2021 Cook of the Year: Erika Kwee
Finding the internet's best chocolate chip cookie recipe is like trying to choose the prettiest flower in a meadow. The options seem endless, and each is just a little different. One day, Houston-based food blogger Erika Kwee had a cookie craving and found herself in this situation. So she baked them all...sort of.
Just for fun, Kwee and a friend searched for 20 popular chocolate chip cookie recipes. She then narrowed them down to a dozen, created a chart to compare all the ingredients, baked 200, had 30 people sample and survey them, collected the data, put it in a spreadsheet, ranked them with tasting notes (because, as she discovered, opinions on cookies vary as widely as the recipes), and then posted the results on her blog, The Pancake Princess.
The response to this data-driven ranking was so positive that now, four years later, Kwee is a trusted source for cooks around the world. Following the same process, she has tested baked goods ranging from apple crisp to zucchini bread and gained almost 50,000 Instagram followers. "I get a lot of suggestions from readers," she says. "I'll take requests for things I don't even like."
Yes, she bakes everything herself—usually in one day with one oven. (Sometimes her landlord shares her oven, like the time Kwee made nine apple pies.) "Baking multiple recipes isn't that much more work compared to making one, because you have to get out all those ingredients anyway," she says. "And the payoff is better."
Kwee's favorite part of the process is bringing people together to taste test. (During the pandemic, she doled out samples into muffin pans from a distance.) "It's the best feeling to see your friends enjoy all these different recipes," she says. "That community aspect is really fun for me."