Since my last post in this thread on the Papa John’s Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie, Norma and I have been collaborating offline in an effort to try to reverse engineer and clone that cookie. Norma had indicated an interest in possibly offering such a product for sale at market. Since I had never tried to reverse engineer a cookie before, I thought that it would be fun and interesting to try to do so. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. After a few tries, I believe that I have come up with a PJ clone chocolate chip cookie dough formulation that Norma tells me is a very good one. She had purchased a couple of the PJ Mega Chocolate Chip Cookies from PJ, so she had the benefit of being able to compare the various clone versions with the real thing. In due course, I expect that Norma will share her experiences with us as well as offer up some useful tips, insights, and photos.
The following discussion and analysis attempts to provide background information on the PJ Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie and also the measures I took to try to come up with a credible PJ clone chocolate chip cookie dough formulation. In this exercise, I relied primarily on information that was provided to me over the phone by Connie at PJ, and Nutrition Facts as given toward the end of the PJ Mega Chocolate Chip review article at http://www.theimpulsivebuy.com/wordpress/2013/10/14/review-papa-johns-mega-chocolate-chip-cookie/
. I also did a considerable amount of research on chocolate chip cookies and cookie dough recipes, and ingredients used to make chocolate chip cookies. I also looked at the ingredients lists and Nutrition Facts for over a few dozen brands of chocolate chip cookies and refrigerated chocolate chip cookie doughs sold at several of the supermarkets near where I live.The PJ Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie
. By way of background, the PJ Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie comprises these basic ingredients, which I have listed in order by their predominance by weight: Semi-sweet chocolate chips; bleached/malted/enriched flour; a 0 Trans Fat, palm-oil/soybean oil-based margarine; sugar; brown sugar; pasteurized whole eggs; double-acting leavening; salt; artificial flavor; and caramel color. It is important to note the specific mention of “margarine”. That is important because, by law, any product called “margarine” must contain at least 80% fat (and about 20% water). So, this rules out so called “spreads” or “margarine spreads” or “light” margarines or products similarly named. In fact, in my research on this matter, researchers and experts on chocolate chip cookies specifically advised against using margarine spreads because their water content is too high and will make the cookie dough batter too wet.
My initial instinct was to try to find chocolate chip cookies or doughs using the same ingredients as used by PJ. My hope was that I would be able to identify brands of those ingredients that we could find at retail and use. In this vein, I had read somewhere that McDonald’s made soft-baked chocolate chip cookies that were considered very good. After some searching, I was able to find the ingredients list and Nutrition Facts for the McDonald’s soft-baked chocolate chip cookie at http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/product_nutrition.dessertsshakes.201.chocolate-chip-cookie.html
(click on the Nutrition button). Much to my surprise, I discovered that the McDonald’s ingredients were very similar to what PJ uses. The McDonald’s chocolate chip cookies are smaller (33 grams) than the PJ cookie slices (39 grams) but when I scaled up the McDonald’s Nutrition Facts to correspond to the 39-gram cookie weight, the adjusted Nutrition Facts were very close to the PJ Nutrition Facts.
