It is rare for there to exist one version of a thing. Superman is not the only super-powered hero. MS Word is not the only word processing software. And Kellogg’s Raisin Bran is not the only raisin bran.
This is the case with chocolate sandwich cookies, which is the generic name for “Milk’s Favorite Cookie”, the Oreo. But if you visit your local cookie vendor, you’ll discover Famous Amos makes a chocolate sandwich cookie…Newman’s Own has their Newman O’s…and there are always the more generic, off-branded versions as well.
In the beginning, however, there was the Oreo and the Hydrox. And any trivialist or food nerd will quickly tell you that the Hydrox pre-dated the Oreo.
But the Oreo is the most well known. Oreo, like Xerox for photocopiers and Kleenex for tissues, has become the common-use term for the chocolate sandwich cookie (by way of example as MS Word spell-checks this very document, “Hydrox” gets the “you spelled this wrong” red underline; “Oreo”, no problem. In fact, it only corrects you if you fail to capitalize the O). This was the case for me even as a child, where I just assumed Hydrox was the “off-brand” version of the Oreo. I may not have been the only one, as years ago the first cookie, the Hydrox, was no longer available for purchase.
More recently, however, the Hydrox has returned. Labeled as a 100th Anniversary Limited Edition, you may once again find Hydrox in your local grocery.
Which led to the question: despite their chronology or popularity, what’s the difference, really?
So a package of Nabisco’s Oreo Cookies was purchased as was a package of Sunshine Biscuit’s Hydrox, and a taste test ensued (though for the record, these are both post-trans fat removal, so it’s more a modern taste test than a true, pure taste test as one might have enjoyed in the early 1900s).
The methodology was as follows:
Test 1 – cookies dunked into milk for about 10 seconds each.
Test 2 – cookies sampled without milk.
Test 3 – cookies left in milk for longer periods of time.
Test 4 – cookies split/turned and the creme fillings were tasted alone.
Test 5 – the remaining, creme-less cookies sampled.
Test 6 – Not a test at all, but with two remaining halves with some creme on each, inevitably these halves were joined and consumed.
After all of that, and further consumption of cookies, the resulting analysis:
Oreos taste like “cookies & cream”.
Hydrox taste like cookies with creme in the center.
Which is to say with the Hydrox, the flavors and textures of the individual components seemed more distinct.
The Hydrox’s cookie was crisper/crunchier than that of the Oreo. It also had a slightly bitterer flavor…as if it were perhaps baked a bit longer…not quite burned, but slightly more well-done.
This may be the reason the Oreo has a faster rate of “Milk Melt”, a term used to describe the time it takes for a cookie to lose its structural integrity due to exposure to a liquid, most often milk (the Milano Cookie having perhaps the fasted rate of Milk Melt).
In the longer-term dunk/soak, the Oreo reaches that very delicious state of cookie mush whereas the Hydrox seemed to hold their form with more…tenacity.
In the creme-filling test, the Hydrox’s filling tasted more of sugar while the Oreo tasted more of fat.
So, with the cookies being less firm and the creme being creamier, it makes sense that, upon eating, the Oreo would become a more homogeneous mix in the mouth and therefore taste of “cookies & cream”. The Hydrox, meanwhile, with its more distinct textures, meant more distinct flavors in the mouth.
Is one better than the other? Obviously, that’s a matter of taste. But in this instance, the novelty of the Hydrox might have won the day. The lesson being: never underestimate the value of something new (even though it’s actually quite old).
In the end, chocolate sandwich cookies are delicious.
All of that said, word on the street says the Joe Joe’s from Trader Joe’s are something special…