I have some good news for those who wish to make a more economical version of the PJ clone chocolate chip cookie.
Today, courtesy of the Kroger Co., I found ingredients at my local Kroger store that, on paper, appear to very good candidates to make a PJ clone chocolate chip cookie.
First, I found a Kroger house brand of semi-sweet chocolate chips that appears to be even closer to the semi-sweet chocolate chips that PJ uses than the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. The reason is that the Kroger semi-sweet chocolate chips contain milkfat (which, incidentally, adds a bit of cholesterol), whereas the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips do not. The Kroger brand of semi-sweet chocolate chips are arguably a bit better than the semi-sweet chocolate chips that PJ uses because the Kroger chocolate chips use real vanilla, whereas the chocolate chips that PJ uses contain artificial vanilla (vanillin). The Total Fat content of the Kroger chocolate chips is a bit lower than the Ghirardelli chocolate chips but only by a little. The Sat Fats are the same. And, overall, the Kroger product matches up a bit better with the PJ Nutrition Facts for Total Fats than the Ghirardelli product. Of course, Nutrition Facts only tell part of the story. One has to taste the various brands of semi-sweet chocolate chips to determine preferences. I mention this because even though two products have the same ingredients statements, they can taste differently because the amounts of the individual components are different. In this case, I suspect that the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips have more of a "chocolate" flavor (more unsweetened chocolate and/or cocoa butter), and a less sweet taste. The price of the Kroger semi-sweet chocolate chips? $1.78, for 12 ounces (2 cups).
Second, I found a Kroger brand of margarine that appears to be identical to the Walmart Great Value 0 Trans Fat, palm-based margarine that was previously discussed and that has started appearing in the Walmart stores. The Nutrition Facts for the two margarine products are identical. The price? $0.99. It looks like the Walmart and Kroger margarines are so cheap that there is no point in promoting or advertising those products or even providing information on those products on their websites.
Third, I found a Kroger house brand of baking powder that contains the identical ingredients as used by the Clabber Girl brand. The Nutrition Facts for the two products are identical. The price? $1.00 (marked down from $1.19). The Clabber Girl baking powder in the comparable quantity is $1.79.
Finally, Kroger has the Gold Medal bleached/malted/enriched all-purpose flour on sale at $2.19 for five pounds. The Kroger house brand for a bleached/malted/enriched all-purpose flour costs $1.89 for five pounds but it contains less malting. That might lead to slightly reduced cookie coloration.
While I was at Kroger, I rechecked the various chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip cookie mixes, and refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough products sold at that store. Virtually all of those products list the flour and, in some case, sugar, as the predominant ingredient. This should not come as any surprise. Chocolate chips are expensive. Flour is cheap. And it doesn't matter whether we are talking about the best known and most respected brands or the bargain/value brands. I found only three chocolate chip cookie products that listed chocolate chips first. Interestingly, one of those products is a Kroger product called "THE Truly AWESOME homestyle chocolate chip cookie". Its label is a much cleaner label than most of the other chocolate chip cookies that I looked at, with far fewer chemicals and no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. Just basic ingredients.
Another chocolate chip cookie that I looked at that had the chocolate chips as the first ingredient is the Pepperidge Farm Double Chocolate Nantucket chocolate chunk cookie. The point I am making here is that chocolate chip cookies that have the chocolate chips as the dominant ingredient are few and far between. In some of the stores I visited, there were none.
As I checked out the ingredients statements for the various chocolate chip cookies, I looked to see how much leavening agent was used. In several cases the leavening agent was said to be 2% or less in terms of its predominance in the products where the leavening agent was used. My PJ clone cookie dough formulation calls for 1.5% baking powder. So, it appears that I am at least in the ballpark. Whether less should be used is hard to say at this point. Sodium is present in every ingredient used to make the PJ cookie, even in the vanilla. As a result, there is no way that I can think of to calculate how much Sodium is allocatable to the baking powder so as to be able to know how much of that ingredient to use.