Heads Up: There are absolutely zero marketing tip, digital tricks or how-to’s in this blog post. However, if you love food, particularly chocolate chip cookies, need a cheap date idea, or just want to see content marketing at play, pour yourself a big o’ glass of milk and let’s roll….
In case you’re wondering what kind of person does a cookie experiment, let me set the scene into the type of person I am...
One time, my place of employment ordered in lunch for a meeting and we had a ton of cookies leftover. Every time I went to the kitchen I would nibble on a cookie and after consuming about four, I took matters into my own hands. I threw the entire lot into the trash. It was a selfless act to save the entire company form their sugar devil.
The problem was, it didn’t stop my sugar devil from telling me to go into the trash and eat a cookie. I WENT INTO THE TRASH AND I ATE A TRASH COOKIE.
It was then, and only then, that I realized the only logical solution to stop this madness was pouring dishwasher soup over the trash can full of cookies.
And that, my friends, is why I’ll never try Methamphetamine.
I recently enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie at BakeSale Betty (best known for her chicky sangie but this broad can bake a mean cookie) and since then, I have not been able to scratch that delicious itch. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), BakeSale Betty is in Oakland - a good hour long drive from where I live in Napa Valley. And so my mission to find the best chocolate chip cookie in Napa ensued.
Living in one of the food meccas of the US, I decided to conduct a little chocolate chip cookie experiment to see who made the best cookie in my neighborhood. Would I find the BakeSale Betty of Napa? Would this itch for the perfect cookie finally be scratched?! Doing this cookie experiment was kind of like when you have an upcoming vacation. All the researching and planning - all the anticipation - can be every bit as exciting as the vacation itself. Compiling the list of bakeries, driving to all of the shops, and exercising some of the best will power I have ever had, were every bit as fun as the tasting itself.
And since sharing is caring, I thought I’d share my process so that you too can conduct a cookie experiment in your hood. 5 Steps to Conducting a Cookie Experiment
Identify 4-6 bakeries in your town that make chocolate chip cookies; Optional: If you’re a baker, bake homemade cookies. I suggest a recipe below!
Go to each bakery and order one chocolate chip cookie;
Patiently wait all day to do the experiment;
Try a piece of each cookie, leaving at least half of it to come back for a “revisit”*;
Enjoy a sleepless night because you are cracked out on sugar.
Here are the 5 Napa chocolate chip cookies we tried, in order of deliciousness:
Best knows for their buttery english muffins (Oprah’s Favorite!), Model does pretty much everything to perfection. To quote Andrew, “You could easily eat 100 of these.” Fortunately, we only had one on hand.
If you like chocolate this cookie is for you. This thing was literally the size of a small baby head and it was freaking delicious. And if you’re into the whole edible cookie dough thang, they have about 15 edible cookie dough flavors…
Bouchon is part of the Thomas Keller Restaurant group which essential means they aren’t Fing around. They are best known for their French pastries and breads and their chocolate chip cookie was good but not mind-blowing. Sorry, Tommy.
Going off pure looks alone, you might pass this puppy up. But at 60 cents, it’s a solid cookie and reminded us of a grocery store bakery cookie. But if you’re going to Buttercream, I’d recommend sticking with their donuts, particularly their maple bar. And the blueberry fritter. Recognize the and not the or in that sentence...
Southside is one of my favorite “fast casual” spots but I’d focus on their other food options like the protein bowl and avocado toast and leave the cookies to the other folks on this list.
Some final tips/learnings:
Six cookies for two people was a tad aggressive. These were some dense cookies so if you can only find 4 bakeries, you’ll be alright.
If you live in Napa or are from Napa you’re probably angry that I missed a bakery or two. I hear you. ABC bakery cookies don't do it for me; I completely dropped the ball on one of my all time favorites, Annie’s; and I was too lazy to drive to St. Helena for the Farmstead cookie. Who else am I missing?!
If chocolate chip cookies ain’t your thang (weirdo) you could totally take this concept and do it with: pizza, scones, donuts, croissants, brownies, carrot cake, or tacos. I’ll keep you posted on when my episode of My 600 Pound Life, finally airs….
Spoiler alert: I did not find the BakeSale Betty of Napa and because of its addictive surgery attributes, my itch was not totally scratched. The experiment however, was a total blast and, most importantly, it inspired me to do what I always do when I can’t find exactly what I want: do it my damn self!
I have tried a dozen chocolate chip cookie recipes and this one, by Sarah Kieffer, is by far the best. You have to bang the crap out of them every couple of minutes (I’ll explain below!) but it’s totally worth the extra work. Here’s the recipe:
(Pan-Banging) Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 10 giant cookies
2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks; 227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (297 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50 g) packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bite-size pieces averaging ½ inch with some smaller and some larger
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil, dull side up.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and water and mix on low to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate and mix on low into the batter.
Form the dough into 3½-ounce (100g) balls (a heaping 1/3 cup each - which feels absurd but trust me). Place 4 balls an equal distance apart on a prepared pan and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. After you put the first baking sheet in the oven, put the second one in the freezer.
Place the chilled baking sheet in the oven and bake 10 minutes, until the cookies are puffed slightly in the center. Take the baking sheet out, lift the side of the baking sheet up about 4 inches and gently let it drop down against the counter, so the edges of the cookies set and the inside falls back down (this will feel wrong, but go with it). After the cookies puff up again in 2 minutes, repeat lifting and dropping the pan. Repeat a few more times to create ridges around the edge of the cookie. Bake 16 to 18 minutes total, until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden brown but the centers are much lighter and not fully cooked.
Wrapping Up Sometimes it’s fun to just let your inner fat kid run free. It was such a fun date night and made us feel closer to our community in some weird, cracked out on sugar, kind of way. Have a favorite chocolate chip cookie in your town? I’d love to add it to my food bucket list (yes, I have a food bucket list, but I think we can all agree that I've been very upfront with my fat kid ways). Please drop it in the comments below!
*Revisit - A rather pretentious wine tasting term used when you basically want to try a wine again, but don’t want to sound like a hillbilly and ask for another sample. “I’d like to revisit x wine, please” makes you sound classy AF. Even though you potentially have cheese in your hair and left your zipper down after the bathroom again… hillbilly.
About the Author: Founder. Dreamer. Master of None. It's been 9 years since Jules has been paying off her Masters Degree in Social Work loans—zero years of which have involved doing actual Social Work. Instead, she's built a career decoding the puzzle that is the internet and digital marketing. Experienced. Humble. Often burned by auto-correct. Jules created Rolling Hills Media so she could write her own rules and to help brands do the same.