I’m currently on maternity leave, but my passion (my non-baking passion) is my work: user experience. In a nutshell, user experience (UX) is a realm of graphic design that aims to ensure that a product/service gives the most enjoyable and intuitive experience possible. Although a lot of the preliminary work may be based on intuition, experience and guesses, the only way of knowing if the premises laid out are true is to do testing. Lots of testing. Particularly useful is A/B testing, which involves creating two different experiences for the same, say, website and seeing how people’s reactions differ to the variable(s).
Let me give an analogy, as I would to my 3-3/4 daughter. Say you had a batch of cookies, but wanted to test different types of chocolate. You could make the recipe with chocolate A, eat the results and jot down the notes; then make another batch with chocolate B, eat the results, jot down the notes and compare. But it means you have to remember a fairly ephemeral and intangible experience, you’re baking for more than an hour, and you’ve filled every cookie tin you own and/or had to buy a pair of bigger jeans.
Much easier is to simply make a batch of cookies, split it in half (or as many times as types of chocolate being tested), and bake the variables at the same time. Then sit back, taste each option at the same time, mark your notes and declare the winner!
Aurelia helped me with this, err, not-so-theoretical experiment. I still levy a ‘visiting’ tax upon every visitor from the US in the form of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate chips; there’s nothing remotely like them in the UK, where plain (dark) chocolate is the baking standard. My poor, lovely mother-in-law packs additional suitcases to help diffuse the weight of these quintessentially American morsels when she visits. And so, to cut this cord with the US and be able to find and suggest suitable alternatives here in the UK, Aurelia and I set out to work on this A/B test.
Tested were: chocolate A — Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate chips (47% cocoa); and chocolate B — Lindt Dark Cooking Chocolate 51% Cocoa.
Chocolate B came in large bar form, so we had to chop it up as close to ‘morsel’ size as we could (I say ‘we’ generously, given the knife). I found Choc A to be waxy at start without much taste, then quite sweet, with an unexpected, but pleasant, final taste. I found Choc B to immediately melt and be uniformly warm and rich in flavour. Aurelia preferred: ‘both’.
When incorporated in their respective portions of cookie dough, I couldn’t make out much of a difference in flavour. Aurelia liked: ‘both’.
After they were baked, we each tried each. I was surprised by how different the results were, and by how much I preferred one to the other. For me, Chocolate A (Nestlé) remained waxy and simple to taste, and unappealing to look at when bitten into as the chips kept their shape. (It should be noted that retaining the chip shape is a purposeful objective of Nestlé’s; just as M&M’s aren’t meant to melt in your hands.) On the other hand, Chocolate B was an absolute delight! When bitten into, the chocolate positively oozed out, just like chocolate does in all ads. Additionally, the act of chopping the chocolate bar (which, granted, was cumbersome) meant that many small shavings were created. These shavings diffused throughout the dough, adding even more chocolatey flavour throughout. Folks, I’d say we have a winner! But we need to know: Aurelia’s favourite?….’Both’
Who saw that coming?