Cookie Tasting I – Oatmeal Cookies

I have a new found respect for test kitchens!  I honestly think that test kitchen work would be the perfect day job for me. Combining cooking and data analysis – that’s my two lives now … except I would actually care about the results of a recipe test!  I’ve had tasting parties in the past, but never ran a taste test on one item like this before.  The results were quite interesting! 

A giant THANK YOU to all that had to endure tasting and retasting seven kinds of oatmeal cookies! Anyone that’s up for Peanut Butter Cookies… that’s the next test in the works.  I’m only at recipe collection stage on that one, so it’ll be a while before tasting commences 🙂

On this tasting, I ended up having a panel of 10 tasters, an even split of men and women, ranging in age from late 20’s and up.  Tasting strategies differed among all ten, six of which I personally observed tasting: some people dug right in and started eating cookie #1, while others started in the middle of the pack of cookies and ate randomly; some people used their noses, some didn’t bother; some ate through all in one pass and never looked back, and others went back for tasting round 2 before scoring.  The remaining four testers actually taste tested together, and I wonder if that somehow skewed their results (Yes, this speaks volumes for the control freak in me who wasn’t personally observing!).  It’s amazing what people can pick up from those surrounding them – even if there’s no talking allowed.  I knew which cookies were winners and losers just by the expression on the tasters faces I observed.  Out of the ten testers, two stated outright that oatmeal cookies were not their favorite kind of cookie, so I expected their judging to be skewed towards the non-traditional oatmeal cookie, which it was.

Characteristics expected in an oatmeal cookie ranked as follows:

Chewy – 6 out of 10

Raisins – 6 out of 10

Nuts – 4 out of 10

Crisp – 3 out of 10

Spice – 2 out of 10

Soft – 2 out of 10

Chocolate Chips – 1 out of 10

I found that overall grading scores didn’t seem to match up perfectly to tester’s verbal comments, so in my final judging, I’ve tallied in overall scores, oatiness scores, visual appeal scores, and verbal comments.  I’ve also taken into account for the final judging, tasters who had a strong preference for or against a certain characteristic in oatmeal cookies and my two tasters who are not oatmeal cookie fans.

Winning Cookie for Overall Score: Chock Full of Crunchies from Great Cookies

Most Visually Appealing Cookie: Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie w/ Dried Cherries from Cook’s Illustrated

Least Visually Appealing Cookie: Chock Full of Crunchies

Most Oaty Cookie: TIE btwn Chock Full of Crunchies & Writer’s Block Oatmeal Cookies from Plenty

FINAL RESULT:In the end, after reading through everyone’s comments, I think that my personal favorite cookie would be the Writer’s Block Oatmeal Cookies from Plenty, albeit with a few minor spice adjustments to please the greater American palate.  My old oatmeal cookie recipe came in a respectable 2nd in overall score, but when I ask myself which cookie I personally would rather eat – I’m headed for the Writer’s Block cookies.  The Chock Full of Crunchies (secret ingredient – rice crispies!) was a favorite, but time and time again, people said it reminded them more of a coconut sugar cookie than an oatmeal cookie and scored last in visual appeal in this test.  I would definitely make them in an assorted cookie plate, but for someone ordering traditional oatmeal cookies – it’s all about oats, raisins (sorry raisin-phobes), chewiness, and a slight spice.  I’ve had a few clients rave about the winner of the most visually appealing cookie – (with an addition of sugared pecans that was not in this taste test) – and I call those “The Ultimate Oatmeal Cookies” … as the name suggests, it’st loaded with stuff, and I guess that’s not what these tasters were expecting.  Apparently anything other than raisins or cinnamon stirred up controversy.  Cherries, cardamom, chocolate, nuts, and coconut have their place in other cookies …. but not in oatmeal cookies I guess. 

I’ll make up a batch of the winning cookie to photograph and post tonight …. 🙂

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