Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flavour Showdown: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Sometimes a classic flavour like vanilla, chocolate, or cookies n' creme is made by several different brands. If they're all similarly priced, how do you decide which to choose?

Thus the inspiration for tonight's Ultimate Flavour Showdown. Since I was already planning to attend a party tonight with a group of classmates, I decided to bring three variations on the flavour of chocolate chip cookie dough, made by Ben & Jerry's, Breyers, and Island Farms so my classmates could help me decide which brand truly captured the essence of cookie dough in ice cream form. As I went through the check-out at the grocery store, the man behind me, after I explained why I was buying so much ice cream, expressed his confidence that Ben & Jerry's would be the clear winner, with Breyers in second and Island Farms coming last. Was he correct?
Which ice cream will reign supreme?
Contestant Number One: Breyers 
First up is the Breyers entry, one of their "family classics." The fact that it is called "chocolatey" chip, rather than using the word "chocolate" already tells me that it's fake chocolate, or at least doesn't have enough cocoa in it to be legally deemed chocolate. To be fair, I actually really like the taste of some fake chocolate, but it can also err on the side of horrible. Once you open it up, it's easy to scoop out, but the chocolatey pieces and cookie dough nuggets are small and extremely sparse. We had a hard time finding enough cookie dough pieces to ensure that everyone's sample actually had cookie dough in it! Not a good sign!

Contestant Number Two: Ben & Jerry's
Next we have Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. They have some other awesome-looking cookie-related flavours that I really wanted to try, but this was the fairest one for the sake of comparison. This guy had fairly substantial cookie dough pieces in it, but the real downside was that is was extremely hard to scoop any out! In retrospect, I could have left it out on the counter a bit longer, but I was feeling impatient. Trying to chisel your way through frozen-solid cookie dough is not fun!

Contestant Number Three: Island Farms
Finally we have the Island Farms version from their "Vanilla Plus" line, which was kind of middle of the road in terms of cookie dough distribution; certainly much more than Breyers anyway. Like Breyers, it was easy to scoop and had separate little nuggets of chocolate and cookie dough, rather than the Ben & Jerry's that had the chocolate chips actually mixed into the dough.

So who came out on top? We put a spoonful of each brand into plastic shot glasses on colour-coded plates, and asked the rest of the party guests to sample one from each plate, choose which they liked best, and describe what the ice cream was like. Let the fight commence!
Ice cream shots shots shot shots shots shots shots shots...
After much sampling, considering, and discussion, we took a vote. Out of eleven people, not including myself, these were the results for which brand was liked best:

Breyers: 2 people
Ben & Jerry's: 5 people
Island Farms: 4 people

Though no one really hated any of the options, Breyers did not get a lot of fans, and the primary reason was the lack of mix-ins. For a cookie dough ice cream, there just wasn't enough cookie dough! Some people also felt it was "too creamy" in an unnatural sort of way.

Island Farms was close to Ben & Jerry's, and it may have been partly due to the smaller size of the cookie dough pieces, the fact that there were more of them, and the flavour and texture of the ice cream component. Personally, I found the cookie dough in this brand to be extremely gritty, and at some points I almost felt like I was chewing on sand.

I will have to agree with the majority and say that Ben & Jerry's, as the man at the check-out predicted, was the superior product in this comparison. Their cookie dough actually seemed like something you might feasibly be able to bake cookies out of, and even though it was a giant pain in the butt to try to scoop out, it had good flavour that didn't seem artificial, and the texture wasn't offensive.

At the check-out, all three worked out to be about $6.99 CAD, but since the Breyers and Island Farms flavours were on sale, the Ben & Jerry's did have a lower regular price. Yes, it's a much smaller container, but I think this taste test shows that it is worth the money.


(if anyone who helped test has anything to add, please feel free!)

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