasters noted that they "wanted more" of these cookies. Tate's chocolate cookies are incredibly thin. How thin? The chocolate chips are sometimes thicker than the cookie. However, this didn't detract from the praise. One comment read, "Very thin! Very crunchy. Very YUMMY." Tasters also loved how homemade these cookies looked. "I could pass these off as my own" read one comment.
Also winning high praise was the buttery flavor and the vanilla and caramel notes in the cookie. One person wrote, "Before I bit into the cookie, I noticed how good it smelled! I detected a sweet, buttery aroma."
Made with a single flour (rice flour), one taster noted a slightly gritty texture but wasn't sure if "the cookies are gritty or just super crispy."
The only complaint one taster had was this: needs more chocolate chips.
We also talked about whether or not Tate's makes the Trader Joe's brand gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. I think they do. (Not insider knowledge! Just a guess.) And others agreed. What do you think?
Made by a local gluten-free bakery (but available for national shipment), the cookies from Saratoga Gluten-Free Goods were VERY different from Tate's cookies. These cookies were thick and chewy.
Based on the discussion after the tasting, I thought these cookies won the taste test--hands down. Coming in a mere 0.2 points behind Tate's, they almost did.
Tasters loved that these cookies were "absolutely loaded with chocolate chips" and "wonderfully soft." (All but one taster praised the soft texture in the tasting notes.) One person compared them to another local (non-gluten-free) chocolate chip cookie, "These remind me of Freihofer's chocolate chip cookies. If they were just a little smaller, they'd be just like them."
Homemade-style chocolate chip cookies seemed to be a favorite among the group. One person noted, "They taste homemade. I want to buy a box right now."
Made with a gluten-free flour blend that contains sorghum flour, one person noted that the cookies tasted "nutty" another, however, another said, "flavor is weird."
Falling more than two points behind Saratoga Gluten-Free Goods, Enjoy Life Crunchy Cookies received dueling feedback. Some people loved these cookies. Others did not.
One taster was shocked the cookies were dairy-free: they called the cookies "buttery" on both the rating sheet and in our discussion before realizing the cookies did not contain dairy. The crisp texture also earned praise. Someone mentioned that cookies were "crisp without being crumbly."
Several folks noted that for them the cookies were "too sweet" and didn't contain enough chocolate chips. Others didn't like the texture because they tasted "like semade cookies" and tasted "dry."
For me, the biggest surprise came when the brand of the cookies was revealed. Folks were shocked that the cookies were top eight allergen-free. One saying, "If I couldn't eat gluten-free, eggs, dairy, nuts, etc. I would be so thankful for these cookies. So thankful!"
Tasters enjoyed the "light texture" and "flavorful chocolate chips" from Kinnikinck. However, several people thought the cookies were "flavorless" and "way too sweet."
The cookies earned praise for the amount of chocolate chips each cookie contained. Throughout the tasting notes, it was easy to how these cookies earned a score of five. "Good but not great." "The cookies are missing the added kick." "I'd buy from the store. Not good but not bad."
When the brand was unveiled (after the tasting sheet was completed), one taster was shocked to see these cookies were Kinnikinck brand. One the tasting sheet, she'd noted that the cookies were "flavorless", yet she'd been buying Kinnikinck chocolate chip cookies for some time. I love how this showed that during a test test, you (usually) have no idea what brand you are tasting. Even when you've purchased the brand several times.
I first saw Lucy's cookies offered at Starbucks. Therefore, I was surprised to see how low they ranked among my tasters.
People did not like the "gluten-free flavor" or the "overpowering oat flavor." The cookies also lost points for their "dry biscuit"-like texture and the fact that "there is air over each chocolate chip."
Several tasters noted that the cookies were "dry and crumbly" and imagined that if the cookies were dunked in milk that they would "fall apart." (Note from Elizabeth: We did not test the cookies with milk. Comment read: "I bet if you dunked these in milk, they would fall apart.)
The lone sampler who gave these cookies high praise noted that the cookies "tasted buttery with a nice vanilla flavor." Interesting! Because the cookies are dairy-free.
I moderate the taste test but I don't taste the cookies. So I get to watch as folks taste and rate the cookies. At the time, I wasn't sure which cookie people were tasting but I KNEW there was one that no one liked. People scrunched up their faces at the first bite and most didn't finish their sample. When I tabulated the results, all was revealed: it was the Mi-Del Cookies.
Comments like "bland", "grainy", "AWFUL" and "would not buy" filled the tasting score sheet. Even though people didn't like the taste of the cookie, the also complained that the cookie was too small, calling it "small and visually unappealing."
As always, when folks don't like something, they are usually pretty funny about it. One taster wrote, "These aren't chocolate chip cookies. I don't even think they are cookies. The whatever it is turned to mush in my mouth. Cookies don't do that!"