Arts & Culture

Land of 10,000 bakes

Jen Kochaver, Features Editor

Already stressing over the right holiday gift to get your mom, dad or friend with old-person hobbies? The Great Minnesota Cookie Book came out in October, an ode to and physical copy of over 75 of the best submissions to the “Star Tribune” annual holiday cookie contest. A book like that is bound to be fun for the whole family — or is it? I went in (to my own kitchen) to investigate.

A baker by accident (once I baked like three things from scratch in a week and it somehow became a part of my personality), lover of sweets by choice, I was obviously the woman for the job. I made two holiday cookie first-place-winning recipes chosen obviously for the significance the year they won holds to me personally and not at all based exclusively on which recipes seemed the most within my baking capacity (which is limited).

2007 winner –

Orange Chocolate Cookies

I tackled these cookies first, optimistic I was about to revitalize my baking kick which had taken a summer hiatus due to my stuffy house and the effects of global warming. Relatively simple, requiring no advanced prep or chilled dough (I have a need for speed), these shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate with a hint of orange and a dollop of orange marmalade in the center felt perfect for the winter and adequate for the fall. I felt prepared: I had everything I needed for shortbread cookie dough, I had zested the orange with all the personal zest I could muster, and I was prepared to melt the chocolate. I followed the directions, I cut out my circular little babies (with a glass, because I’m a cheap woman), got them on a cookie sheet and popped it into the oven. If you learn only one thing from this piece, you sweet summer college student, please let it be this: wax paper is not parchment paper. As I had not yet learned this lesson, about two dozen of my three dozen orange chocolate cookies were tossed into the dumpster in the ally by my house, still hot and stuck to burning wax paper. But after a quick trip to the store I was back in business, and the final dozen did not disappoint! I love combining chocolate and orange flavors, so if you’re not into that perhaps beware, but I found them to be sweet and interesting enough that I felt like a real baker of sorts.

2014 winner –

Italian Almond Cookies

Slightly traumatized by my wax paper “learning experience,” I was reluctant to brush paths with parchment paper again — but life is all about facing your fears. And I am so thankful I did. These cookies are cute little egg-shaped bundles of almond flour, egg white, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and a little bit of honey. Preparation was surprisingly quick and painless, and after rolling the cookies in some powdered sugar and popping them in the oven, I felt like I was in the clear! This lulled me into a false sense of safety, and I didn’t keep my eye on the timer as carefully as would have been ideal. The final product was quite chewy, be it because of my slight over-baking or because that’s how Cookie God intended them to be. But they tasted delightful, and I would still recommend them to anyone with a strong jaw or more focus than I have!

This article was originally published in the Nov. 2, 2018 issue.