Unfortunately, the information given to me by PJ and the McDonald’s information did not tell me how much of each ingredient to use. Also, I discovered that many of the specific ingredients used by McDonald’s (and also by PJ) are not available at the retail level. They are available at the foodservice and professional users level, but not at the retail level. At least I could not find them after considerable research. However, as noted below, I believe that I was able to come up with brands of the ingredients to use to make a credible PJ cookie clone, although I had to do a lot of calculations to match the nutritional information for those particular brands to the PJ Nutrition Facts.Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Recipes
. In order to get an idea as to quantities of ingredients to use, I decided to look at various chocolate chip cookie dough recipes. And, since the predominant ingredient used by PJ for its cookie was chocolate chips, this meant that any chocolate cookie dough recipe that I would study would have to have chocolate chips as the dominant ingredient. I suspected that the source of any such recipe was most likely to be someone who sells chocolate chips. And, that is what I found. It was companies like Ghirardelli and Nestle and Hershey. However, since I had concluded that the closest match to the semi-sweet chocolate chips used by PJ were those sold by Ghirardelli, I decided to study the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie dough recipe as given at http://www.ghirardelli.com/recipes-tips/recipes/chocolate-chip-cookies
To study the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie dough recipe, I first had to convert it to baker’s percent format. In so doing, I assumed that a cup of flour measured out by volume weighed 130 grams. I also excluded the nuts. Once I calculated the baker’s percents for the various ingredients, I was able to see how the ingredients lined up in the pecking order. As it so happened, all but one of the ingredients (eggs) was in the same pecking order as the ingredients used by PJ. The next step was to scale down the weight of the cookie dough produced using the Ghirardelli recipe (about 41 ounces) to an amount that approximated the unbaked weight of a PJ cookie. At first, I used 13 ounces, on the assumption that the cookie would lose about an ounce during baking (Connie at PJ told me that a PJ cookie weighed around 12 ounces), but it later turned out from Norma’s test bakes that 12 ounces was a better weight to use. Such a weight would result in a final bake weight of somewhere between 11.4-11.8 ounces. If one converts eight cookie slices at 39 grams, one gets 11 ounces.
Unfortunately, the nutritional information for the scaled down amount of the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie dough did not match the PJ Nutrition Facts. My calculations of that nutritional information were based on the ingredients that I identified as being usable to make the PJ clone cookie (discussed more fully below). I also substituted a double acting leavening agent for the baking soda in the Ghirardelli recipe.
In order to come up with a PJ clone cookie dough formulation that matched the PJ Nutrition Facts, I had to do a large number of calculations where I changed ingredient quantities on an iterative basis until the numbers matched up. This was a brute force method that was also time consuming, especially since there were eight different nutrients that had to be matched up (Sugars, Sodium, Dietary Fiber, Protein, Cholesterol, Total Fat, Sat Fat and Total Carbohydrates). The chocolate chips alone that PJ uses contain all eight of those nutrients. And there was a lot of overlap of those nutrients among the various ingredients. By the time I was done, I had 15 pages of calculations, in many cases on both sides of the pages. But, even then, I had no idea as to how the PJ clone dough formulation would perform in a real setting since I was basing my numbers on the particular ingredients that I would recommend be used. But my final numbers were very close to the PJ Nutrition Facts. This intrigued me because I wondered if a product that meets the Nutrition Facts of another product will perform in the same way, if at all. In this case, based on what Norma reported, the answer seems to be yes.
What helped me immensely in my calculations was the expanded dough calculating tool at http://www.pizzamaking.com/expanded_calculator.html
. Although many of the cookie dough ingredients are not in that tool, I commandeered the expanded dough calculating tool anyway and usurped some of the entries (which I later renamed during final editing) to do the weight calculations as I changed the values of the inputs. At the end of the process, I did the weight-to-volume conversions manually. I would not have been able to come up with the different versions of the cookie dough formulation without that tool. Recommended Retail Ingredients
. What follows is my recommendations of ingredients to use to make the PJ clone Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie. All of the ingredients are readily available at retail. Flour.
Starting with the flour, I would use any basic bleached and malted and enriched all-purpose flour. I cannot say what type of flour PJ is actually using because the PJ Nutrition Facts do not provide any reliable insights on that matter. I would say that the General Mills Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour is a good choice (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005EOTMOM/?tag=pmak-20
). Norma successfully used the Shurfine bleached/malted/enriched all-purpose flour. I have read that a 50/50 blend of cake flour (bleached) and a stronger flour such as a bread flour (presumably what Jacques Torres, the chocolatier, uses) will also work but that is not a blend that has been tested in this project. I estimate the protein content for such a blend to be around 10.4%. Many of the chocolate chip cookies I saw at my local supermarkets appeared to be using softer flours that usually are not malted.Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
. For the chocolate chips, I feel that the closest match to the PJ semi-sweet chocolate chips is the Ghirardelli brand of semi-sweet chocolate chips (http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10052&catalogId=10002&productId=356836#356836)
. Actually, an even closer match is the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate bar (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000H27OBE/?tag=pmak-20
). Both of these products contain unsweetened chocolate (aka chocolate liquor), which gives those products a more forward “chocolate” flavor, but the price of the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate bar is about three times the price of the chocolate chips on an equal weight basis.
The Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Nestle-Toll-House-Real-Semi-Sweet-Chocolate-Morsels-12-oz/10291379
) and the Hershey semi-sweet chocolate chips (http://www.thehersheycompany.com/brands/baking-pieces/hersheys-semi-sweet-chocolate-chips.aspx
) can also be used but they are more forward on the “sweetness” (sugar) side and not on the chocolate flavor side. Margarine
. For the margarine, I was able to only find one product that seems to come close to the margarine that PJ uses for its Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie. It is a new product from Walmart. In fact, it is so new that I wasn’t able to find anything on that product online, even on the Walmart website. The product itself contains palm oil and palm kernel and soybean oil and is also a 0 Trans Fat product. It contains 80% vegetable oil. The margarine is sold under the Great Value brand, in stick form, and the box shows a rolling pin with the words “Great for Baking” within the image of the rolling pin. Below the rolling pin are images of chocolate chip cookies. Better yet is the price of the GV margarine. In my local Walmart, the price is $1.36 for four sticks (one pound). There are other products that include palm oil and palm kernel, but the ones I saw in my local supermarkets were less than 80% vegetable oil.Brown Sugar
. For brown sugar, I suggest using dark brown sugar. The ingredients list for the PJ cookie does not specify either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar, only brown sugar. However, since PJ uses caramel color, which is an ingredient that can be purchased from several sources (e.g., https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008OGD38I/?tag=pmak-20
), using a dark brown sugar will provide some coloration of the baked cookie if caramel color is unavailable. Also, as Norma pointed out to me, real vanilla also contains caramel color. While on the matter of vanilla, the chocolate chips that PJ uses contain artificial vanilla (vanillin), and PJ also uses artificial vanilla as one of its lesser flavoring ingredients. The Ghirardelli and Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips both contain real vanilla; the Hershey semi-sweet chocolate chips contain artificial vanilla.
Further to the matter of the brown sugar, Norma found that she could replace a small amount of light brown sugar with molasses to make it more like dark brown sugar. As is well known, dark brown sugar contains more molasses than light brown sugar (6.5% vs. 3.5%), and brown sugar in general can contain up to 10% molasses. In the absence of dark brown sugar, one might use white sugar and replace 10% of it with molasses. The presence of molasses in the cookie dough serves another purpose. It is an acidic ingredient and is necessary to react with the baking soda in the leavening agent to start the production of carbon dioxide. That process starts as soon as the dough is mixed. Leavening Agent
. For the double acting leavening agent, I suggest that the Clabber Girl double acting leaven be used (http://www.clabbergirl.com/consumer/products/clabber_girl/clabber_girl_baking_powder.php
). It is sold in just about every supermarket. Since that product is very similar to what PJ is using in terms of its constituent ingredients, I would not substitute another product. Other products, even just plain baking soda, may work but I believe that PJ uses a double acting leaven because their dough is most likely frozen for later use, and the other leavening ingredients (sodium aluminum sulfate—or SAS--or sodium acid pyrophosphate--or SAPP--and monocalcium phosphate) are needed at the actual time of baking. (An alternative to the Clabber Girl baking powder is the Fleischmann's baking powder as discussed at http://www.clabbergirl.com/pdf/Fleischmanns.pdf
but that product is sold mostly to professionals and in large quantities.)PJ Clone Formulation
. The PJ clone chocolate chip cookie dough formulation that I ended up is set forth below. As mentioned previously, I used 12 ounces of cookie dough. That is the amount that one should use in the baking pan. Since cookie dough can stick to just about everything, I used a bowl residue compensation of 10%. As for the pan itself, based on photos that Norma provided to me, it appears that the pan, which is a round disposable foil aluminum pan, is roughly an 8” pan, with a top dimension of about 8”, a bottom dimension of about 7 ¼” and a depth of about 1”. The closest pan that I could find to the PJ pan is the one shown at http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/748398021/6_7_8_5_9_inch/showimage.html
. I have no idea as to where one can purchase such a pan. However, I think any pan with comparable dimensions should work. Since Norma used the PJ pan for her experiments, she should be able to provide details on baking methods and temperatures and times, and final baked weights for her clone cookies, both for her home oven and her deck oven at market. Thickness Factor
. I did not make an attempt to calculate a precise thickness factor value for the PJ clone chocolate cookie dough formulation, but a rough value is around 0.27.
