Last night I had the honor of being on the Statesman Cookie Swap judging panel and let me tell you, picking a winner wasn’t easy. There were 5 judges and I think each judge could have made a case for why their favorite should win. In the end, we had to talk it out and pick just one cookie as the overall “best”. For its creativity and overall appeal that cookie was the Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bar wth Sea Salt Caramel. Along with a Central Market gift certificate, it has earned a spot on the menu at Rebecca Rather’s bakery, Rather Sweet.
So that dulce de leche bar took the top honors, but each judge seemed to have a favorite.
— More than one judge thought the texture and perfect execution of the runner-up Brown Butter Shortbread made it a stand-out, but the dulce de leche bar was a little more flashy and in competitions, that usually scores points.
— A couple of judges really liked the old family recipe for Coconut Caramel Chews, while some other judges thought it needed a little more flavor – perhaps a squeeze of lemon? It was a favorite, but it didn’t make the top two.
— The Uber Yummy Oatmeal Holiday Cookies was a good solid oatmeal cookie, but again – for a holiday cookie contest, being somewhat festive seems to score points. That being said, I’m definitely making the oatmeal cookie at home and might play around with the amount of butter. One judge thought it could use more fat.
— And finally, The Very Best Gingersnaps You Will Ever Make. One judge loved this cookie’s spicy flavor and crispness, while another didn’t like the flattened out appearance and another noted the metallic flavor from the baking soda. Two teaspoons of baking soda to 2 cups of flour seemed excessive (though I have seen that amount used in other recipes, including a Martha Stewart cookie) and it also caused the cookies to spread. In the end, it was a crowd pleaser and good enough to make the Top 5, but not necessarily the best cookie you’ll ever make. Which brings me to another thing I’ve learned over the years. If you’re going to name a cookie “the best”. Be prepared for people’s reaction to be “Oh yeah????”. Not that it stops me from calling things “the best”, because it’s also a lot of fun to do that and makes cookie eating all the more interesting.
In the end, all contestants including those who entered but didn’t make the Top 5 should be proud of what you put out there, as the cookies were enjoyed by all. As for competition, when you’re pitting cookies against each other you really have to go for the gold in terms of execution, appearance and recipe choice. Try to pick a pretty cookie, use top quality ingredients and if you know of one, select (or better yet, create!) a recipe that’s different than most.
So good luck next year to all competitors, and to everyone else, have fun trying the winning cookies. Also, the rest of the cookies that for whatever reason did NOT make the final swap are listed in the Statesman Recipe Database.