As soon as I saw the pyramid of cookie mix tins, shining like so many buckets in the sandbox, I sighed. I knew I would inevitably buy at least one of the new cookie mixes at Williams Sonoma, despite the All-Natural Cupcake Debacle being still oh-so-fresh in my mind.
At least this time I was less shocked by the $18.95 per mix price tag—if my hand still wavered as I handed over the cash. And my thinking was this: this five set cookie mix series is coming hot on the heels of those all-natural cupcakes, so clearly people must be buying them. And if people are buying the mixes, and by that I mean shelling out money that one might say would be better spent on this swanky fruit muddler, then maybe, just maybe, I've had bad luck in past and picked the weakest mixes of the bunch.
There are 5 new mixes: Ranger Cookies, Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Chocolate Marshmallow Crinkles, Sugar Cookies, and Gluten-free Sugar Cookies. In an attempt to fool the universe, I forewent my first choice (Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies) and even my second (Marshmallow Crinkles) and went for Ranger Cookies.
The first thing I noticed was that the tin is enormous, which was both encouraging and puzzling. I hoped it meant that I had just paid for 1/2 lb bags of raisins, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and other assorted Ranger Cookie mix-ins. But upon opening, it became clear that it was actually just a giant, pretty package for two average sized plastic packets of mix, and I urge you all to save your leftover tins and send them to the charity I'm starting called Children in Need of Sandbox Buckets. (Shovels also accepted.)
In addition to the packets, the cookies require one egg and 3/4 a stick of butter. And here we come to my first major problem with the mix: it requires creaming the spiced-sugar mixture and the butter. I've expressed my issues with this before, but for those new to my rantings, here is my argument in a nutshell: The most annoying part of any baking process is creaming the butter and sugar which a) requires the foresight to leave the butter out to get to room temperature, which itself goes against the whole on-the-spot baking theory of a mix and b) uses arm power and generally denies me the laziness I hope to nurture by using a mix.
But including this step is clearly just how Williams Sonoma wants to roll, so I decided to let it go. Instead, I focused on how freaking delicious that sugar-spice mixture smells; like vanilla, cinnamon, doughnuts, and childhood all wrapped up into one. The next step is to beat in the egg, and finally the flour mixture, which also contains the requisite Ranger cookie add-ins (Or does it? More on that later.)
Having denied myself any anger towards having to cream the butter and sugar, I let myself freak out over what happened next. Scoop the dough into 12 cookies. 12 cookies? I reread the instructions. I looked down at my bowl. There was so much dough. How was that possible? Well it was, resulting in what my handy calculator tells me is $1.58 (not including labor) per cookie.
At least these cookies bake up huge. They're those kind of oversized three-in-one cookies that are mouth watering to look at and fun to eat. Anyone would be excited to pull these out of the oven, and any kid would jump for joy to be on the receiving end.
If you didn't tell them that they're supposed to be Ranger Cookies. Or if you don't have preternaturally epicurean children who know that a Ranger cookie is a chocolate chip raisin cookie made with oats, cornflakes, and coconut. But these days, I don't take that for granted.
Because I didn't taste coconut. I felt an odd chew here or there, but saw no discernible flakes. I tasted raisins, which were exceptionally big, plump, and full of flavor. But, as Robyn would say, WHERE ARE MAH CHIPS? And Corn Flakes, are you there? I'll take a knock-off cereal. Corn Fakes will do. Just give me a little sweet crunch.
I'd wager a guess that these facts alone are enough deter most people from buying this mix. But in case you're interested, I didn't care for the texture, which was on the stiff side of chewy, similar to Archway Oatmeal Cookies. (Note: I know this last detail is a purely personal preference because those are my father's favorite supermarket cookies of all time.)
I'll admit that after all this I'm still curious about the other 4 mixes. I'll happily shop at Williams Sonoma for other things, items that fall into Cookware and Kitchen Decor. For some reason it's hard for me to believe that a store with otherwise good quality (if at a price) makes such terrible mixes.
Has anyone tried the others? What did you think? Is there hope?About the author: Carrie Vasios is the editor of Serious Eats: Sweets. She likes to peruse her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar. You can follow her on Twitter @carrievasios