What better way to kick off the holiday season than a cookie contest? The Journal-News and Today’s Pulse held its first holiday cookie contest on Monday, Nov. 25. Twenty-eight readers from the area delivered a dozen of their favorite holiday treats to the our Liberty Twp. office, where a panel of 10 judges had the very difficult task of sampling each entry and selecting the winning recipe.
The 28 entries were divided into two groups with five judges for each and the top six semi-finalists were chosen. The full panel of judges then chose the winning recipe, as well as the second and third place entries.
The selection of cookies encompassed a vast array of tastes, textures and appearance – from chewy, nutty and chocolatey to light, airy and fruity – there was something in the mix to temp the taste buds of everyone. However, good though they all were, there could only be one winner.
The winning submission came from Middletown resident Ila De Young. Her Mint Cookie Balls no-bake treat won over the judges, with many commenting that the cookies reminded them of the ever-popular Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie, only chewier. Tying for second place were Middletown residents Tom Pressler for his Sugar Cookie recipe and Tracy Bridges for her Lemon Drop cookies; third place went to Anita Fithen of West Chester Twp. for her Austrian Jelly Torte.
De Young said she discovered this recipe years ago in a “Taste of Home Quick Cooking” cookbook and then adapted it to make it her own. “The original recipe called for plain Oreos dipped in chocolate, but for the contest, I decided to try the mint flavored Oreos for the first time. After tasting them, my daughter told me I should submit the mint ones! So I did,” De Young said.
De Young said that when she serves different varieties of the cookies at the same time, she likes people to be able to distinguish between the various flavors, so she uses different food coloring mixed with melted white candy coating. For example, on her mint cookie balls she drizzled green colored candy coating on top and if she’d included the plain Oreo version, she might have used plain white on top.
“If you’re taking these to a holiday party, you can arrange them in the shape of a Christmas tree on your tray and it looks really neat,” said De Young. “These cookies keep very well but they can also be frozen for a later time.”
Here are the winning recipes. Thank you to all who entered the contest and congratulations to all of the winners. May your kitchens be filled with the delectable aromas of these delicious holiday treats.
FIRST-PLACE WINNER: MINT COOKIE BALLS
Mint Cookie Balls
20 ounces mint-chocolate Oreo cookies
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese – softened/slightly warm
15 oz chocolates candy coating
12 ounces white candy coating
1-2 tablespoons shortening
Using a food processor (not a blender), grind Oreos until finely crushed. (If you don’t have a food processor, place Oreos in sturdy plastic bag and crush with rolling pin until very fine.) Place into a microwave safe bowl. Place cream cheese on top of the crumbs and microwave for 30-60 seconds to slightly warm mixture. Beat this mixture until well blended. Roll one tablespoon of mixture into balls and let cool.
Melt chocolate coating and stir until smooth. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of shortening to make coating smooth and easy to dip. Dip cookie balls in chocolate and place on wax paper to cool. Melt white candy coating same as chocolate coating. (Add food coloring if desired).
Place coating into small resealable plastic bag and snip off a small corner. Squeeze onto cookies, making three thin rows across each cookie. Store in cool place. These cookies keep very well but can also be frozen.
— Submitted by Ila De Young of Middletown
SECOND-PLACE WINNER: SUGAR COOKIE
1 ½ cup sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk or half and half
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix butter and sugar. Add eggs, extract and milk. In separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to sugar mixture a little at a time until well blended. Divide dough in half. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours to firm up. When ready to bake, turn oven on to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on wax paper to ¼ inch thick. Cut out desired shape and place on cookie sheet with parchment paper. Allow room for cookies to expand about 50 percent. Back for 10 to 12 minutes or until a tinge of browning occurs. Cool cookies on wire rack before icing.
For icing Blend 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/3 cup milk and ½ teaspoon almond extract with powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached. Adjust milk and sugar as needed. Divide if multiple colors are to be used.
— Submitted by Tom Pressler of Middletown
SECOND-PLACE WINNER: LEMON DROP COOKIES
Lemon Drop Cookies
1 box of Duncan Hines Signature Lemon Supreme Cake mix (16.5 oz)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (in a separate flat bottom bowl to roll cookies in)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (for convection ovens) or 350 degrees for non-convection ovens. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil and lemon extract until well blended. Make one inch round dough balls and drop into bowl of confectioner’s sugar until lightly coated. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. The bottom will be slightly browned.
— Submitted by Tracy Bridges of Middletown
THIRD-PLACE WINNER: AUSTRIAN JELLY TORTE
Austrian Jelly Torte
1 pound sweet butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 cups of all-purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour to make a stiff dough. Roll out and cut with round cookie cutter. Take half the round cookies and cut a hole in the center (using a thimble). Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 11-12 minutes. Do not brown. Cool, then spread bottoms with preserves. Let the cookies stand overnight. The next day, cover the jellied bottoms with the tops (with the holes in the middle). Sprinkle with vanilla sugar.
Vanilla sugar: cut 2 or 3 vanilla beans into inch long pieces. Place in a jar with one pound of sifted confectionary sugar. Let stand for three days. The longer the sugar stands, the more fragrant.
— Submitted by Anita Fithen of West Chester Twp.