Have you ever had a food you love betray you when the manufacturer changed the recipe? Have you ever had an attempt to satisfy a craving turn your mouth into an uncanny valley of flavor?
The writers of Unwholesome Foods grew up with Samoas as one of the most popular Girl Scout Cookies around. When we moved to Boston, we were distrubed to find Caramel Delights. Had rebranding killed our childhood friend forever?
In time we realized that Samoas were still out there. We’d just moved from regions supplied by Little Brownie Bakers to a region supplied by ABC Bakers. Then we had another revelation. New Hampshire is supplied by Little Brownie Bakers, and it’s less than an hour drive away! It was the perfect chance to find out if Samoas are really better than Caramel Delights, or if our love for them came only from nostalgia.
Beth merrily drove off to New Hampshire, only to return disappointed after the cashiers at the grocery store she visited told her the Cookie Locator website had told her the wrong date for the sale at that store. Cookie month was almost over, and the chance at chocolate-coated cookie happiness was fading away. Then a coworker from New Hampshire saved the day, and Cookie Science could begin.
Beth removed each package of cookies from its box and labeled the wrapping with a symbol so the taste testers wouldn’t know which cookie went with which brand name. She had herself blindfolded and fed cookies by an assistant when making her own analysis.
In all, 3 pairs of cookie varieties were compared by 7 participants, with unexpected results.
Caramel Delights (ABC Bakers) overwhelmingly beat Samoas (Little Brownie Bakers). Tasters repeatedly cited the chewy texture of the Caramel Delight as the basis for their choice. The Samoas were more chocolaty (with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate drizzle) and they had a more intense coconut flavor, but they had little caramel taste and were dry.
Tag-a-Longs (Little Brownie Bakers) overwhelmingly beat Peanut Butter Patties (ABC Bakers). Their peanut butter and chocolate were both creamier, and the cookie was crisp without seeming dried out.
Thin Mints were too close to call. The Little Brownie Bakers cookies had a slightly crispier texture, but the ABC cookies were a little mintier.
Beth conducted a follow up study with 5 new tasters a week later, with nearly identical results. (Although this time, one person prioritized the Samoas’ superior chocolate-coconut flavor over the chewy texture of the Caramel Delights.)
In the end we were forced to admit that our childhood bakery was not necessarily better than the other one. Each bakery has its own strengths and weaknesses. We’ll be happier next year when we see Caramel Delights on the streets of Boston, and we’ll definitely make another trip to the land of Live Free or Die in order to stock up on Tag-a-Longs.
Next year also means Round II of our cookie showdown: Trefoils vs. Shortbreads and Do-si-dos vs. Peanut Butter Sandwiches