Alternate title: Why people who change perfectly good product formulations in favor of newer, crappier ones must die.
This weekend I made a chocolate chip cheese ball. I remember having one of these from Hickory Farms years ago and we discovered on New Year’s Eve that it paired deliciously with animal crackers. I thought it’d be nice to make one for New Year’s this year, and it turns out there’s basically only one recipe:
Chocolate chip cheese ball (everybody’s same recipe)
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) regular salted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp. (1/8 cup) packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips, divided
Beat cream cheese and butter together until well combined. Mix in both kinds of sugar and vanilla. When thoroughly mixed, fold in 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate for several hours, than form into a ball. (At this point the ball can be frozen, and thawed in the fridge for about a day whenever you want to use it, then rolled in coating.) Roll chilled ball in 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, or the same amount of chopped pecans if you’re insane.
It’s ridiculously easy to make, so I thought I couldn’t screw it up. And I was right; it came out great, even in spite of the fact that my attempt to make powdered sugar in the food processor came out fairly poorly. (People say you can just use granulated sugar and make your own. Those people are liars. The food processor will never get you a fine enough powder. Just buy confectioner’s sugar.) There’s only one variation I found on this recipe, which uses a full 1/2 cup brown sugar to make it more like cookie dough.
I ended up splitting the result in half, chilling ball one right away for a test, and putting one ball in the freezer. The full recipe really makes for a ginormous ball, so seriously, you can probably quarter this sucker and it’ll be fine. In fact it’s probably better that way, since for a big party you can have multiple balls at multiple locations.
Now begins my rant.
Last year my Minister of Compliance told me that Aldi made a fantastic animal cracker, which tasted just like the McDonaldland cookies I could no longer find: perfect shortbread cookies with just a hint of lemon flavor. I tried them and found out she was right. They were delightful, in flavor and texture exactly like the cookies I remembered but could no longer find. But over about a year since then I hadn’t bought them again, mostly because I always had too much other junk in the house, and honestly it’s not like I want to buy cookies all the time. This month, since I had the whole cheese ball idea, I decided I should buy two boxes: one for me, one for the party where I’ll be bringing that currently-frozen cheese ball. And today, I tried the cheese ball I made along with those animal crackers.
The good news is that the cheese ball was very good. The bad news: Some jerk who develops products for Aldi decided that their animal crackers, which were as of last year the very best on the market, needed to be changed. Although I know Aldi develops bargain foods, their animal crackers were nothing less than extraordinary. They were that good. But now the cookies are bland and lack the slight lemon flavor (or indeed any flavor), the texture didn’t seem as good, and frankly they’re not worth the buck and a half I paid for each box. Other people have noticed and complained about this, but Aldi has been pretty much mum about it; they direct people to their customer service form and that’s it.
This is the equivalent of Rolls Royce deciding they want to take their cars in more of a Yugo direction. This is like the New Coke debacle, if the people behind that hadn’t been well-intentioned and had good-at-the-time-but-so-stupid-in-hindsight reasons for what they did. This is like when Keebler screwed up the formulation of their fudge cookies to give them a “darker” flavor (not E. L. Fudge, I’m talking the salty-cakey chocolate sandwich cookies with a swirly pattern) and then subsequently ended up taking them off the market altogether. After I get the Ministry of Resurrected Products up and running Keebler’s fudge cookies are the first thing I’m bringing back, and there will be an official inquisition to discover who took them out of my life for over 20 years. Elf heads will roll.
I’d easily pay a lot more for a box of cookies that tasted exactly like McDonaldland cookies. I was thrilled when I found out Aldi had just that, for mere pocket change. But now their cookies are like a baking experiment gone wrong, the kind of thing where that one friend really wants you to like her homemade cookies even though she never uses salt or sugar, and you can’t tell her that because you’re too polite. Only I’m not that polite, and I’m telling you, Aldi-analogy lady, your new animal crackers are terrible and you’re a terrible person for changing them; bad things should happen to you. They’re not inedible, but they’ve gone from being the very best animal crackers on the planet to something completely inferior to every regular bargain brand everywhere: including, somehow, itself. And if this is the way Aldi treats their animal crackers, I have no reason to trust the integrity of anything else they sell. Screw the idiots.
This development would be tolerable if I still had a brand of cookie I could buy that was anything like what I wanted. By which I actually mean exactly what I wanted; it can’t be hard. I can’t even find a good copycat recipe to make them myself; if it’s out there it’s Google-proof. (If you know of a recipe like the one I seek, please shoot me a link.) I was crestfallen when McDonald’s stopped selling those cookies separate from Happy Meals, and apparently sometime last year they stopped making them altogether. I can’t help but wonder if that’s somehow connected to the Aldi fail, but if it is it isn’t an excuse. And nothing excuses failing to at least change the packaging, to warn people.
So to sum up: McDonald’s stopped selling me their awesome cookies, Aldi has recently stopped selling cookies that were just like them, Google is hiding any recipes that I could use to make them myself even though it’s probably posted in 20 places (and if it’s not, it should be), and somebody must die.