It’s that time of year again.
The days are short and the temperature is diving. Valentine’s Day is over and it’s an incredible 306 (who’s counting?) days until Christmas, but we have one thing keeping us going: Girl Scout cookies.
Here at The Malibu Times, healthy diets are impossible to maintain in February and March thanks to the generous supply of Tagalongs, Samoas and Do-Si-Dos stocked in the office kitchenette. But anyone who has stopped at one of the folding tables staffed by adorable young saleswomen in Ventura or Orange counties may be surprised at the offerings there. In place of Tagalongs, you would find Peanut Butter Patties. In place of Samoas? Caramel deLites. And Do-Si-Dos become Peanut Butter Sandwiches.
But that’s not all.
Even trusty old Thin Mints are a different breed—the shape, texture and taste change in boxes purchased just a few miles up or down the coast.
The toasted coconut atop Samoas is toastier than that of Caramel deLites. The wafers inside Peanut Butter Patties are thicker than those of Tagalongs.
So why would that be?
Way back when, around WWI, Girl Scouts used to make their own cookies to sell.
“Girl Scout Cookies had their earliest beginnings in the kitchens and ovens of our girl members, with moms volunteering as technical advisers,” according to the Cookie History page of the official Girl Scout website. “The sale of cookies as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917, five years after Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in the United States.”
About 10 years later, many troops began using a simple sugar cookie recipe provided by a local director in Chicago and printed in The American Girl Magazine.
Following the end of rationing after WWII, 29 bakers were licensed to bake and sell Girl Scout cookies to troops around the country. By the 1960s, the number of licensed bakers dropped to 14, which “was streamlined” down to four by the ’70s. Today, there are just two: ABC Bakers in Richmond, Vir., and Little Brownie Bakers in Louisville, Ken.
These bakeries supply all the Girl Scout cookies sold and eaten in the United States each year, but not all cookies are created equal. Each bakery has its own recipe for the cookies. For instance, while ABC Bakers’ Thin Mints are described as: “Crispy chocolate wafers dipped in a mint chocolaty coating,” Little Brownie Bakers’ Thin Mints are: “Crisp wafers covered in chocolaty coating made with natural oil of peppermint.” They look, taste and feel slightly different.
So which bakery delivers cookies to the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles? That would be Little Brownie Bakers. But, as luck would have it, the nearby Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast purchases its cookies from ABC—as do Girl Scouts of Orange County, Girl Scouts of Central California South and Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio. In fact, you’d have to travel all the way down to the Girl Scouts of San Diego to score a box of Do-Si-Dos south of Long Beach. But I digress.
The minor differences in these cookies made us wonder whether we in Malibu were getting the best the scouts have to offer. Are our neighbors to the north, south and east eating better than we are?
Last week, The Malibu Times office held an unscientific blind taste-test to determine which cookies had the best color, taste and texture, and it was a very tight race. The contenders included Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos/Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Samoas/Caramel deLites and Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties.
Much to our relief—lest we speak ill of our local Girl Scout council—we are proud to announce that LA’s brand of Girl Scout cookies edged out the competition in most categories. Among our colleagues who participated in the anonymous test (which included members of the editorial, advertising, administration and IT staff), the overall best cookie was the humble Tagalong, scoring high marks across the board in the categories of color, taste and texture. Next came the Do-Si-Do, followed by Samoas—all three sold right here in our area.
When it came to Thin Mints, according to the ballots, there is more than meets the eye. While the Little Brownie Bakers’ Thin Mints came out on top in appearance, it was ABC Bakers’ Thin Mints that won the day, scoring high in texture and taste. In fact, they were voted overall best tasting cookie among the eight sampled. Perhaps they’re worth a road trip down to Orange County… or at least snagging a box next time you’re up past County Line.
Our office went on a culinary and historical adventure this week as we researched Girl Scout cookies, and the biggest takeaway? All Girl Scout cookies are delicious, and we just happen to be lucky enough here in Malibu to try twice as many recipes.
They’ll be on sale here in town for about another month.
Note: I was once a Girl Scout and am very biased in favor of cookies.