Local bakers bring plenty of sugar and spice to Pioneer Christmas Cookie Contest

As darkness and a bitter cold descended on the town on Dec. 13, local bakers busied themselves in their warm kitchens, mixing and measuring ingredients to sweeten the night for the Clayton Pioneer’s Ninth Annual Christmas Cookie Contest at the Clayton Community Library.

This year saw some of the best of the best recipes ever entered, not to mention the biggest turnout in the history of the event.

With the judging table creaking and groaning under the weight of 30 delectable holiday treats, the six judges, including Pioneer Food for Thought columnist Linda Wyner, new police chief Chris Thorsen, Rodie’s owner, Bob Rodenburg, Pioneer Garden Girl Nicole Hackett and junior judges and last year’s contest winners Molly DeSeelhorst and Olivia Yoshii, went about their appointed rounds, dutifully tasting and re-tasting each and every cookie.

Santiago and Joyce Martinez, two of the four singers from the local singing group Vintage, engaged the large crowd with Christmas carols, many of which were original compositions.

Face painting, glitter tattoos, coloring and crafts kept the children busy during the judging until Santa delighted them with his arrival and a bag of candy canes.

When all was said and done, Judge Wyner announced the winners and runners-up. Taking the first place Master Baker honors for the third year in a row was Tamara Aszklar with Nonna’s Piccola Crostata. Tammy Cerruti’s Hamburger Cookies captured second place and Priscilla Williams took home third with her White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies.

Savanha Groebner took first in the teen division with Gran’s Pumpkin Bar. Hanna Prosperi was second.

Nineteen young bakers, ages 6-12, entered the Junior Baker division. Annika Tuohey’s Peppermint Fudge Cookies claimed the first place honors with Ryan Ross’ Snowman Cookies in second place and Jenny Linderman’s Peppermint Truffle Cookies a close third.

After the judging, the face-painted and glitter tattooed kids closed in on the sharing table where all the smiling faces declared every cookie a winner.

Judges and bakers are already volunteering for the Pioneer’s 10th annual cookie contest, which coincides with celebrating the paper’s 10th anniversary in 2013.

Here are the winning recipes that were provided. Bake ‘em up and wow your families and friends this season. The rest of the winners and recipes will be on the Pioneer’s Facebook page and new Website soon. Stay tuned.

Nonna’s Piccola Crostata
Tamara Aszklar, Master Baker
First Place

¾ stick butter (6 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla (Italian recommended)
4 tsp baking powder
1 c + 2 Tbsp flour
Grated lemon peel
Jam (plum, raspberry, etc.)

Mix the dough ingredients (excluding the jam) together until they just hold together. Press into a disk, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a mini muffin pan by lightly coating the cups with a little butter and dusting with flour to prevent sticking.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reserve about ¼ c of the dough for the lattice topping.

Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll or press into small circles (about 3” across) and press into the prepared pan.

Fill each dough cup with a small amount of jam.

Roll out the remaining dough and cut into thin strips.

Place two small strips on top of the jam, making an “x” pattern.

Lightly pinch in the sides of the circles to form a tiny edge overhanging the jam and to attach the small strips to the sides of dough.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking.

Hamburger Cookies
Tammy Cerruti, Master Baker, Second Place

1 11oz. box of Nilla Wafers
1 bag (1 lb., 3.75 oz.) York Dark Chocolate Peppermint Patties
1 small jar of Karo syrup
1 jar (1.87 oz.) of sesame seeds
1 tube (4.25 oz.) Kelly Green Wilton Decorating icing
1 tube (4.25 oz.) Red Wilton Decorating icing

Lay the 24 Nilla wafers out on a cookie sheet with the flat side up.
Take your green frosting and apply a dime size amount on cookies.
Take your York peppermint patties and place on top of green frosting pressing down a bit.
Take red frosting and apply a dime size amount on top of peppermint patties.
Take your Nilla cookies and brush a strip of Karo syrup on the round side of the cookies and sprinkle a little of the sesame seeds on top. Press down on top of the red frosting. You just made Hamburger Cookies!!

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
Priscilla Williams, Master Baker, Third Place

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) margarine or butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
8 ounces white chocolate, Swiss confectionery bar or white baking bar (chopped)
1 jar (7 oz.) macadamia nuts (chopped)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Into large bowl, measure first seven ingredients. With mixer at medium speed, beat ingredients until blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. With spoon, stir in white chocolate and macadamia nuts.
Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons, about two inches apart, onto ungreased, large cookie sheet. Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. With pancake turner, remove cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container.

Gram’s Pumpkin Bars
Savanha Groebner, Teen Baker, First Place

1 c flour         
1 c sugar
1 c canned pumpkin    
½ c vegetable oil
2 eggs           
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt  
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish or cake pan.
Mix together ingredients in one bowl.
Pour batter into the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool.
Blend frosting ingredients and spread over cooled bars.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 1/3 c powdered sugar
1¼ c margarine
½ tsp vanilla

1. Blend frosting ingredients and spread over the cooled bars.

Peppermint Fudge Cookies
Annika Tuohey, Junior Baker, First Place
Adapted from Godiva Chocolates recipe

6 oz dark semi-sweet chocolate
1 c sugar
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ c peppermint M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.
Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Let cool 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream the sugar, butter and eggs until smooth. Beat in the cooled chocolate.
Gradually add the flour and salt, mixing until smooth.
Stir in the candies.
Cover and chill until firm, about 1 hour.
Drop rounded teaspoons of dough 2” apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly firm when touched. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cookies to a cooling rack.

Ryan’s Snowman Cookies
Ryan Ross, Junior Baker, Second Place

1 cup butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar.
Add egg and vanilla. (Mixture will be runny.)
Sift flour, baking powder and salt.
Blend in dry ingredients.
Put on a piece of plastic wrap and chill overnight.
Roll out on floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.
Cut out and arrange on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

2 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons milk
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix ingredients together.
Spread icing on cookie, making sure that the icing drips off the sides to look like the snowman is melting.
Take 8 large marshmallows and put on a plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Put in the microwave for 20 seconds so that the marshmallows start to puff up a little bit.
Spray cooking spray on your fingers and then put a marshmallow on each cookie, near the back of the cookie.
Using decorating icing, put a face, arms and buttons on the snowman.

Peppermint Truffle Cookies
Jenny Linderman, Junior Baker, Third Place

8 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
½ teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract
2 cups flour
36 Ande’s mints

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly. Add ½ cup of the sugar, egg and peppermint extract. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gradually beat in flour on low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Press a chocolate candy into the center of each ball, forming dough around the candy to completely enclose it. Roll in remaining ½ cup sugar to coat. Place 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are set. Cook on baking sheets 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.