Hold the presses! Hold the presses once again folks, for Trader Joe’s has unleashed a new form of cookie butter delivery system upon the world. This time they’ve packaged their joyful condiment in the form of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies – a delicious butter cookie / cookie butter sandwich.
If you’re not familiar with cookie butter, and that would truly be tragedy, you can better educate yourself on the topic here, here, here, here and here. Basically any time Trader Joe’s develops some new application of this most delicious cookie spread I will be there to buy it. If you don’t have the time to work your way through the backlog of posts, the tl;dr version goes like this:
Cookie Butter is like peanut butter – only it’s made from the delicious European cookie speculoos instead of peanuts. It tastes so good that once you eat it you will generate a sort of free-floating anger at the world for not inventing it sooner. HOWEVER – cookie butter is also a curse. It is so truly wonderful in and of itself that combining it with anything only seems to dilute its goodness.
The sorry truth is that the best way to enjoy Cookie Butter is to just spoon it directly into your mouth like a decadent Roman emperor. Trader Joe’s has tried numerous times to improve upon cookie butter, and each time they have failed. Cookie butter and Nutella failed, Oreo cookie butter fell short, and even Cookie Butter Cheesecake fell short of the mark set by a simple spoonful of cookie butter, eaten all by itself.
Nevertheless, Trader Joe’s refuses to give up on the dream of improving cookie butter. Which leads to the periodic release of new developments such as our speciment today – Cookie sandwiches with cookie butter.
How did they do this time? Well, first off, it’s cookie butter, so it’s pretty damn good. More specifically, however, it’s really damn good. It’s hard to see where they could improve on these sandwich cookies. Two simple, but sweet and flaky butter cookies are sandwiched around a thick swathe of divine cookie butter. The result is a really handy way to get cookie butter into your mouth without getting your fingers sticky.
It’s in the use of plain butter cookies that Trader Joe’s really succeeds on this count. I’m sure that someone suggested using speculoos cookies for the two cookie halves, they may have even tried it, but that would only have muddled the decadent cookie butter taste. On the other hand, these basic butter cookies simply stay out of the way. They provide a nice crunch, and a nice mild sweetness but don’t get in the way of the main attraction. You really taste the cookie butter in these cookies, and not much else. That shows that TJ’s is learning. Come for the cookie butter and get the cookie butter- it’s an easy formula but a winning one.
There’s only one point I found myself disappointed on – and that is dunkability. With any sandwich cookie – oreo or otherwise – the mind immediately turns to a glass of cool, dunkable milk. Now there are certainly a plurality of theories on the perfect way to dunk a cookie, but the general consensus holds that you want a sort of al dente toothsomeness – yielding but not too soft. Unfortunately, the butter cookies involved here don’t lend themselves to that at all. Denser and not as porous as an Oreo, you’ll have to hold one of these cookies under the surface a long time before they even start absorbing milk. The butter cookies give you that “water off a ducks back” phenomenon, keeping the core resolutely dry no matter how much you dunk. Phooey. If they’d stuck the landing it would have been a solid 5 star performance.
Are these cookie sandwiches any better than cookie butter by itself? Not better, but almost as good – and that’s saying something. By keeping it clean and simple, you end up getting that same delightful cookie butter taste, with a bit of added crunchiness. If you want to think of these as a great all around cookie to serve anytime, or as a less barbaric way to get your cookie butter intake, you wouldn’t be poorly served. You can chalk this up as another “W” on the cookie butter scoreboard.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, this is an awesome new way to eat cookie butter.
Would I Buy It Again: Definitely, if I could trust myself around it.
Final Synopsis: Delicious cookie butter sandwiched between two pleasantly low key butter cookies.
It seems high time I review Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s. After Trader Joe’s introduced us to the Joe Joe all over again with their amazing, new Cookies and Creme Cookie Butter, it seems like the perfect time to examine the Joe-Joe itself a little more deeply.
Joe-Joe’s are, simply put, the Trader Joe’s version of Oreos. Never seeing a popular product that they didn’t think they could do themselves, both cheaper and better, TJ’s has bypassed Nabisco and stocked their shelves with their own take on the iconic black and white, frosting-filled cookie. It’s these cocoa and vanilla crème cookies that have been blended down into a mind-melting emollient in the super delicious Cookie and Creme Cookie Butter, but Trader Joe’s hasn’t limited their cookie palette to just one type.
