Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, December 12, 2001


Sue York's Gingerbread Whoopie Pies, front, took first place in the Star-Bulletin recipe contest. Second place when to Holly Huber's Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies, left, and third to Sharon's Meringues of Love by Sharon Goodhart.

In cookies we trust

Kick-start your holiday
baking with winning ideas
from our cookie cook-off

The recipes

By Betty Shimabukuro

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas in kitchens throughout the baking world. Ovens are going hot and heavy, so to speak, and will continue to toil in the 13 measly days remaining before Santa comes.

Because Christmas and cookies are inseparable.

It's the law.

Mindful of your legal obligations, we present the results of the Star-Bulletin's cookie recipe contest, "In Cookies We Trust." May you find in the results some holiday inspiration.

More than 50 recipes were submitted -- chocolates, mocha-flavored, mango- and pear-filled, traditional oatmeal, shortbread and sugar-cookie favorites. We chose a baker's dozen of 13 semifinalists for tasting.

Winner of the $100 top prize was Sue York, whose Gingerbread Whoopie Pies impressed the judges with their good looks, festive flavor and creativity.

Second prize and $50 went to Holly Huber, whose Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies are reminiscent of that perennial favorite, the Girl Scout Thin Mint, but with chunks of chocolate and a dusting of powdery sugar.

Sue York wins $100.

The $25 third prize went to Sharon Goodhart for Sharon's Meringues of Love, far and away the best cookie name in the contest, and frankly, that's what got her into the finals. That and her declaration that the cookies are "mysterious, creamy, low-fat and sensual." The meringues look like little puff balls, but are filled with the surprise of chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Judges were the Star-Bulletin's restaurant critic, Nadine Kam, and this writer -- by virtue of the fact that the contest was our idea. We were joined by two reporters who are cookie lovers and represented the average eater. For professional balance we added Brent Fujimoto, owner and chief baker for Keith's Cookies, the little shortbread mounds that are all the rage.

It should be noted that when the cookies came in we were the envy of the newsroom, but let me tell you, eating 13 cookies in a row is a sure route to indigestion. Don't try this at home.

But in the end, with votes tallied and after giving our sweet glands a rest, we believe we have a winning collection of great variety.

Honorable mention winners were Pear-Macadamia Squares, front, Refrigerator Pinwheel Cookies, left, and One-Bite Pecan Tassies.

Our criteria were taste, texture, appearance and creativity.

Fujimoto has baked and packed cookies "in a continuous flow," 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, since he took over the company from his cousin, Keith Yamamoto, in April.

"We don't count, we just bake," he said, so he gets extra credit for making time to evaluate these amateur efforts.

When it came to taste, he said, it wasn't just initial impressions that were important. "When you take a bite in it, is there an aftertaste? That would turn a lot of people off."

He also took into account visual appeal. "I'm trying to imagine if you're having a party and you laid the cookies out."

But enough background -- on to the recipes ...


The winners

First-place winner York modeled her cookies on the New England favorite, the chocolate whoopie pie -- a sandwich with cream filling -- but adapted it to gingerbread for the holidays.

She's been baking for 30 years, York said, and is essentially self-taught. "My mother can't cook water. She has a lot of trouble with that."

York is an X-ray technologist at Castle Medical Center and runs a decorative arts business, Elegant Walls, on the side. She moved to Hawaii just two months ago from Vermont, where she ran a bed-and-breakfast. "I'm pretty good at faking a recipe to fit my needs. You get pretty good at that when you own a bed-and-breakfast and it's snowing too hard to go out."

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies

Sue York
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup molasses
>> Filling:
1 pound powdered sugar
1/4 pound butter, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

Mix eggs and sugar together well. Add butter and molasses; mix again. Gradually add dry ingredients until well-combined. Chill 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Drop chilled dough by spoonfuls about the size of large walnuts onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 11 to 14 minutes. Cool.

To make filling: Cream butter and add sugar very slowly. Mix in vanilla. Add enough milk to make it creamy.

Make sandwiches using 2 cookies and spreading the filling in between. Makes 14 to 16.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Holly Huber
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
Powdered sugar

Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Melt 2 cups of the chocolate chips over a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Or, use a microwave on low power and pause to stir.

Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add melted chocolate and mint extract. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Gradually add dry ingredients, then stir in remaining chocolate chips.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Let stand 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then remove and cool completely. Makes about 72 cookies.

Sharon's Meringues of Love

Sharon Goodhart
3 egg whites
Pinch salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch of peanut butter chips
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Beat egg whites with salt until peaks just start to form. Gradually beat in sugar until whites are stiff enough to hold their shape. Stir in chips, cocoa and vanilla. Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheets. Bake 35 minutes.

Transfer cookies onto rack while still attached to parchment or foil; cool, then carefully remove cookies. Makes about 3 dozen.

Honorable mention

"Pick me! Pick me!" Lillie Andrews wrote in submitting her bar cookies. Her cakelike pear and macadamia nut bars were actually Fujimoto's favorites.

The other two winners -- Ruth Kobayashi and Nelanette Lee -- came up with their variations on familiar favorites. The judges found them comforting reminders of Christmases past.

Pear-Macadamia Squares

Lillie Andrews
3 ripe fresh pears, peeled, cored and sliced
>> Crust:
1-3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
>> Topping:
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
3 large eggs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7-by-11-inch baking dish.

To make crust: Combine ingredients and mix well. Press into the bottom of prepared baking dish.

Evenly distribute pear slices over crust.

To make topping: Combine ingredients well. Pour over crust. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until set in the center. Cool completely before cutting. Makes 12 squares.

Refrigerator Pinwheel Cookies

Ruth Kobayashi
1-1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup cocoa (Ghirardelli preferred)

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda.

Cream butter, sugar and egg. Add vanilla. Combine with dry ingredients. Divide dough into two parts. Mix cocoa into one part.

Divide doughs into 4 equal parts, 2 of each color. Roll each portion between sheets of wax paper into a thin, 10-inch by 4-inch sheet. You will have 2 white sheets and 2 chocolate sheets. Freeze sheets at least 30 minutes.

Place a sheet of white dough on top of a sheet of cocoa dough and roll lengthwise into a log, jelly-roll fashion. Repeat with the remaining white and cocoa sheets.

Wrap both logs in wax paper or foil and freeze. Dough may be made several months ahead and baked as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While still frozen, slice logs into 1/8-inch or thinner slices and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the white portion turns slightly off-white. Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

One-Bite Pecan Tassies

Nelanette Lee
>> Crust:
1/2 cup margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups flour
>> Filling:
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt

To make crust: Combine all ingredients. If mixture is too soft, refrigerate 30 minutes. It will be a little sticky.

Divide dough into fourths, then divide each fourth into 12 pieces and roll into balls. They should be smaller than golf balls. Place balls into a miniature muffin pan, molding the dough to the sides of the pan to make little cups.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make filling: Combine all ingredients. Fill each cup 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until crusts are brown. Pry loose with a paring knife and cool completely. Makes 48 tassies.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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