Pastry Chef Confessionals: 'I Bought Pre-Made Cookie Dough'

"So I did something I haven't done since I entered culinary school 12 years ago—I used my dough to buy another's."


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

As a professional pastry chef, I did the unthinkable last night. I bought pre-made cookie dough from the market. (Shame.)

As I scanned the cookie aisle for something sweet to follow dinner, I didn't find a whole lot worth purchasing (for the record, no one should ever eat cookies being advertised as "healthy"). It was such a chilly night, that the notion of warm cookies just couldn't be substituted with a bag of gingersnaps. But it was already 9 p.m. and spending an extra hour making cookies from scratch on top of dinner prep was simply out of the question. So I did something I haven't done since I entered culinary school 12 years ago—I used my dough to buy another's.

I'm glad I did. Because the purchase really got me thinking about dough—as in the stuff draining from my wallet.

The $2.99 price tag seemed mighty high for an eight-ounce package (which makes about 12 cookies). Sure, it was cheaper than most of the already-baked and bagged options, but it didn't offer as many cookies. On the other hand, its warm, chewy and time-saving options certainly had their appeal. But how does that translate into dollars? And where is the value? I did a little math and here's the result:

The cost of my purchase came to $0.25 per cookie. The cost of making my own cookies would be $0.12 per cookie*. Less than half the price if I made them from scratch. But, do I really need to save a $1.50 to lose 60 minutes of my free time? Yes and no.

Yes, because quite frankly, the pre-made cookie dough wasn't that good. Way too heavy on the vanilla extract, and too many chocolate chips (I can't believe I just had to say that!). They had a weird surface that wouldn't brown, and took twice as long to bake as the package instructed. Pretty disappointing.

Then again, no. Because when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream all my said complaints were erased. Who cares about all that stuff?! I had warm cookies, from start to finish, in 15 minutes and I didn't have to measure anything or wash a single dish! That's priceless.

So I'm ready to admit, sometimes baking something from scratch isn't really worth the effort. (Dear Pastry God, please forgive me on this one.) For holiday baking or your child's birthday, I wouldn't dare consider the "take and bake" stuff from the grocer's freezer case. It's all about the Nestle Toll House cookies. But for a sweet ending to a Sunday night supper, skipping the hassle is perfectly acceptable.

* Calculations based on the original Nestle Toll House recipe (nothing beats it!) and prices in my Brooklyn zip code.