Just as the Nabisco Oreo has boldly gone off in new, sometimes insane, flavor directions with their cookie (trying out such elaborate concoctions as Birthday Cake Oreos, Root Beer Float Oreos, Watermelon Oreos, and even Cookie Dough Oreos), Trader Joe’s has sought to follow suit – bringing to the table a diverse, although more limited, selection that includes Peppermint, Chocolate Creme, Vanilla Sandwich, and more. This being the time of Pumpkin Madness, Trader Joe’s has of course engineered a brand new, entirely seasonal variety – the pumpkin Joe Joe.
The Pumpkin Joe-Joe is both what you’re expecting and not what you’re expecting. Based on the box art I assumed this was going to be a variation on the Vanilla Sandwich variety – vanilla cookies on the outside, with some sort of vaguely pumpkin-y icing on the inside. I, once again, was underestimating TJ’s devotion to pumpkin. While the filling is, indeed, average and pumpkin flavored so are the cookies. The whole thing, top to bottom, is one pumpkin flavored cookie ready to meet all your pumpkin-flavored cookie needs. Of course, that need for pumpkin-flavored cookies is small and fleeting, so one box of these will probably do you about right, assuming that you feel any such need at all.
I for one, certainly didn’t. While I applaud Trader Joe’s continued efforts to jam pumpkin into life’s every nook and cranny, there are some times it works out beautifully, and some times you just have to shrug. The pumpkin flavored Joe-Joes fall into the later camp. Joe-Joe cookies are creamy, crunchy and delicious. It could even be argued they’re superior to the Oreo cookie itself. On that grounds there’s no reason to turn these down – on the other hand, these cookies scratch exactly one itch, and that’s idle novelty. The pumpkin is there in an after-the-fact sort of way. When you bite in you’ll taste a sort of fairly sweet, cinnamon/nutmeg spiciness, which is quite nice. There is a hint of pumpkin taste that lingers in the bite, then you swallow and it’s gone. Gone, but not forgotten. Pumpkin has that magic sort of touch that lingers in the mouth long after the swallow and it’s in full force here. Once the cookie is gone, and the stronger, sugary tastes have vanished, the aftertaste of pumpkin emerges from hiding, declaring “Yes, you ate something with pumpkin in it.”
It’s not a bad trick, really, and if you’re planning to have people over for a harvest party or throwing a Halloween get together for your class, these will be kind of cool to have out. They’re reasonably good, but they’re not replacements for the classic variety. Will you miss them when they’re gone? No more than the Watermelon Oreo’s, I would imagine.
The real value of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s, as far as I’m concerned is the box art. I believe this may provide a window into Trader Joe’s Pumpkin fevered mind. On one side of the box, we’re presented with a perspective-less landscape, irregular pumpkin shapes ominously crowding the foreground. Amongst these, three of the pumpkins have strangely “turned into” Joe-Joe cookies, still featuring their pumpkin stems and unchanged in size. Is it possible this is how Trader Joe’s fevered pumpkin-geneers see the world? Do food objects occasionally waver before their eyes, super-imposing themselves on top of pumpkins, like the vision of a starving man in a Bugs Bunny cartoon?
On closer inspection, the land which the scene takes place on also appears unusual. Huge, round, orange hills with long striations extend one past another, blotting out the horizon – as if the land itself was reduced to pumpkins, the world nothing but one endless, ever-mounting series of incomprehensible pumpkins.
The other side of the box is much more disturbing, and exceeds my ability to fully analyze. We’re presented, jarringly, with a flattened, distended pickup truck. It too is dwarfed by the many pumpkins that crowd the image – including three massive towering pumpkins that overflow the truck itself, dwarfing it with their inexplicable size. This is to be expected from Trader Joe’s pumpkin psychosis – but the truck is not so easily understood. One headlight is blank, the other ringed by concentric circles, like two wildly staring eyes. The truck seems to almost have one of those cartoon car faces – a nose, eyes, a mouth – except twisted and disturbing. The blank eyes point directly at the viewer from the trucks “face”, its huge, broken, irregular grill spread into a wide deranged grin. It brings you the pumpkins. It brings you the huge, alien pumpkins whether you want them or not. It brings you the pumpkins, regardless of its own will, regardless of any will but the pumpkins own, driverlessly bearing down on you from the hill side. It brings you pumpkins, from the heart of madness – pumpkins, pumpkins, PUMPKINS!
Happy Halloween everyone!
