Sussing out the secret of Costco’s Bisconies
Ihave come to a hard spent realization: Costco has my number. I have walked in with a short shopping list and walked out with a RC drone. And a Surround Sound system for my TV. And, most recently, a 7’x7’x8’ cedar greenhouse kit. They have an almost psychic ability to separate me from my cash. But nothing has sent me down the Costco rabbit hole like a $5.99 pack of their Cranberry Orange Bisconies.
What is a Bisconie? Well, it’s sort of a sconey biscuity thing, and it looks a little bit like a small muffin top. It has a crunchy, crackly crust like a domed cookie studded with sanding sugar. But oh, that interior is what sold me. You bite into it, and the crispy crust gives way to this chewy, dense, bready center popping with little bits of dried cranberries. I’ve been baking a long time, but the contrast in textures left me wondering, “How do they do that?” So I rolled up my sleeves in the lab to deconstruct and resurrect the Bisconies for my home oven.
Taking a trip down the Costco rabbit hole
Starting with the ingredient list on the package, I sorted out the keepers. FDA regulations state that ingredients are listed by weight. This means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredients that weigh the least come last. This helps consumers understand the relative amounts of each ingredient. The only exceptions: ingredients that make up less than 2% of a product may be listed in any order at the end of the list, and some ingredients may be grouped together under a collective term like “spices” or “natural flavors.”
The no-brainers were all musthaves for this type of cookie: sugar, flour, eggs, butter, cranberries, modified corn starch, soybean oil, baking powder, orange zest, orange oil and salt.
The rest of the ingredients were all in the <2% categories, and it took a little time and a few test batches to find out which ones were keepers. I ended up keeping the nonfat dry milk, xanthan gum and egg whites. The only <2% ingredients I disregarded were sodium caseinate, locust bean gum, guar gum and soy flour. I wondered if that would affect the overall flavor and texture. I mean, salt was in the <2% category, and it has a huge impact in any baked goods.
I came up with a unity formula to measure out a batch that would make about 20 Bisconies. In the first couple batches, I made a couple substitutions: I replaced modified corn starch with supermarket corn starch and orange extract for the orange oil. But those batches just seemed too loose; the cookies flattened and dried out in the oven. It was only then I realized the importance of the modified corn starch; it would thicken the batter into more of a moldable dough at room temperature. Supermarket corn starch requires heat to thicken. Also, I increased the amount of xanthan gum from 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp to give the interior of the Bisconies more of a springy chew. Lots of gluten-free baking mixes require xanthan gum and locust bean gum to give their mixes a gluten type “glue” to bring cohesiveness to a dough.
Finally, on batch four, success! Baked a few more batches (8 in total), tested them out on friends and got some thumbs up and great feedback on the taste and texture. And then I moved on to three successful flavor variations: Lemon Blueberry, Cherry Almond and Banana Walnut.
Yield: approx 20 cookies 113g (1 stick) butter - room temp
315g Sugar (1.5 cups) grated zest from one orange
2 eggs plus one yolk - save white for glazing cookies 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp orange extract 315g all purpose flour (2 cups)
30g Modified Corn Starch (1/3 cup Instant Clear Gel Amazon)
1 Tbsp non-fat powdered milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (Bob’s Red Mill - Job Lot)
100g dried cranberries, roughly chopped
Sanding or Decorators Sugar for sprinkling
In a standing mixer with a flat paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and zest together for 8 minutes on medium speed. About 5 minutes in, add the two whole eggs and the yolk into the creamed butter one at a time and mix each each in completely before adding the next. Add the vegetable oil and orange extract and mix in completely. The creamed mixture should be very pale and fluffy at the end. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, modified corn starch, powdered milk, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum together.
With the mixer on the stir setting (low), add the flour mix to the creamed butter by thirds, mixing until fully incorporated.
Add the chopped cranberries and stir to distribute evenly. Place dough in fridge for about 60 minutes to stiffen.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Using a 1/4 cup scoop, make 20 balls of dough. Whisk remaining egg white with 2 tsp water.
Coat balls with egg white and sanding sugar and place on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake for 17 minutes until lightly golden and cracked on top.
NOTE: When adding the xanthan gum, mix it thoroughly with the other dry ingredients before adding to the wet mix.
Lemon Blueberry variation: substitute 1.5 tsp Lemon extract, zest of 1lemon and 1 cup dried blueberries for the orange extract, orange zest and cranberries.
Cherry Almond variation: substitute 1 tsp almond extract, 1/3 cup salted roasted almonds, coarsely chopped and 1 cup chopped dried cherries for the orange extract, orange zest and cranberries.
Banana Walnut variation: substitute 1 tsp banana extract, 1 cup Trader Joe’s Dried Mini Bananas (coarsely ground) and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts for the orange extract, orange zest and cranberries.
Rich Swanson is a local cook who has had numerous wins in nationally sponsored recipe contests. He is also the layout specialist here at The Day.
Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Rich Swanson can be reached at TheSurlyTable@gmail.com