Every family has its favorite holiday traditions.
And so many of those traditions include cooking and baking together with one another.
Sharing recipes. Swapping cookies. Gifting cookies.
This beloved holiday pastime is at the heart of the annual Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest.
The winners of this year’s contest all had two things in common: a true passion for baking and sharing delicious baked treats with family and friends.
“I’m a huge baker,” said Roxanne Williams of Springboro, the first-place winner in this year’s contest for her scrumptious Peachy Pistachio Icebox Cookies. “I cook and bake all of the time. Baking is my favorite thing.”
This was her first time entering, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity after a little encouragement from her family and friends.
“My mom was over-the-top for these cookies,” she said. And that tradition continues. “I’ve made these a dozen times this year, at least.” She expects now she might have to make them even more for family, friends and her co-workers at the Montgomery County Probate Court.
Like Williams, this year’s second-place winner says cookies and cookie baking are a huge part of her family’s holiday traditions.
“I’ve been making this cookie for 18 to 19 years in our family,” said Carol Foltz of Miami Twp., a first-time entrant. “It’s been a family tradition. We first discovered this cookie at a wedding and thought there was nothing else like it. We added it to our Christmas cookies. We make around eight kinds every year. This cookie is so interesting. It’s the one everyone talks about. We give it to neighbors, family and friends.”
The secret ingredient in her Potato Chip Cookies? None other than Dayton’s own Mikesell’s chips (regular or wavy)!
Geni Thurin of Dayton is no stranger to the cookie contest. She has entered almost every year and has won a prize or an honorable mention multiple times.
“I do enjoy making cookies,” she said. “Every year, I look for a new cookie to try and one that could be a popular taste. I usually test out a few different kinds and ask people to try them all. I enter the one or two people can’t stop eating.”
This year’s third-place winner was a Pinterest find: Salted Caramel Butter Bars.
“My mom and I made cookies for years when she was alive,” she said. “We’d make cookies at her house and pack them up as gifts.” This cookie will definitely be on her giving list this year, she said.
The top three winners of the cookie contest, selected by a panel of judges from the Dayton Daily News staff, each received a Kroger gift card (and cookie bragging rights, of course).
“I love this contest,” said Jim Bebbington, Dayton Daily News editor and senior director of premium content. “The top 10 are almost always fantastic. The recipe that wins each year stands out simply by a thin sliver of deliciousness. They’re all good.”
Ron Rollins, director of digital content for Cox Media Group Ohio, including the Dayton Daily News, said after years of judging this contest, he finds himself often making the same joke.
“’You know, it’s true: Journalism isn’t for the faint of heart.’ Which is just a silly way of saying, ‘I can’t believe we get paid to come to work and eat these amazing cookies.’ And they are amazing. What I like is the variety our local bakers send in to tantalize us – the range of different cookie and taste styles is really broad, very imaginative and a lot of fun. This year’s entries were especially good. If I had a single bit of advice for future contestants, it would be this: Your cookie doesn’t have to look great to taste great. Sometimes the winners are fairly unassuming on the plate, but when you take a bite you know it’s something special. And of course, thanks to everyone who entered.”
THE WINNING RECIPES
PEACHY PISTACHIO ICEBOX COOKIES
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peach preserves
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted salted pistachios
1. Cut parchment paper into eight 12-by-6 inch rectangles.
2. Beat butter with a heavy duty stand mixer on medium speed until creamy for about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
3. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
4. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed until blended.
5. Transfer dough to work surface and divide into four equal portions. Place one dough portion between 2 parchment rectangles. Roll out dough to 9-by-3 inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough portions. Place on baking sheet and freeze 30 minutes.
6. Pulse peach preserves in a food processor until large pieces are broken apart.
7. Remove dough from freezer. Remove top pieces of parchment from the dough rectangles. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the preserves over one dough rectangle. Sprinkle with about 8 teaspoons of finely chopped pistachios. Top with one dough rectangle. Repeat layers with remaining preserves, pistachios and dough, leaving the top rectangle uncoated.
8. Trim dough stack to an 8 1/2-by-3 1/4-inch brick. Wrap in plastic and freeze for an hour.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from freezer and slice into 1/4-inch thick rectangles. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
10. Bake in preheated oven until lightly browned 13-15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool completely for 20 minutes.
Makes 2 dozen cookies
— Recipe and cookies submitted by Roxanne Williams of Springboro. This recipe originated from Southern Living magazine.
POTATO CHIP COOKIES
1 pound of butter
1 cup of sugar
3 cups of flour
2 cups of crushed potato chips
1 cup of pecans, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter and then add sugar and mix until well blended. Add flour one cup at a time. Stir in chips, nuts and vanilla.
3. Drop by teaspoon on paper-lined cookie sheet. Press down with a fork.
4. Bake for 17-20 minutes.
Makes 5 dozen cookies
— Recipe and cookies submitted by Carol Foltz of Miami Twp. This has been a family recipe for more than 18 years and was first discovered at a wedding.
SALTED CARAMEL BUTTER BARS
2 cups butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cups flour
One 14-ounce bag caramels, unwrapped or 11-ounce unwrapped Caramel Bits
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and powdered sugar. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Mix in the flour and combine until it forms a soft dough.
3. Press half of the dough in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch dish and place the other half of the dough in the refrigerator. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and melt the caramels, heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in the microwave for one minute. Stir together until smooth. Pour evenly over the hot crust. Lightly sprinkle the coarse sea salt over the crust. Just lightly sprinkle and you don’t have to use all of the salt called for in the recipe depending on how salty you want it.
5. Take the remaining dough out of the refrigerator and crumble over the top of the caramel. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is bubbly and the top is firm. Let them cool completely before cutting.
— Recipe and cookie bars submitted by Geni Thurin of Dayton. This recipe was discovered on Pinterest.
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