Trader Joe’s Cowgirl Bark raises all sorts of questions. What does that strange set of words mean? Why did TJ decide to keep going with the bark thing, after last years lackluster Cowboy Bark? What is bark? And, most importantly, what makes this a girl bark instead of a boy bark?
While the era of sexism is long from over, society’s the tolerance for male-centric, “we make the rules” BS is lower than it’s ever been. It is a time of striving for equality, and reappraising long held assumptions. It is in this climate that Trader Joe’s decided to make their bag of “girl” candy pink with flowers on it. Pretty brazen move, TJ.
Based just on the bag alone, I had low hopes for this chocolaty snack bag. Neither myself nor any of my taste testers had much love for the Cowboy Bark, a rather lazily styled re-release didn’t seem like it was going to change my mind. The formula, as Trader Joe’s points out on the bag, is certainly different – white chocolate, crisp rice, triple ginger cookies, pretzels, cranberries, almonds and peanuts and mushed together instead of dark chocolate, toffee, Joe Joe cookies, pretzels, almonds and peanuts all mushed together.
In theory, it doesn’t sound that bad, except, of course, for those two words right up front – white chocolate. The world is filled with a plethora of strange thing, but white chocolate is, to me, one of the strangest. Whoever was in charge of protecting the chocolate name against low-quality imitators was clearly out to lunch when white chocolate came along. Although I’ve had the occasional falling out with chocolate, it’s still a beautiful, wonderful thing – delicious in any form, and on any occasion. Like bad sex, as they say, bad chocolate is still pretty good.
The issue with white chocolate is that it does not taste like, and is in fact not, chocolate. Who does white chocolate think it’s fooling, really? It’s one of the classic disappointing switcheroos. If you offer someone chocolate, then hand them a bar of white chocolate, you have just deeply disappointed that person – guaranteed. 100% of the time people are less excited to get white chocolate than real chocolate.
Is that unfair to this “white” sheep of the chocolate family? Certainly not, white chocolate sucks, that’s all. In addition to it’s delicious sugar and cream contents, real chocolate contains a wide rage of intriguing stimulants and anti-oxidants, such as theobromine, thiamine, phenylethylamine, and of course, our good buddy caffeine. In white chocolate, all of these are missing – stripped from the chocolate, on purpose, in order to turn it into white chocolate. White chocolate is, literally, what’s left over when you take all the good stuff out of chocolate. The colorless corpse of chocolate, from which the soul has departed.
And yet folks – and yet, I actually like Trader Joe’s Cowgirl Bark considerably better than their Cowboy Bark. The big failing of the Cowboy bark was that the intensity of the dark chocolate overpowered the other, allegedly tasty, ingredients. With white chocolate there’s no such problem, and the pretzels, peanuts, et al. get to make their presence known. The result is actually a fairly tasty mash up of chocolate and snack foods. You’ll certainly notice the salty pretzels and crunchy nuts the most, with the cranberries and ginger cookies more or less unnoticeable amid all the other noise.
Nevertheless, overall this bark basically works. I wasn’t wowed by it, and it may be made with white chocolate, but taken altogether the salty, sweet punch of the candy is good enough to bring you back to bag for seconds and thirds. There’s certainly room to improve – storing chocolate in a loose bag, as we’ve explored before, is not a good idea unless you want it to melt together into a huge messy blob – but Trader Joe’s is getting closer. Maybe they’ll come out with a third iteration using milk chocolate instead (Cow Bark perhaps?), and it will actually win me over. There’s a brilliant idea in here somewhere, they just haven’t quite reached it yet. Until then, the general populous can probably steer clear.
Would I Recommend It: With hesitation, to people who don’t mind messy fingers.
Would I Buy It Again: No, this is the best white chocolate I’ve had but it’s still just white chocolate.
Final Synopsis: A treat best reserved for people who like white chocolate, like confectionery bark, or both.
Well this is a tasty surprise. Trader Joe’s does a wonderful job giving you things you didn’t know you wanted, like their Kouigns Amann, and/or wouldn’t have asked for even if you did, like their Quinoa Sushi Rolls. In this case, somehow some genius at Trader Joe’s looked at a slice of carrot cake and thought, “You know, I bet you could invert that.” Thus was Trader Joe’s Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookie born.
Yes, it turns out, you can invert carrot cake – by pulling the cake off the bottom, splitting it and two and making a sandwich out of the thing you can have a portable, easily snackable, mini slice of cake that you can eat with your fingers. And it’s actually as good as it sounds.
