The dō cookie dough confectionery on LaGuardia Place has captivated the hearts of tourists, students, and locals with its sugary joy rides. These mounds of pasteurized unbaked dough, dolled out with an ice cream scoop, are awfully cloying but oddly perfect to satisfy a craving. Despite all the hype, I was skeptical of dō's proclaimed uniqueness - is their dough really that inimitable?
To answer my question, I performed a comprehensive experiment to see if I could beat dō at their own game. My two questions: could I emulate the taste, and could I keep the price lower? As an added zinger, I made my imitation dough vegan.
To start my tests, I headed to Morton Williams on Bleecker to pick up some basic cookie ingredients: brown and granulated sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt. To keep the dough vegan, I purchased stick margarine (tub margarine has a high water volume, so stick margarine is truer to butter), Planet Oat oat milk, and vegan chocolate chips.
On my way home to Goddard Hall, I dropped by dō to pick up my control scoop: signature chocolate chip. Back in my room, I nibbled meticulously on it to determine some crucial flavor factors. I found that dō's dough was incredibly thick, much more than a dough intended for the oven. Its strongest flavors were of vanilla and brown sugar, and the sugars were not fully incorporated into the batter. I also noticed that there was at least one chocolate chip in every bite.
These characteristics gave me an idea of flavor and ingredient hierarchies for my imitation dough. I suspected that its thickness could be attributed to copious flour and minimal moisture. The strong vanilla and brown sugar presence, especially considering the sugar was not fully dissolved, reinforced my sentiment that, beyond vanilla extract, not much more liquid should be added to the batter. I was sure, also, to imitate the many chocolate chips in my dō sample.
My rough notes going into the dough assembly, then, read as follows:
---Brown sugar, flour, vanilla (add a little at a time, but don’t be shy)
---Salt, oat milk??
Because I do not own a kitchen scale, in order to approximate my target amount of dough, I watched many promotional videos to isolate the specific ice cream scoop I believe was used in the confectionery. I concluded that the scoop was a #12 model, which holds about three ounces. Noting the size of my single scoop cup and the dough pouring out of it, I estimated my serving to be around 4 ounces.
Throughout the course of my experiment, many friends were attracted to the carbohydrate heavy ingredients spilling out of my reusable grocery bag and joined me in my tests. We gathered together in Goddard's lounge with my dō cup, groceries, laptop, two small bowls, a fork, a knife, and two tablespoons. (Scrappiness and socializing truly make all cookie dough better.)
Using a random Google recipe for cookie dough as a jumping off point, cut considerably down due to spoon constraints, we allocated a baseline amount of ingredients before tweaking taste and texture later on. Our general approach was as follows:
1. Microwave (to kill bacteria) more flour than you think you'll need
2. Mix/aerate sugars and room temp margarine with a fork
3. Add vanilla
4. Add salt and microwaved flour
5. Test with adding other ingredients ad hoc until ideal flavor/consistency reached
6. Add vegan chocolate chips (add to your heart’s content)
After much taste testing and many additions, our final ingredient list boiled down to:
- 6 tbsp of light brown sugar
- 2+⅔ tbsp of margarine sticks
- ⅓ tbsp vanilla extract
- ⅓ ⅓ tbsp salt
- 7+⅓ tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp oat milk
- 4+⅔ tbsp granulated sugar
- 3.5 tbsp mini choc chips
In the end, our imitation dough tasted slightly saltier than dō's. Despite the high amounts of brown and granulated sugar we added to compensate, I believe we added too much salt at the beginning, and its flavor was impossible to account for. Additionally, despite minimal moisture and added flour, our dough was not as thick as dō's. Next time, I would modify the recipe by using less margarine. Adding less salt could help, as well, as oat milk would not have been necessary at all to neutralize the dough's flavor. While we didn't nail the imitation this time around, we still made some incredible dough and learned some lessons for future experiments.
Making this imitation dough was entertaining, especially with friends. We were all pleasantly surprised by the convincing fattiness of our vegan dough, and, in my opinion, real dairy would have added nothing to its flavor. The ability to recreate this recipe with only some cutlery and bowls makes it accessible and low maintenance, adding more to its appeal.
The final factor determining the superiority of our homemade dough, of course, is price comparison. Given the cost of NYC groceries, especially with vegan substitutes, one would think that dō would be more affordable. However, in calculating the prices of each ingredient I bought per tablespoon and multiplying that figure by the real amount used in my recipe, I found that vegan homemade dough is actually cheaper, and you'll likely already have many of these ingredients in your kitchen:
approx. 4 oz
- dō: $4.90, after student discount
- Homemade (all prices rounded up): $4.31 (more like $4 in reality!!)
---Brown sugar - $0.03 per tbsp: $0.18
---Flour - $0.10: $0.73
---Vanilla - $3: $1
---Granulated sugar - $0.05: $0.23
---Margarine - $0.16: $0.43
---Salt - $0.02: $0.01
---Oat milk - $0.05: $0.05
---Vegan chocolate chips - $0.35: $1.23
So, there you have it: we really dōn't need dō, and vegan imitation dough won out in sweet, sweet victory.
Single scoop of dough in dō cup, from dō website
Imitation dough in dō cup