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December 25, 2019 News » Cover Story

Indy employees battled it out for the title of Cookie Champion 2019 

THE GREAT INDY BAKE-OFF

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

This holiday season, we bring you a story of perseverance. Passion. Creativity. Competition. Sweet, sweet victory and hollow defeat. This December, 10 employees of Indy parent company Colorado Publishing House came together in the spirit of holiday baking, only to be torn apart by rivalry as bitter as dark chocolate.

click to enlarge Editor-In-Chief Bryan Grossman, - who joked “Maybe I should be a judge”
  • Editor-In-Chief Bryan Grossman, who joked “Maybe I should be a judge”

Well, OK, so that’s not exactly what happened. Mostly, we all just sat in the conference room giggling and making dirty jokes as we watched our increasingly sugar-buzzed judges taste and rank 17 different cookies over the course of an hour and a half.

And while we came out of it all with five winners (recipes included below), there wasn’t a bad cookie in the bunch, so did anyone really lose?

The 2019 Great Indy Bake-Off was our first in-house cookie competition  and we were totally overwhelmed by the participation.

click to enlarge Food Writer Griffin Swartzell, - the one with actual credentials
  • Food Writer Griffin Swartzell, the one with actual credentials
Amateur bakers from every department, from ad sales to editorial to graphic design, baked as many as three kinds of cookies each and submitted them to a panel of “expert” judges: Editorial Art Director Dustin Glatz, Editor-in-Chief Bryan Grossman and food writer Griffin Swartzell.

Sure, none of said judges were Paul Hollywood- or Mary Berry-levels of experienced, but they took on the task with gusto — and our Swartzell dressed rather convincingly as Noel Fielding.

Among the entries, we enjoyed soft and crumbly sugar cookies submitted by ace reporter Faith Miller, Fireball whiskey maple cookies from account executive Nohea March, buttery and almondy Chinese Christmas cookies from Production Director Melissa Edwards, and tons more worthy of a taste or two. 

At the end of the judging, Glatz praised the bakers, saying, “I am so sad I can’t bake cookies, but I am so happy that you can all bake cookies for me to eat.” 

click to enlarge Editorial Art Director Dustin Glatz, - self-proclaimed cookie lover
  • Editorial Art Director Dustin Glatz, self-proclaimed cookie lover

That pretty much captured the spirit of the evening among those of us without the chops to pull off a perfect batch. True, some cookies were more successful than others. An oatmeal cookie may have been described as “al dente” by Grossman, and more than once the judges yearned for a glass of milk to wash down something particularly dry. At one point during the process, publisher Amy Sweet admitted that she was glad her cookies burned, so she didn’t have to hear what the judges would say about them.

But then, moments of soaring success: Of our third-place winner, digital director Jessica Kuhn’s Christmas Pretzel Hugs, Grossman said his first taste really did feel like a hug. When pressed — “but what kind of hug?” — he added: “It’s like a hug from my son.” 

A spectator, upon tasting the Pretzel Hug, remarked just as eloquently: “That’s a really good fucking cookie.”

At the end of it all, Swartzell said to the room of assembled bakers and spectators, “I’m pretty impressed with the baking efforts. I don’t think I had a single cookie I wouldn’t take a second bite of.” The other judges emphatically agreed. 

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

But don’t just listen to them. We’ve asked the bakers of our top five favorite cookies to share their recipes with you, our readers, so you can try them out yourself. See the following pages for the cookie champions of the Indy

We’re already prepping the baking sheets for next year.

#1 Candy Crunch Chip Cookies

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

By Graphic Designer Elena Trapp

Ingredients:
2¾ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 c. (two sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ c. brown sugar
¼ c. white sugar
3.4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding mix
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. bag of milk chocolate Heath English toffee mix
6 oz. milk chocolate chips
2 oz. Reese’s peanut butter chips

Process:
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl, or a mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until fluffy. Add the pudding mix until completely combined. Then, add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until completely combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet until combined. Stir in the toffee, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips. The cookie dough should be thick.

Roll into tablespoon-sized balls, and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spaced evenly.

Bake 11 to 12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit and cool down on the cookie sheet. Transfer to a plate and enjoy!

# 2 Shadows

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

By Senior Account Planner Teri Homick

Ingredients:
1¾ c. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. instant coffee powder
½ tsp. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter
6 oz. cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 egg
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting

Process:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese; add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly. Beat in egg. Add chocolate and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Chill dough in fridge for a few minutes — it makes pressing the cookies out easier.

Place the disc with the horizontal zigzag in the spritz cookie press. Fill press almost completely (you should have enough dough to fill the press three times). On ungreased cookie sheets, press out each individual cookie. Leave a little room between cookies for spreading. They should be about 2 inches long by about 1½ inches wide. Roll each cookie from the long end to form a ridged log, or thumb shape.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove at once to cooling racks. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. Enjoy!

Note: Spritz cookie press used is the Cookie Pro Ultra II by Wilton, widely available online and in stores.

#3 Christmas Pretzel Hugs

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

By Digital Director Jessica Kuhn

Ingredients:
2 c. self-rising flour
¾ c. butter-flavored all-vegetable shortening
1½ cups packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. skim milk
1 large egg
1½ tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ c. pretzel pieces
1¼ c. Yummallo Holiday red and green baking chips

Process:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix flour, shortening, brown sugar, milk, egg and vanilla extract with a spoon. When fully combined, mix in pretzel pieces and baking chips until evenly distributed.

On a greased baking sheet, place a tablespoon of dough for each cookie, 3 inches apart. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool, plate and enjoy!

#4 White Bark Bars

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

Made by Southeast Express editor Regan Foster (recipe by Sheryl Foster)

Ingredients:
2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
2 c. roasted, unsalted peanuts, whole
2 c. raw almonds, whole
2 c. mini marshmallows
2 pounds vanilla bark

Process:
Mix rice cereal, peanuts, almonds and marshmallows in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, melt bark, stirring until very smooth. Pour bark over the cereal mix blend, stir until fully incorporated.

On parchment paper, drop 1½- to 2-inch balls. Rest at room temperature for about five minutes, and enjoy. 

#5 Italian Almond Cookies

By Graphic Designer Elena Trapp

click to enlarge DUSTIN GLATZ
  • Dustin Glatz

Ingredients:
3 c. almond flour
¾ c. white sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. limoncello
3 large egg whites
Powdered sugar for dusting
Sliced or whole raw almonds

Process:
Preheat oven to 335 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest until well combined. Then, mix in both extracts, limoncello, and egg whites. If the dough seems too gooey, you can add more almond flour until it is firm and not sticky.

Place some powdered sugar on a plate. Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls, and roll them in the sugar. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and top each with two to three almond slices or one whole almond.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until cookies are golden brown on the bottom and around the edges. Let cookies cool on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a plate and enjoy!

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