The goodness of the Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookie is due more to the tasty carrot cake recipie TJ’s uses than the novelty of the dish. The cake bit is soft, spongy, moist and mildly spicy with just a hint of carrot taste, while the cream cheese icing is thick, sweet and surprisingly fluffy. An all too common mistake of carrot cake is to load it up with almost heart-stoppingly rich cream cheese frosting that 1) totally hides the cake, and 2) limits you to eating about a postage stamp sized slice of cake at risk of have your blood turn to syrup. Good though that is on occasion, Trader Joe’s goes for a sweet, but not overwhelming recipe here.
There are numerous variations on the carrot cake recipe – from straight cake to cake loaded with nuts and pineapple. Trader Joe’s goes for a pretty traditional version, sprinkling a handful of raisins into their batter and leaving it otherwise alone.
Carrot cake has always intrigued me. Unlike, say, France, we don’t stand much on tradition when it comes to food in America. Any which way you can think of making a cake, you are positively encouraged to do so. Wanna put red food coloring in the chocolate cake? Go right ahead, red velvet. Wanna mold the Battle of Hastings (1066) out of eleven pounds of fondant? You’re the boss… the Cake Boss.
And yet, when it comes to a few particular cakes we insist on certain formulas. Carrot cake always has white cream cheese frosting and, if at all possible, little frosting carrots on it. Isn’t that strange? And who even thought of putting a bunch of carrots in a cake in the first place? In carrot cake we have one baked product that isn’t just tradition bound, but incredibly tradition bound – like five centuries tradition bound.
Carrot cake comes to us, believe it or not, from medieval Europe, circa 1500 – possibly earlier. It’s been awhile since I’ve really delved into carrot history, but the time has come again and, like before, it means we get to turn to our old friend the World Carrot Museum (if you stop by, be sure to check out the Musical Instruments page. Required reading.) This is an absolutely amazing website for anyone who is interested in the intricate history of carrots and/or early 90’s website design. If only more websites showed this level of dedication to straight forward navigation and depth of knowledge of subject the world would be a much better place.
As you will read, carrots have long been a part of cakes due to their relatively high sugar content – highest among all vegetables save the sugar beet. This raises the question of why we’re not all enjoying delicious sugar beet cake, but I suppose that’s beside the point. With their high glucose load, carrots make a reasonably good natural sweetener in baked goods – perfect for sugar-poor peoples like your average medieval knave. The carrot cake pioneered in the dark ages experienced a resurgence mid century by sugar deprived, but resourceful, housewives during the great wars. They added their own touches, including the cream cheese frosting and, for some reason, the little icing carrots.
As you hold your Trader Joe’s Inside Out Carrot Cake Cookie in your hand, reflect that it’s not merely a riff on Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies, it’s the cutting edge of carrot cake development, the peak of an ever cresting wave that stretches all the way back to a wattle and daub hut in some feudal serfdom five hundred years ago. Carrot cake.
Would I Recommend It: Yeah! It’s a tasty and snackable way to eat carrot cake.
Would I Buy It Again: I’ll probably buy it a little more often than I buy regular carrot cake.
Final Synopsis: Portable, well-made carrot cake slices – with raisins.
It doesn’t seem like you could go wrong with Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Triple Ginger Cookies. It’s holiday time, these are gingerbread cookies, it’s a match made in heaven! All you have to do to succeed, in my book, is deliver at least an average gingerbread cookie and I’ll keep you on my kitchen shelf though the New Year. These triple ginger cookies promise to do that and more, so I was pumped before I even picked up the box. Then I got a chance to rady the product copy. Let’s take a look at the promise on the beautiful, holiday themed package:
“Made with 3 types of giner, fresh, ground and chunks of crystallized ginger, then enrobed in a thin layer of dark chocolate, this is a snappy cookei with a acrunchy bite and a rich chocolate finish.”
Sounds sweet, right? But despite all this ginger, somehow, someway, these cookies conspire to taste completely un-gingery.
I think it’s safe to safe that if you’re going to claim that your cookies are not just double but triple ginger you had better put some damn ginger in them. Despite the claims on the packaging, despite even the list of ingredients detailing the types of ginger, these cookies simply do not taste very much like ginger. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that you’d be hard pressed to detect the taste of ginger in these at all. Surely he’s not being serious. Yes, folks, I am. What you get in these cookies is the strong, lingering taste of the dark chocolate (which is, actually, quite good) followed by nothing or, if you’ve bitten into one of the crystallized ginger bits, a faint taste of ginger that last for a brief moment. Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookies are, at best, a lie whose only purpose is to ruin your holiday festivities.