It will be apparent that using a decent scale will be a big help in using the clone cookie dough formulation as set forth below. However, I did make an attempt to convert several of the ingredients to volume measurements as best I could, and have so noted those conversions. The Bottom Line.
Here is the proposed PJ clone chocolate chip cookie dough formulation:Papa John’s Clone Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Formulation
|Basic Bleached/Malted/Enriched All-Purpose Flour (100%):|
Dark Brown Sugar (56%):
Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (134%):
Walmart Great Value 0 Trans Fat Palm-Based Margarine (87%):
Eggs, large (32%):
Clabber Girl Baking Powder (1.50%):
|78.6 g | 2.77 oz | 0.17 lbs|
0.64 g | 0.02 oz | 0 lbs | 0.12 tsp (about 1/8 t)
50.3 g | 1.77 oz | 0.11 lbs | 4.21 tbsp | 0.26 cups
44.01 g | 1.55 oz | 0.1 lbs (about 1/4-1/5 cup, packed)
105.32 g | 3.72 oz | 0.23 lbs (about 5/8 cup)
68.38 g | 2.41 oz | 0.15 lbs (about 4 7/8 tablespoons)
25.15 g | 0.89 oz | 4.97 tsp (about 1/2 of a large egg)
1.18 g | 0.04 oz | 0 lbs | 0.25 tsp
0.63 g | 0.02 oz | 0 lbs | 0.16 tsp (a bit over 1/8 teaspoon)
374.22 g | 13.2 oz | 0.83 lbs | TF = N/A
Note: Cookie dough (12 ounces) is for a single PJ clone chocolate chip cookie to be baked preferably in a roughly 8” disposable aluminum foil pan; corresponding thickness factor = approx. 0.27; bowl residue compensation = 10%
EDIT (10/31/13): For other ingredient options (with lower prices), see Reply 653 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6758.msg285694.html#msg285694
EDIT (6/12/15): For a substitute webpage for the McDonald's chocolate chip cookies if the above link is inoperative, see http://www.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/itemDetailInfo.do?item=201&showFlyOut=no&countryCode=US&liveData=true
; for a direct link to the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie recipe, from the Wayback Machine, see http://web.archive.org/web/20140330032304/http://www.ghirardelli.com/recipes-tips/recipes/chocolate-chip-cookies
; for a substitute Wayback Machine link for the Fleischmann's link, see http://web.archive.org/web/20141031133847/http://www.clabbergirl.com/pdf/Fleischmanns.pdf
EDIT (11/4/15): For another margarine option (Land O' Lakes margarine), see Reply 930 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=6758.msg401504#msg401504
, and for another chocolate chip option (Best Yet brand), see Reply 936 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=6758.msg401737#msg401737
EDIT (11/11/16): For a replacement link for the Wegman's link, see https://www.wegmans.com/search.html?searchKey=ghirardelli