There is nothing like a chocolate chip cookie. A lot of us have had a lot of them throughout our lives. I certainly have. A homemade batch ready and waiting for you after school, the baggies made by other parents at bake sales, packaged up in the cookie aisle at the grocery store, the ones on the trays of mega-market baked goods at company events. The chocolate chip cookie is a widely loved staple of American baked good culture in all its varying forms.
And I do not hesitate to admit that, while no culinary masterpiece, sometimes I just need a chocolate chip cookie and that one from BJ’s is good enough to satisfy that need, dammit! Sometimes Chips Ahoy! is there and I’m gonna eat it. I have no problem with sweet treats that don’t rock my world or change the way I think of baking. Because I would never expect that from any of these situations where cookie production is not the specialty, the reason for being.
But as I have encountered many chocolate chip cookies along my bakery visits, I have come across some non-remarkable cookies. Ones which, while perfectly enjoyable, not warranting disgust or anger, served as nothing better than a quick scratch of the chocolate chip cookie itch just as the examples above do. For places that make their names in baked goods, this essential product was not anything impactful or compelling. It was treated almost as a throwaway product. One that is so simple and embedded in our cultural sense of pleasure and heartwarming that any basically good product at all would satisfy.
But chocolate chip cookies are so much more! As explored here on Scoutin’ it Out, there is a whole world of textural make-ups and flavor amplifying to be explored when approaching a CCC (chocolate chip cookie) recipe. Chewy, soft, crispy, doughy, warm, sugary, packed with chips, chunks, wafers, or all three. The size of the palm to the size of the head. Nuts or no nuts? If nuts, what kind? Pinches of additional spices. There are plenty of factors one can consider to take a CCC from standard fare to a celebration of the cookie.
So while not experiences that bastardized the CCC, spurring me to write a word of warning promptly, here are some places that provide a perfectly serviceable product, but don’t have me wanting more.
This institution of multi-Michelin star restaurant owner Thomas Keller has three locations in the city and carries everything from soups and sandwiches to a slew of baked goods. As a place owned by such a lauded chef I entered the Rockefeller Center location with some high expectations. While many things came recommended, from the macarons to the TKOs (Thomas Keller Oreos), that winter day by the Rockefeller skating rink had me in a CCC and hot chocolate mood. And if a place was going to wow me with their CCC, it was gonna be the bakery of a Michelin star winning chef, right?
But alas, a “Wow” was not to escape my lips. A little too sweet, not satisfying in either a chewy, doughy, or crunchy way, packed with so many chocolate chips that the dough was totally lost. It was similar to a Starbucks cookie, but missing the possibly redeeming factor of being warmed. The hot chocolate was devoid of wow-factor as well. A little thin as hot chocolates go. Not particularly chocolatey. A perfectly fine fix if you’ve just come from skating and need to scratch that cookie and cocoa itch right then, but nothing to go seek out.
When I realized that this place on my list had been right across from Lincoln Center this whole time (as well has having kiosk locations at Bryant Park, the Time Out market in Brooklyn, as well as an independent location at Union Square) I was elated to have perhaps found a new go-to bakery in the area which I so often find myself. A good slice of cheesecake, a mean chocolate babka, and one of the best CCCs in NYC was supposed to dwell just a couple of crosswalks away.
The layout alone was hectic and a little confusing. With boxes of goods on the side of the wall to be picked up and brought to the counter, as well as a glass case of pastries and sandwiches, in addition to the baskets of bread loaves behind the counter, I was not quite sure where to look. And with a fair amount of people shuffling through, some of whom were similarly unsure where to be looking, and little seating in the loud café, I was already not having an enjoyable time in the lead up to the cookie itself.
Both out of panic and as a tester I got a CCC, figuring if it was good then it would be worth coming back to try the other items. But this seemed unlikely from the outset, as I pulled the cookie out of its bag and found the outside to be…sticky? This was something I had not experienced with a CCC as of yet and something I would gladly not encounter again. My best guess is that it has something to do with the sugars used or how they were added, but I truly have no idea because that’s not something I should be worrying about with a chocolate chip cookie! And while it was large and thin, it was more soft rather than crispy. This may have been from the profuse amount of chocolate. It was so packed with chunks and wafers of milk and white chocolate that it was more like a circle of chocolate held together by some baked dough. And yes that’s right, I said white chocolate. While white chocolate demands its own post further down the line for me to really go into how white chocolate serves as nothing more than a constant let-down, it will currently suffice to say that this did not endear me any more to the cookie at hand. And the actual chocolate that was used was of a quality akin to Hershey’s chocolate bars. And while that’s the ideal chocolate for S’mores making, it does nothing for a cookie. It was a cookie that not only didn’t encourage me to go back to Breads, but left me confused regarding the nature of the sticky exterior.
This Korean company not only specializes in bringing Korean rice cakes, teas, cookies, and macaroons to the public but also, you guessed it, beauty products. Yep. This threw me for a bit of a loop when, after putting the location into google maps after an appointment near Herald Square, I came upon a cosmetics store rather than the bakery I was looking for. But as I looked around further I found the bakery storefront directly next to it bearing the same logo. Confused and intrigued I entered and ordered the triple chocolate chip cookie that was supposed to be so tasty. Not being a real sit down place, giving the vibe that they’re really meant for one to grab and go, I waited until back in my dorm to give it a try.
While I did appreciate the different shapes, sizes and flavors of chips with a range from milk to darker chocolate, the chips were strangely not mixed throughout. Instead, it looked as though they had been pressed into the top of the dough before baking. And while this meant that there was some actual cookie to this CCC, this made it more like a sugar cookie made with a little brown sugar and topped with chocolate chips than a chocolate chip cookie. And the cookie itself was nothing special. Soft, sweet, but really just satisfying a desire for sweetness rather than doing anything interesting in terms of flavor. A perfectly fine dessert to end the day, but not something I would get again as a treat. Maybe the cosmetics are where they really thrive.
And so ends my mediocre chocolate chip cookie medley. I went, I saw, I ate, and I promptly moved past the experience. It’s difficult to write in detail when something neither seriously impresses nor disappoints but is merely serviceable, for it is the very lack of detail involved in the product’s creation that makes it so undistinguished. And while I can enjoy an unremarkable CCC in other contexts and other moods, I want more from places that exist to bake. So while I continue my chocolate chip cookie exploration of NYC, I hope to avoid these such experiences and find more that are closer to perfection!