Perhaps I go to far.
After all, these are pretty decent cookies when all is said and done. They may not taste like ginger very much at all (a brutal failure for a gingerbread cookie, to be sure), but the dark chocolate still works perfectly well. If you’re looking for a nice, small bittersweet chocolate cookie this would fit the bill perfectly. If these had been called “Trader Joe’s Super Dark Chocolate Cookies with a bit of Ginger”, I’d be writing a very happy article right now. Should have but didn’t – and it’s too late now to repair my hurt feelings. If stripped of the dark chocolate, I dare say the ginger would rise admirable to the fore. Beneath the thick shell of ominipresent chocolate however, it is pushed so far into the background it nearly disappears.
My only other complaint with these is that the chocolate covering frustrates any attempt at achieving a satisfying dunk. While cookies are perfectly fine taken dry, most everyone can agree that a glass of milk or spot of tea can elevate even a very humble cookie to heavenly realms. Despite my best efforts to dunk these cookies in both tea and milk I was frustrated in every attempt. The same chocolate shell that dominates the taste is completely impermeable to liquid. I thought that a nice hot cup of Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend might melt away some of that cocoa bean carapace and give me a nice soft cookie upon which to sup, but all I got were chocolate smeared fingers and mugs.
Really, this would be an excellent cookie if they left the ginger out or took the chocolate off. Both together seems pointless.
Would I Buy Them Again: No, without ginger they hold no appeal for me.
Would I Recommend Them: Only to people who want a dark chocolate cookie with a little, but not much, ginger taste.
Final Synopsis: Gingerbread cookies that taste like chocolate instead of ginger .
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking what I was thinking. “Oh man, dark chocolate with peanut butter on a crispy wafer? That sounds good.” And it does sound good, it sounds really good, but it’s just not the case. It is simply alright.
Now, in all fairness much of the fault here has got to go to the packaging. In general, you can rely on Joe to come up with clever packaging that’s as effective and efficient as it is eye-catching. Not so here, just a jumble of snack squares tossed into a bag. This is a fine approach for animal crackers and dog food – foods that are heat and crumble resistant. Not so much for chocolate, peanut butter and wafer. The first time I opened the bag I was presented with a gooey mess – peanut butter and chocolate slumped messily over irregular bits of wafer.
In a perfect world this probably could have been avoided, I would have kept the bag perfectly level upon purchase and placed it in a cool, spacious drawer. As is all to clear from the wars, famines and imperfect snack goods that assail us – this is no perfect world. My food cabinet is crowded and located above the stove. Things get cramped and warm from time to time, and there’s not much I can do about that.
The reality of the situation is that there’s no way around ending up with this mess. I stuff my snacks in my cabinet with everything else and the house heats up during the day. I treated these guys no different from anything else I buy, and the end result is a mess that’s as technically difficult to eat as you’re liable to find.
Even if they cookies hadn’t come to me melted, there’s no way they could be indulged upon outside or exposed to the mild heat of a house in summer – we’re talking about chocolate for god’s sake, known to melt at the drop of a hat. Seems to me like ol’ Joe should have taken that one into account. If he knew what he was doing, these’d come in a little, sub-divided plastic tray (like most cookies), and I’d have nothing to complain about but the taste.
What’s wrong with the taste? Not much, to be honest. They taste fine, but fine isn’t all that I expect from a chocolate-peanut butter cookie. The main issue, I believe, is that dark chocolate does not go as well with peanut butter as we’d all hope. That may be shocking to hear – we’ve been conditioned to spring energetically from our seats at the mere mention of chocolate and peanut butter combined, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s time that we, as a nation, start to break from our all-encompassing, slavish acceptance of the peanut butter-chocolate duo and start examining each instance on its own merits. In this case, I’m sorry to say it just doesn’t hold up that well. If we were talking milk chocolate, sweet and smooth, that’d be another case entirely. As it stands, the strong, slightly bitter overtones of the dark chocolate fight against the peanut butter and render the whole experience average at best. All in all, it’s enough to make you wonder why you even bother sometimes.
Would I recommend them: By no means.
Would I buy them again: Only as a tool of retribution.
Final Synopsis: Your hands will look like you pooped on them.