11th annual cookie exchange

12-year-old girl wins the dough with triple-flavored cookie

12-year-old girl wins the dough with triple-flavored cookie

December 02, 2002|by MEG H. PARTINGTON

Aubrey Muller's first attempt at a friend's cookie recipe was a winner.

The 12-year-old Myersville, Md., girl took three of The Herald-Mail Co.'s cookie connoisseurs on a flavorful ride with her Chocolate Peanut Butter Vanilla Cookies. In return, she earned not only their kudos but $100, beating 46 other entrants for the grand prize.

"I don't bake a whole lot," said Aubrey, adding that cookies and cakes are what she prefers to concoct when she gets a turn in the kitchen.

But she certainly knew a top-notch treat when she tasted it.

Last year, after tasting the triple-flavored cookies made by her friend Britney Kehr, 16, of Hagerstown, she asked for the recipe.


She decided to make her first batch for The Herald-Mail's 11th annual Cookie Exchange. Now that she's wowed our judges - staff writer Andy Schotz, columnist Tim Rowland and graphic artist Ryan Harpster - she thinks she might make some for her family during the holidays.

The daughter of Mary and David Muller, Aubrey has been homeschooled for nine years.

The method

Our iron-stomached cookie critics had a monumental task in front of them. As if sampling 47 dozen cookies wasn't enough, they had to rank the top three, then pick seven runners-up.

The cookies were divided into four groups in anticipation of having four judges. But when only three were available, the men bravely did what had to be done - they put even more on their plates.

"I was quality control," boasted Rowland, because he sampled every cookie.

Harpster and Schotz tried about 30 kinds each.

Each judge ranked his top 10 favorites, giving 10 points for first place, one point for 10th place. They narrowed down their favorites,

"Then we argued," said Schotz, who tallied the numbers.

Maybe their fuses got shorter as their stomachs got fuller.

There was a three-way tie for first place, so they ranked the cookies again. Aubrey's Chocolate Peanut Butter Vanilla Cookies came out on top, followed by Hagerstown resident Sandra Miguel's Glazed Apple-Craisin-Walnut Cookies and Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies baked by Pat Bartlett, also of Hagerstown.

Harpster said he gave the Glazed-Apple-Craisin-Walnut Cookies a high rating because they were unique.

"It was different than your regular everyday cookie. It wasn't boring," Harpster said.

Overlooking paper plates laden with half-eaten cookies and cups full of water and milk strewn all around a conference room table, Schotz, Rowland and Harpster slumped back in their chairs and described the tasting process.

"I started on whole cookies," Schotz said. But early on, he realized that nibbling was best. By about his 30th cookie, he was down to two-bite samples.

Rowland took exactly the opposite approach.

"I started out nibbling and about halfway through, I went for the whole enchilada," he said.

Harpster had yet another tactic: "I always started with a small bite. If it was good, I ate the whole cookie."

Each taste-tester has preferences when it comes to cookie flavors but they knew that unbiased judging was essential - particularly by newspaper employees.

"I tended to bite in first, then look at the titles," said Schotz, so he wouldn't have a preconceived liking or disliking for a cookie based on what it was called.

Describing himself as a "chocolate, thin, chewy" fan, Schotz found himself pleasantly surprised by the flavor of some entries that featured cherries, generally not one of his favorite ingredients.

"I'm a chewy person," Rowland said. "I don't like toffee as a general thing," he added, but the Almond Toffee Brickle baked by Debbie Calhoun of Big Pool pleased his taste buds.

Apparently he wasn't alone in his enjoyment of the rich creations, as they made the overall Top 10 list.

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