They’re easily one of the most common snacks in America. A staple, not a specialty, as sophomore Grace Leonard, a baker for Bon Appétit, said.
There aren’t too many good stories about baking cookies, according to sophomore Madeleine Brylski. She said there are more exciting bakery stories about non-cookie-related things, like exploding air compression hoses. The cookies are the “easiest part of the job,” she said.
Nevertheless, there’s a universal appeal to the standard chocolate chip. Business Insider estimated that Americans eat more than 7 billion chocolate chip cookies a year.
Is it a surprise that Hillsdale’s Bon Appétit can bake 600 cookies one day and have them gone in three days?
William Persson, marketing manager for Bon Appétit, says that chocolate chip cookies are “definitely the most popular among students.”
Students eat so many chocolate chip cookies, in fact, that cookies are one of the only desserts for which Bon Appétit has to buy dough from an outside provider instead of making it from scratch in the kitchen. Persson said there simply isn’t time for house-made chocolate chip cookies for every 1,000-student lunch hour.
While the quantity of cookies consumed in the dining hall does depend on the amount of visitors to on-campus events, Leonard laughed when thinking about how many cookies she has to bake on Thursdays.
Leonard described the industrial kitchen: hard steely corners, enormous mixing vats, and massive stacked ovens that dwarf the baker and can hold racks on racks of cookies in one batch.
Five sheets to an oven, four-by-six pans, two dozen cookies a sheet — Leonard rattled off the details like someone who’s done this several times before. She said the ovens aren’t terribly precise, so she has to make mental adjustments, turn the cookies halfway, et cetera.
“After baking the cookies, I never want to see one again,” she said.
But Leonard doesn’t actually hate baking. She bakes a lot at home: cakes, pretzels, bars, bread, and more.
Sophomore Madeleine Brylski doesn’t bake for the college, but she works over breaks at a bakery called the Great Harvest Bread Co. Cookie baking is a major part of her work there.
“They’re really big, pancakey, chewy,” she said, adding that they’re made that way because that’s the way the boss, Karl, likes them.
Karl has also got the cookie recipes down to perfection. Brylski said their cookies are “maxed out” on butter and brown sugar. Any more butter, and the cookies would be “too squishy.” But Karl and Brylski both know that a ton of butter makes for a really good cookie.
Butter is pretty important in cookie baking. Leonard knows that too.
“Start with soft butter,” she advised. “Take it out the night before. And don’t microwave it.”
The foundational materials for cookies are important, but so are any extras you may care to include.
Persson said he often sees students experimenting with chocolate chip cookie desserts in the dining hall.
“They heat them up with ice cream, put them together with bars, do weird stuff with other desserts,” he said. “Once somebody made a cookie milkshake. It’s fun to watch, and a personalized dessert is a great idea.”
Baking for the public is more quality-controlled, though, as Leonard knows from her careful watch over the racks in the sometimes persnickety ovens. Cookies made by the Great Harvest Bread Co. are discarded or given over for employee consumption if they get fingerprints on them or aren’t baked well enough.
Some people do put a lot of thought into their chocolate chip cookie experience, like sophomore Daniel Henreckson, who denied the title of cookie expert but still gave a detailed discourse on the chocolate chip cookie.
“The best cookies must be soft,” he said in an email. “This is especially true for chocolate chip cookies. There needs to be a danger that the cookies are so gooey that you’ll get chocolate smears on your fingers.”
The cookies Bon Appétit offers are pretty good, Henreckson said. He said they have a surprisingly good consistency.
“They strike a pretty decent balance between gooey and crunchy with a nice, even, soft texture,” he said. “They could certainly be more flavorful, but at least they feel good to eat.”
To be fair, some weeks are better than others for Bon Appétit cookies. A couple weeks ago, the cookies were close to ideal: puffy, soft, and round, with the chocolate chips still melty. Another week, however, the cookies came out browner and more crackable.
Persson said that the Bon Appétit staff doesn’t usually get comments about cookies because they’re such a standard dessert. However, when they do, the comments are often focused on individual preferences.
“Usually the cookies aren’t cooked as much because that’s what students like,” Persson said, “but sometimes somebody says, ‘I wish they were darker brown, that’s how I like my cookies.’ It’s interesting because the feedback reflects how people all generally like different levels of how their cookie is cooked.”
At any rate, the Hillsdale student has a normal American affection for this particular kind of cookie. In fact, Brylski thinks they’re the only kind of cookie she’s ever eaten here at Hillsdale. And Leonard said she often watches college boys “put six on a plate and go away happy.”
Though Henreckson has other favorite cookie types, he agreed that the importance of chocolate chip cookies is extensive.
He said, “It can’t be denied that they are unique, both in their important place in society and their flavor.”