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[Photographs: Erin Jackson]

For those of you who hit up soup and sandwich spot Panera for lunch, you may have noticed that they have a brand new baked item: Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies ($2.09 each). According to the Panera website, it's a "brownie-like" treat with a toned-down chocolate flavor, cream cheese chunks, and a deep red color. The head baker, Tom Gumpel, even goes so far as to call it "the perfect cookie"—pretty high praise.

Unfortunately, despite spending a few years developing the recipe, it's just not a well-executed cookie. The chocolate flavor is too mild to register and the cream cheese chunks don't deliver any tang. The handful of chips in the cookie I tried tasted more like a dull white chocolate. The end result is a shockingly red cookie that tastes like confectioners sugar, with a slightly metallic, artificial tinge, which I'm guessing is the food coloring.

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It's not all bad—one thing the bread-focused chain nailed is the moist, barely-baked texture, which truly is brownie-like. Amp up the chocolate, ditch the dye, triple the amount of chips, and they could really have something. For now, I'd stick to one of the other, far superior cookie options like the Peanut Butter Dream or the Chocolate Duet.

Have you tried Panera's new red velvet cookie? Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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