Chewy, fruity, nutty cookie takes first in Holiday Cookie Contest

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Bakers entered 35 batches of cookies for the 2019 Dayton Daily News Holiday Cookie Contest, a long-standing newspaper tradition.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Weeks of baking and taste testing paid off for the winner of the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest.

Geni Thurin of Dayton said she took six to eight different batches of cookies into work each week for her co-workers at Jay’s Seafood to judge.

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Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. CONTRIBUTED

Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. CONTRIBUTED

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Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. CONTRIBUTED

“I had eaten so many cookies I couldn’t tell anymore,” Thurin said. “I must have used six pounds of butter trying to figure out what cookie I was going to make.”

Thurin entered two types of cookie in this year’s contest. Her co-workers’ favorite, White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies, took top prize.

“It’s a nice chewy, fruity, nutty cookie,” said Thurin, “and they look Christmasy.”

>> Our favorite winning cookie recipes through the years to inspire your holiday baking

Bakers entered 35 batches of cookies for this year’s contest, a long-standing newspaper tradition. The top three winners, selected by Corinne Sanders, community engagement coordinator with the Gem City Market, and a panel of judges from the Dayton Daily News staff, each received a Kroger gift card.

Thurin, who has been baking for 40 years, also earned an honorable mention for her Salted-Caramel Coconut Thumbprint Cookies.

She said she’s been entering the newspaper’s cookie contest for at least eight years — placing second and third in the past — but never reaching the top.

One year after coming up short she recalled saying “Some old grandma won and I’m going to beat that old grandma one day. You know what? I’m an old grandma now.”

For the first time in the history of the newspaper’s cookie contest, a single baker won second and third place.

Beth Harper of Oakwood took second with her Creamsicle Cookies and third with her Pecan Bars.

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Beth Harper of Oakwood won second and third place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Creamsicle Cookies and Pecan Bars. CONTRIBUTED

Beth Harper of Oakwood won second and third place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Creamsicle Cookies and Pecan Bars. CONTRIBUTED

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Beth Harper of Oakwood won second and third place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Creamsicle Cookies and Pecan Bars. CONTRIBUTED

Childhood memories of buying Creamsicles and Push-Up Pops from a neighborhood ice cream truck were the inspiration for Harper’s second-place cookies.

“It’s not all orange; it’s the combination of orange and vanilla,” Harper said. “As a kid, I just loved the flavor.”

The home baker said she wanted her take on a classic white chocolate chip cookie recipe to taste like real orange and used zest instead of extract. The “pillowy” cookies are topped with a drizzle filled with “pops of zest.”

Her recipe for Pecan Bars, the third-place winner, came from “years of playing around with an existing recipe for bite-sized pecan pie.”

The shortbread crust and nuts provide a crunch combined with the chewiness of honey and brown sugar.

Harper also earned an honorable mention for her Double Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies.

Her earliest memories of baking are making Christmas cookies with her mother as a young girl. “I still have her cookie cutters,” she said.

Today she likes to bake for friends. “I think baking is a way to show love toward people,” she said. “I try to put a little love into what I make.”

THE WINNING RECIPES

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Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

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Geni Thurin of Dayton won first place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

FIRST PLACE

WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY PISTACHIO COOKIES

Submitted by Geni Thurin of Dayton

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened (it’s essential that it’s softened)

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup white chocolate chips

½ cup chopped shelled pistachio nuts

1 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries)

*If using unsalted nuts, add an extra ¼ teaspoon salt to theflour

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and the sugars. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy and pale in color, 3-5 minutes. This step is important for ensuring soft, chewy cookies. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture, just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and pistachio nuts.

4. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the batter onto the greased cookie sheet.

5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until they just begin to turn golden around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: About two dozen cookies

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Beth Harper of Oakwood won second place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Creamsicle Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Beth Harper of Oakwood won second place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Creamsicle Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

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Beth Harper of Oakwood won second place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Creamsicle Cookies. LISA POWELL / STAFF

SECOND PLACE

CREAMSICLE COOKIES

— Submitted by Beth Harper of Oakwood

Ingredients:

Cookies:

1 cup butter, softened

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated white sugar

1 small package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons of orange zest (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 (11-ounce) package white chocolate chips

Drizzle:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons of orange zest

2-3 tablespoons of milk or orange juice

Mix to desired consistency. Drizzle over cookies when cool.

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, both sugars, pudding mix, eggs, zest and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer, on medium speed until creamy and combined.

3. Gradually add in the flour and baking soda to the mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips.

4. Drop batter by tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for only 9 to 10 minutes. (They may not seem fully baked, but they are. Do not overbake!)

5. Remove from oven and let cookies rest and cool on the cookie sheets. Drizzle cookies.

Yield: Approximately 30 cookies

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Beth Harper of Oakwood won third place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Pecan Bars. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Beth Harper of Oakwood won third place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Pecan Bars. LISA POWELL / STAFF

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Beth Harper of Oakwood won third place in the 2019 Dayton Daily News Cookie Contest with her Pecan Bars. LISA POWELL / STAFF

THIRD PLACE

PECAN BARS

— Submitted by Beth Harper of Oakwood

Ingredients:

1¾ cup (3¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup honey

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup heavy cream

2 cups pecan halves

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch pan and line with parchment paper.

2. Combine 1⅛ cup (2¼ sticks) of butter with ¾ cup brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Add ½ tsp salt, then the flour one cup at a time. Mix until dough forms into large clumps.

3. Press the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan, fork-prick the crust, and chill for 20 minutes. When chilled, bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool completely before proceeding.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F.

5. Place remaining butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, heavy cream, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir together and bring to a boil.

6. Cook until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in pecans and vanilla.

7. Pour the pecan mixture over the cooled crust, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Let cool completely before cutting into small pieces for serving.

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