Archive for December 22, 2013
Oreos, Ratios, and the Perfect Cookie
Okay, first things first. What do you call the following shape?
I call it a pill. My sons call it a racetrack. But is there a formal name for a shape formed by a rectangle with a semicircle attached to each end? If not, I feel like there should be. Place your suggestions in the Comments.
Until I hear a better suggestion, I’m gonna keep callin’ it a pill.
The following trivia question is the reason I ask.
How many pills appear around the circumference of the trademarked design on an Oreo^{®} cookie?
What’s that, you say? You didn’t know that there were little pills along the edge of each wafer on an Oreo cookie? Then you, my friend, need to pay a little more attention.
Because there aren’t just some pills around the circumference. There are 96 of those little buggers, and each of them has a rectangle with a lengthtowidth ratio of approximately 3:2 between two semicircles.
See for yourself.
Ironically, the ratio of 3:2 brings me to the main reason I’m writing today.
The original Oreo represented good design: a single layer of vanilla cream filling trapped between two crisp, chocolate wafers. But it always felt lacking to me. If only it had just a little more cream, then it would be perfect. A potential solution arrived in 1974, when Nabisco released the Double Stuf variety — two chocolate wafers with twice as much filling^{1} as its predecessor. Yet the Double Stuf teetered too far in the opposite direction. It was too sweet.
Which brings me to the delectable treat that I discovered today: the Triple Double Oreo, which is running a strong campaign for the title of World’s Best Cookie. My wife describes it as “the Big Mac of cookies.” Not two but three chocolate wafers with a thin layer of cream filling between each pair. And the pièce de résistance — one layer of vanilla cream filling, the other chocolate.
Now that’s what I call intelligent design.
It absolutely nails the ratio for wafer:filling.
Original 
Double Stuf 
Triple Double 

Wafers 
2 
2 
3 
Filling^{2} 
1 
1.86 
2 
Ratio of W:F 
2 
1.08 
1.5 
The chart above makes it all clear. The ratio is too high in the original, too low in the Double Stuf, and just right in the Triple Double. Indeed, the Triple Double Oreo is the Little Bear’s porridge of the cookie world.
This reminds me of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. While I haven’t quantitatively analyzed the peanut butter to chocolate ratio, qualitatively I would say that the original had a little too much peanut butter, the Big Cup was disgusting with far too much peanut butter, but nirvana was captured with the peanut butter to chocolate ratio in Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (Insert smacking lips sound here.)
So if you read this blog and wonder why I’m so hyper sometimes, now you know. I consume an unholy amount of refined sugar.
^{1} There is some debate about the actual amount of filling contained in a Double Stuf Oreo cookie. Although a spokesperson for Nabisco claimed that the cookies indeed contain twice as much filling as a regular Oreo, a math class in upstate New York experimentally found that Double Stuf cookies contain only 1.86 times as much cream filling as a regular Oreo. As I generally trust unpaid high school students more than moneygrubbing corporate types, I’m using 1.86.
^{2} The numbers for “filling” are relative to the amount of cream filling in a regular Oreo^{®}.