The $18 cookie

I’ve written about Bouchon Bakery several times.  (This entry in particular has some good pictures.)  Operated by Thomas Keller, considered the greatest chef in America, Bouchon Bakery offers some spectacular treats.  Our favorite item is probably the Nutter Butter cookie.  Although you can’t buy a boxed mix for that cookie, Williams Sonoma now offers a boxed mix of Bouchon Bakery’s chocolate chunk cookie mix.

It should shock nobody, coming from Williams Sonoma, that this boxed cookie mix is $18. That’s American dollars, not Australian dollars.

We see this mix every time we pop into Williams Sonoma, and we’ve always just chuckled. Who the hell is going to pay $18 for a box of cookie mix? We frequently buy the Barefoot Contessa cookie mix, and it’s incredible, but at $8 a box (enough to make about 18 cookies), it’s silly-expensive. We justify that the same way we justify most of our unnecessary purchases: well, it’s cheaper than having kids. Would $8 even get you a babysitter for an hour? Probably not. And these cookies aren’t going to spit up on my speakers, so the cookies win. I’m pretty sure that if we had kids, there would not be any more $8 cookies — not to mention the fact that I’d have to share my cookies with said kid, and I don’t share. I skipped kindergarten, so I never learned to share. Ask Loki.

But the leap from an $8 box of cookie mix to an $18 box of cookie mix is a big leap. I’ll spend money on all kinds of crap I don’t need, but this price is insane. But… it’s Christmas. All bets are off at Christmas. I was at Williams Sonoma over the weekend (Santa had asked me to check things out for him), and I saw the completely untouched shelf of boxes of this mix. What the hell, right? If I’m even considering a $16 garlic press when the bottom of a shoe would do, why not use Christmas as the excuse to buy this incredibly indulgent sweet treat?

I brought the mix home, wrapped it in festive Xmas paper, addressed it to AEJ — from Santa (of course) — and then suggested that maybe she should open that present early. Like, right away. She wanted to open every present right away, but I held firm (that’s what SHE said! Zing!) and she opened the “present” and we made cookies.

I think you get a single bag of mix in your standard Betty Crocker cookie mix, adding your own oil or butter and an egg. Barefoot Contessa’s mix has two bags — one of the mix, and one of the chocolate chunks. Well, for your $18, Bouchon Bakery gives you FOUR FRIGGIN’ BAGS OF STUFF! (Note that one isn’t simply chips, or chunks — but both.  Ooh-laa-laa, Mr. Fancy Pants Cookies.)

Whereas Barefoot Contessa’s mix is just fine for our easy-to-manage hand mixer, Bouchon Bakery insists on the stand mixer — which lives in a very high cabinet in our kitchen. Getting this thing down without dropping it on my face was a bitch.

Not only did we get to use the stand mixer, which we really never use anymore, but this was the first “recipe” we’ve had that also included alternate cooking instructions for our convection oven. Convection baking is amazing. It took our cooking time from 16 minutes down to 14.

The Barefoot Contessa recipe calls for a stick of butter. The Bouchon Bakery recipe? A sort of overly-specific 10.5 tablespoons. 11 would have been too many? (By the way — this Organic Valley stuff is the best, if you like your butter extra-creamy. Same goes for their milk, and especially their egg nog.)

The recipe calls for a single egg (not 1.25 eggs or anything like that, thank god).

After adding the various packets in the box (sugar, molasses, cookie mix, and the chip/chunk combo), you get this. The dough tastes… grown-up. I think it’s the fairly-strong molasses note. It was good, but the Barefoot Contessa raw dough is much better.

And of course the final cookie.  (The recipe specifies that you bake the cookies on parchment paper.  Barefoot Contessa has you rub the cookie sheet with butter, essentially frying the bottom of the cookie.  That’s good thing.  Parchment, by contrast, is kinda boring, and doesn’t make the house smell like you’re frying pancakes.  Point: Barefoot Contessa.)

The recipe calls for letting the cookie cool FOR TEN MINUTES. Who does that?! You’re supposed to eat a cookie within 15 seconds of it coming out of the oven, burned tongue be damned. Turned out, though, that the cookies really were better after about 10 minutes. The finished cookie is crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside — just like a good chocolate chip cookie should be. AEJ thought it was the first boxed mix that tasted like a real, homemade cookie, with no hints of preservatives or that “boxed mix” taste. She thought it was the best overall cookie we’ve made at home, especially once it was room temperature. (Barefoot Contessa’s cookies are best as dough, or hot from the oven, but the next day, they taste like they came out of a box. They get a little… mealy.) The Bouchon Bakery cookies retain their texture the next day.

So, good stuff, but not worth $18 for a box of mix. The box makes 18 cookies, but after you add in the cost of the butter ($6 for 4 sticks, so a little over $1.25 for the 10.5 tablespoons we used) and the egg, you’re over $20 for the cookies. That’s pretty damn silly. If you’re spending $20 on a box of cookie mix, just put that towards a trip to Vegas or NYC and visit the real Bouchon Bakery and buy the real cookie. (I may not be your best source for sound financial advice.)


Robyn says

Time for new Kitchen Aid mixer. That one clashes with the kitchen.

Great entry. I'm tres amused!

(And yeah, we pay $10/hour for a babysitter. It hurts.)

Connie Miller says

Might I suggest that you keep your stand mixer in a low cabinet and then you only have to worry about a sprained back instead of brain injury.

My mom bought me a lovely stand mixer for my cookie baking, but I can't use it since I make hugeass batches of cookies. I probably spend $18 for ingredients and get 40 cookies or more...I've never done the math. It's a lovely way to spend a rainy day.

Celia says

See, I'm a snob. I've always only made cookies from scratch, even as a I remain skeptical of any boxed mix.

Cynthia says

I would pay twice the $18/box for these cookie mixes. My husband developed a late onset dairy allergy. I have been searching, revamping, substituting, reformulating, and reading all the teeny tiny ingredients trying to make buy or steal a really great cookie - for four years! Using non-dairy fat - crisco butter flavor, any parve margarine - these cookies turn out fantastic. My boy is ecstatic (Have you ever eaten at vegan cookie?) He eats one a day - so I guess you could amortize and they are not that expensive. I'm sold!

Brandon says

This is the funniest damn blog I've ever read

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