Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Holiday Cookie Contest – The Palm Beach Post

November 13th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Cookies baked on parchment

Cookies baked on parchment

I couldn’t let my favorite tradition at The Palm Beach Post just crumble, so I agreed to host The Post’s annual Holiday Cookie Contest again this year.

I know there are closet bakers out there, and ones who think theirs is the all-time best cookie in the world. If so, go to The Post’s web site, click on Accent, then Food and Dining to get the details and the form you’ll need to submit your cookies.

Since you’re reading my blog, I’ll give you the judges’ tip sheet:

Cookie baking tips

Use fresh , good quality ingredients. Sounds simple? We have a trash can on hand as we judge. Cookies that have stale nuts, or dried raisins and the worst — old shortening or butter — aren’t even swallowed. We take a dim view of canned icing or slice-and-bake doughs (except for the 3-year-olds’ cookies). 

Read the recipe carefully, and measure accurately. We’ve had cookies in previous contests that contain 1/2 cup salt — when it should have been sugar. Or 3 tablespoons of an extract when it should be 1/3 tablespoon — it’s a powerful difference. Did you, or didn’t you include the baking soda? Here’s a tip to fix that dilemma: Line up every ingredient in the order used. Once you use an ingredient, turn its container upside down on the counter. Famed baker Maida Heatter taught me that.

Don’t overbake your cookies. Bake them on parchment and put them in the center rack of the oven. Cookies will continue to bake after they’re removed from the oven. Always bake a test cookie, so you don’t waste a whole batch – and figure out just how accurate your oven is against the recipe’s baking time. Adjust accordingly and — for the contest — bake only one sheet at a time, unless you’re adept at moving and turning the sheets to produce perfectly even cookies.

Taste a cookie from the batch you submit! Another no-brainer. But how else would the judges get cookies full of salt or those who forgot sugar, or in the case of a raisin cookie — the raisins?

Don’t use inedible decorations. If it’s not in the recipe, don’t put it on the cookie for “effect.” Several real leaves are poisonous — ditto, berries. We judges don’t go near anything that looks like bugs, either. That’s why they make green food coloring.

Pack your cookies with care. First, never pack warm cookies; allow them to cool completely on a rack. Nestle them in crumpled tissue paper or waxed paper to keep them from breaking if they’re fragile. Don’t stack cookies directly on one another; use waxed paper to separate layers.

Find a tasty recipe, and get busy — only a few weeks left! Good luck to you all!

Tags: Recipes: What's Cooking!

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cris // Jan 30, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I am about to bake my first cookies.. very basic but it’s a great start for me.. it’s a butter cookie with smarties and some chocolates on top 🙂 I’m cooking it for my son’s bday 🙂

  • 2 sirio ross // Feb 1, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I know that it depends also on the thickness of the slices and the oven temperature.
    I prefer moist cookies instead of dry hard ones.
    I wonder if it depends on the type of oil one uses?

  • 3 Dee // Jun 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I tend to overbake my cookies. Always forget that they will brown a bit after taking them out of the oven!

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