Another cookie contest over — hallelujah! The Palm Beach Post’s annual Holiday Cookie Contest caused about 125 cooks to fire up their ovens (some entered more than one cookie; others baked as a team to enter one) in hopes of winning a $50 prize and get their photo and recipe in the paper.
You can read the results in the Post Dec. 17 – we will talk about the winners that day on this blog, too.
Some observations, though: Oatmeal is back. We had at least 24 entries with that ingredient used and other than flour, I’d say it’s the most-used ingredient. Usually, it’s the older bakers (oldest baker was 96!!) making things like “oatie crisps” or “oatmeal jumbles” — and every variation of the old-fashioned Quaker Oatmeal box recipe you can think of.
Now, though, I think it’s a sign of the economy — people are moving back into that “comfort food” zone — oatmeal cookies are a huge comfort memory. Not so much expensive chocolate or gourmet stuff this year.
Of course, there were the problem cookies. One baker forgot to rinse her mixing bowl: her cookies tasted like dishwashing liquid straight out of the bottle. (Everyone thinks my job is just SO great…go have a swig of your Palmolive, then get back to me…) Don’t you bakers sample the cookies you’re submitting? Or do you just like the taste of soap – does it have a certain esssence?
There were an inordinate number of cookies with burned bottoms. How crazy to submit a cookie that’s oviously burned — just what DO you think your chances are going to be? (While it’s true I love slightly burned spritz butter cookies, I’m an exception (my late husband used to say I have a carbon deficiency) - and there are three other judges to outvote me anyway.
Several bakers forgot the salt, or the flavoring. This was the blandest group of cookies we tasted. (Though a couple of ginger cookies made our eyes water.) Sugar is not everything, bakers….you must balance it with some salt and sometimes, something a bit tart.
We were disappointed in some of the adults’ decorative attempts – a few of the kids did a much better job with techniques and smoothness. (And by the way: We had a number of boy bakers this year — special congrats to those parents teaching their sons to cook!)
All in all, a great contest, but I couldn’t wait to get home to a somewhat salty bowl of leftover turkey pot pie and a glass of milk, just to counteract all that sugar!
Below is a favorite oatmeal cookie recipe — made with applesauce and raisins. It’s a variation of one that my best friend, Lisa Cory, will make as gifts for friends this season from her home in Whittier, N.C.
OATMEAL APPLESAUCE COOKIES
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 egg whites, or 1 whole egg with 1 egg white
- 2 cups quick rolled oats (not instant)
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup raisins, chopped (see note)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or grease it. (I use a nonstick spray, Baker’s Joy, available in most supermarkets, if I’m out of parchment.)
Mix flour, baking powder, allspice, and salt. Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg whites; beat well. Beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in oats, applesauce, and raisins. Mix well to combine.
Drop by level tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet; Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned – take care not to burn. (Make a test cookie first to check your oven.) Cool completely on rack before icing with maple icing (see below) if desired. Pack in container with waxed paper between layers. To freeze, freeze cookies on sheets first, then pack in freezer container with waxed paper between layers.
Makes 5 dozen.
Note: I soak the raisins for 10 minutes in rum first. It plumps them, and gives a nice flavor to the cookies. You could soak them in cider, as well — but the cookies work fine with raisins right out of the box.)
Optional: Maple icing – Sift 2 cups powdered sugar in mixing bow. Add 1 tablespoon butter, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring. Beat well. Begin drizzling in pure maple syrup as you beat, until the correct spreading consistency is reached (it thickens slightly upon setting) — a tablespoon or so depending on weather. Cool cookies before icing.