The winner of this year’s Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest spent years perfecting her recipe.
“I put together different parts of different recipes I liked and kept adding stuff and came up with the final version about six years ago,” Terry Rich of Dayton said.
Rich’s White Chocolate Caramel Toffee Blondie is a rich, self-indulgent treat.
The home baker makes 30 kinds of Christmas cookies each year but has never entered the newspaper’s contest. Her husband, Jim, prodded her to enter his favorite blondie after a co-worker told him they were the best thing he had ever eaten.
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“I always say they are very decadent, rich and creamy,” Rich said. “They are all of my favorite things – white chocolate and caramel.”
Bakers entered 47 batches of cookies for this year’s contest, a long-standing newspaper tradition. The top three winners, selected by a panel of judges from the Dayton Daily News staff, each received a Kroger gift card.
The second-place winner’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Turtle Cookie Bars was described by a cookie contest judge as “caramelly deliciousness.”
Rebecca Lermond of Union found the hand-written recipe 25 years ago in a vintage box. “It was actually my great grandmother’s recipe that I tweaked a little bit,” she said. “I’ve been making this chocolate chip bar a long time.”
Lermond, who “bakes all of December,” describes her take on the treat as a combination of turtle candy, brownie, chocolate chips, gooey caramel and nuts.
She believes it’s a favorite because most people grew up with the classic cookie. “If you don’t know what to make, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip.”
Each year during the holiday season, Shirley Johns of Versailles and her daughter bake cookies for the neighbors. This year one of those neighborly goodies, Butter Pecan Cookies, took third place in the contest.
“If you want to be honest, that was the first time I’ve made them.” Johns said. “I search the internet constantly for recipes and I saw that about a month ago. I’m a fan of anything that has pecans on it.”
The soft, buttery, nutty cookie has found a spot in Johns’ recipe rotation and she recommends it for beginning bakers.
“They were super, super simple and very quick to make and they turned out — so those are all plusses in my book.”
THE WINNING RECIPES
WHITE CHOCOLATE CARAMEL TOFFEE BLONDIES, from Terry Rich
2¼ cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup of butter
1½ cups of granulated sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips
1 cup of Heath milk chocolate toffee bits
1 11-ounce bag of caramel bits and 2 tablespoons milk
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Mix flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside.
3. Cream butter and both sugars together until mixed well. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
4. Blend in flour mixture. Stir in half the bag of white chocolate chips and the cup of toffee bits.
5. Spread half the mixture into the prepared pan.
6. Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.
7. Place caramel bits and 2 tablespoons milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and heat at intervals of 30 seconds until caramel is melted.
8. Pour caramel over the baked layer and layer remaining white chocolate chips on top of caramel and then top with remaining cookie dough. It is thick, so you can place in spoonsful across the chips and spread slightly. The dough will spread while cooking.
9. Bake on middle rack for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting or the top will crack like a brownie. Once the bars are cooled completely, lift the slab from the pan using the foil. Place on a cutting board and cut to the desired size.
Cut into 24 bars.
CHOCOLATE CHIP TURTLE COOKIE BARS, from Rebecca Lermond
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13 pan with aluminum foil and grease bottoms and sides.
2. Cream together butter and sugars. Scrape bowl as needed. Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Mix together.
3. In another bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to mixture and mix together. Scrape bowl as needed in between.
4. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Spread into pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and spread caramel over top.
16 ounce unwrapped caramels (about 48 pieces)
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup pecans
Melt caramels and milk in saucepan until smooth. Spread over warm cookie and top with pecans. Let cool for 1 hour then drizzle chocolate over top.
6 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening
Melt chocolate chips and shortening in microwave for 30-60 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds until smooth. Drizzle over caramel and pecans. Let chocolate set for 30 minutes, then cut into squares.
Makes 30 cookie bars.
BUTTER PECAN COOKIES, from Shirley Johns
1¾ cups chopped pecans
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup butter, softened and divided
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup pecan halves
1. Place chopped pecans and 1 tablespoon butter in a baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until toasted and browned, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl cream brown sugar and remaining butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Gradually add flour and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.
3. Roll into 1-inch balls and then roll in toasted pecans, pressing nuts into dough. Place 2-inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
4. Beat egg white until foamy. Dip pecan halves in egg white, then gently press one into each ball.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.
Note: As a substitute for each cup of self-rising flour, place 1½ teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon of salt in a measuring cup. Add all-purpose flour to measure one cup.
Makes two dozen cookies.