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Friday, March 14, 2014

Decode a boxed baking mix

I've always LOVED the Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate boxed cookie mix, it is SO easy to throw together and its SUPER delicious.  Unfortunately I do not love the natural and artificial flavors they included in the mix so today I set about breaking down their secret recipe once and for all.
Thankfully their mix contains pretty limited ingredients so by just using my kitchen scale, a little effort, and the help of a handy $30 brewing tool that my husband keeps I was able to find the EXACT mix they put into their box!
Here's how I did it and how you can too!

How to decode a boxed mix - The Scientific Method

My mission was simple, replicate the cookies.  My methodology was actually already half done for me, while the cookies did have a few added flavorings they didn't have much else in terms of "extra ingredients" and the wet ingredients were already identified for me on the back of the box.  I knew the cookies used 1 egg and 1 stick of butter so here were my knowns and unknowns: 

Wet Ingredients:
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1 egg

Dry Ingredients:
___ cups Flour
___ cups Sugar
___ cups Semi-sweet chocolate chips
___ cups Brown sugar
___ cups Bittersweet chocolate chips
___ cups Milk chocolate chips
___ tbsp Canola oil
___ tsp Baking Soda
___ tsp Salt
___ tsp Vanilla

While I won't bore you with too much detail because I'm sure all you care about is the EXCITING RESULTS!! Here is a basic breakdown of what I did, followed by, of course, some photos of the process. 

(1) Sift out the chocolate chips and visually separate them. The bittersweet were bigger so they were easy to pull out and can be seen in the middle, the semi-sweet were small and dark brown they can be seen at the top and the milk chocolate were a bit lighter in color as seen towards the bottom.
Next weight the chippies and write their weights now.  Now Since the brown sugar was listed in the ingredients between two of the chocolate chip varieties we know its somewhere between their two quantities so we have a good approximation for that too!

(2) With the remaining dry ingredients determine the sugar content.  I happened to have a refractometer on hand because my husband is an avid home brewer and it helps him determine the alcohol content of his beer.  This is a cool looking tool with a lot of uses and its not too price either, you can find them on Amazon for $30 (check it out here: Once I knew the % of sugar in the dry ingredients, I used my quantity of brown sugar found above to determine the exact mix of white and brown sugars, and subtracted that from the total dry ingredients to get the flour content too!

(3) All I had left to figure out now was oil, baking soda, salt and vanilla.  I knew the oil in the mix was a very small amount because the mix is obviously dry so it couldn't have been more than a tbsp and probably not even that much.  The baking soda was a bit of a trial and error but I knew from past experience approximately how much should go in a batch this size, my first trial was a bit too puffy so I cut it down a bit and my second trial was spot on.  The salt and vanilla are both flavoring agents so they were easy to just add "to taste."  Here is what it looked like when I put it all together: 

That's great but GIMMIE THE GOODS, where is the recipe? 

J'aime Le Maman's Triple Chocolate Cookies

Makes approximately 14 large cookies.  
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes

91.5 grams Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
46 grams Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
37.5 grams Milk Chocolate Chips
     Alternate method: 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 heaping cup of All Purpose Flour (170 grams)
Just shy of 1/2 cup (95 grams) White Sugar
1/4 cup loosely packed (40 grams) Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Canola Oil
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1-1/2 tsp Vanilla 
1 Egg
1 stick (1/2 cup) Salted Butter (room temperature) 

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix all dry ingredients together thoroughly.  Add egg, butter, vanilla and oil. Mix until well incorporated.  Use a #40 scoop (1-1/2") or hand roll into 1-1/2" balls, space approximately 3" apart on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, checking frequently and removing when edges start to brown but while middle is still under-cooked.  Allow to cool before serving. 

Note that the temperature of the butter will have a fairly big impact on the results of your cookies, warmer (melted) butter will yield a moister mix that is prone to spreading thinner in the oven.  Colder butter will yield a dryer mix that will hold together better in the oven leading to a smaller, thicker cookie.  


Boxed mix on the right, my mix on the left.  The difference in texture is due to butter temperature.  I also used only semi-sweet chocolate chips because that's what I had on hand. 

The cookies towards the back were baked with colder butter and double the baking soda, I wasn't thrilled with the texture so I made another batch shown below on the left using the recipe above.  The bottom right are the boxed cookies.

My cookie on the left, the boxed cookie on the right.

My cookie on the left, the boxed cookie on the right.

Please let me know your thoughts, suggestions, what you enjoyed and what you didn't and if you have questions!

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