Last week, I made 8 different batches of cookies in 4 days. Extreme measures were taken to try to take home a win. Zach’s health suffered as he ate about 2 dozen of the cookies. My friends, who are all trying to watch their weight sacrificed Weight Watcher points to test taste each variation and provide valuable feedback. No, it wasn’t the Pillsbury Bake-Off for a MILLION dollars, it was the cookie contest in my department at work. You might call me obsessive, you might call me competitive, you might call me straight out crazy, and you would all be correct. After seeing the extreme competition in last year’s cupcake battle (seen here) and coming home with a loss, I was determined to up my game and take home the win.
It started when the contest was announced. My mind started racing, “should I go traditional but awesomely good cookie, or super fancy?” “Fruity, chocolately, nutty, or salty/sweet?” There were so many options to choose from, so many ideas floating around my head, so many hours spent on Pinterest and Food Gawker for recipes and ideas. The weekend came and I had 4 recipes that I wanted to try out and taste test to see if one of them was “the winner”.
I started with a simple cookie recipe and added in orange zest and white chocolate chips in hopes to make it an orange creamsicle cookie (Zach loves orange cream flavored anything). It was orangey and zesty, but not really that creamy, and the flavors didn’t really mix together. Not the one. Then I went down the chocolate path with a S’Mores cookie, chocolate cakey cookie with graham crackers and mini marshmallows mixed in. It aired on the dry side and the marshmallows disintegrated during baking. I was basically just left with a chocolate cakey cookie with bits of graham cracker in it. Not the one. I moved to a recipe from the famed Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC. Christina Tosi is famous for her super yummy and irresistible sweets, including Crack Pie, which I plan to tackle some day soon, so I had high hopes that this recipe was going to be the winner. Unfortunately, I am not Christina Tosi and my try at the Corn Flake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow cookie ended up with something that looks like fake vomit. Fake vomit does not equal a winner. A little discouraged after 3 tries and 1 1/2 packs of butter used, I ragged on with my quest and made another Milk Bar favorite, the Blueberry and Cream cookie. The milk crumbs were fun to make and interesting, and the house smelled like I was baking blueberry muffins. The cookie was chewy (I love my cookies chewy), buttery, and really tasted like a blueberry muffin. A possible winner.
I’m one of those people who thinks the grass is greener on the other side and will not stop until all stones are turned and all possibilities are vanquished. So instead of stopping at a fabulously tasting cookie that was unique and interesting, I kept on making cookies. I even Googled “contest winning cookie recipe” and “best cookie recipe” for ideas and inspiration. Then I thought I had it. People love chocolate, most people like a chewy cookie, and you can’t go wrong with Nutella, so I thought “Eureka!” a chocolate Nutella cookie! It couldn’t just be a Nutella cookie though, it had to be interesting. Then I saw recipes for a Nutella Lava cookie. Back to the kitchen I went. These lava cookies took a little more time and maneuvering than just mixing and then plopping on to a cookie sheet. The dough needed to be chilled for a little while so that you could handle it without it being too sticky and stuff some Nutella in the center.
To make it a little easier, I scooped out Nutella into 1 teaspoon balls and froze them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in the freezer while the cookie dough chilled. After the dough hardened and Nutella froze, I scooped out 2 tablespoon balls (using an ice cream scoop) of the cookie dough, made a well in the middle, dropped in the frozen Nutella ball, and then rolled it into a ball, making sure to cover up the center. I had envisioned this plump cookie exploding with ooey gooey Nutella, and it was a little bit of a disappointment when the cookies flattened out in the oven and Nutella didn’t ooze, but just hung out in the center of the cookie. Also, the nutty Nutella flavor was a bit lost in all that rich chocolate, even though I added in hazelnut bits in the dough. My ”Eureka!” turned into just an “Ehhh…” (I made 2 batches of the Nutella Lava cookie, one that was a chewier chocolate dough, but still same result. Now the count is up to 6 batches).
Highly discouraged and still not certain about the blueberry cookie, I pouted and watched TV. It’s amazing what the Real Housewives of New Jersey can do to your spirit. Zach came up with the idea of an oatmeal cookie with the Nutella center to cut down on the chocolately-ness of the chocolate lava cookies, so off to the kitchen I went again. I still wanted a chewy cookie instead of cakey cookie (crispy cookie would have just flattened out), so I used a chewy oatmeal cookie recipe. Same thing, chilled the dough, froze Nutella balls, and rolled. The cookie turned out pretty good, but still flattened more than I would have liked.
So now it was the night before the competition (7 test batches made) and I had to make my submission batch. After so many cookies, and way too much butter, the Blueberry and Cream one was still the one that had the best taste and texture. I thought I’d play up the milk crumbs a little more as that was the unique part of the cookie, so I made a double batch of them and sprinkled some on top of the cookie before baking. Even though I wasn’t 100% happy with the final cookie (I used corn syrup instead of glucose, so not as chewy, and I may have under-baked them because I wanted to go to bed) I must say, I baked my heart out.
We had a really good variety of different flavors from all the entrants for the cookie contest and everything tasted super yummy to me! I don’t think I’d be a very good judge in that I’d like all of them. (I’m a fatty) Perhaps it was luck, perhaps it was the bit of sweat that dropped in the cookie dough, or perhaps the judges like blueberry muffins alot, but I came home with the win. :) This bake-a-thon was tiring, frustrating, but so much fun. It definitely gave me a taste of what I’m in for in June when I cater dessert for a party of 150 people!!
Blueberry and Cream Cookie by Momofuku’s Milk Bar (tip, the recipe calls for Glucose, you can use corn syrup instead, just half the amount)
Adapated Nutella Lava Cookie – used this Chocolate Espresso Chew recipe from the Washington Post, but excluded the espresso powder, folded in Hazelnuts instead of Walnuts, and stuffed it with a Nutella center
Adapted Oatmeal Nutella Lava Cookie – used this Oatmeal Cookie recipe from Martha Stewart, but left out the raisins, and stuffed it with a Nutella center