Ten tasty treats

November 23, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

"I think I've got the cookie," Faye Benden said when she saw the invitation to The Herald-Mail's 12th annual Cookie Exchange.

She was thinking about a cookie she's been baking for more than 20 years.

She changed her mind and submitted Christmas Drops, a recipe she got from her daughter, who had gotten it from a friend four or five years ago.

Benden's decision proved to be a good one.

Christmas Drops took first place and the $100 prize.

"Oh, that's exciting," she said when she got the call at her Falling Waters, W.Va., home.

Benden, 66, is a West Virginia native. She and her husband, Joe, retired and moved from Glenwood, Md., about a year and a half ago. She said she's come back to her roots.


Benden does some baking for the holidays, but said she tries to stay away from that now.

"I eat what I bake," she said.

Christmas Drops beat out 45 other cookies for the prize. The entries were divided into four groups for the first round of judging by Herald-Mail staffers.

"It was a good year for cookies," said columnist and veteran Cookie Exchange judge Tim Rowland.

Each of the judges overcame personal biases, said staff writer Andy Schotz, in his third year as judge.

Kimberly Bain, senior graphic designer, and Steve Valentini, circulation manager, were first-timers.

Before tasting Benden's cookies, judges were skeptical, thinking that the peanut M&M's on top were gumdrops, Schotz said.

"We were surprised by the Christmas Drops," he said.

Valentini agreed. For him, Benden's cookie was so good, it opened up a whole new world.

Cookies were rated for taste, texture and appearance and given a score from 1 to 10.

Appearance is important, Valentini said.

For Rowland, the "presentation and appearance stuff" just confuses the issue.

"I went solely on taste this time," he said.

Bain was pleased to see the mix of traditional and new cookies.

She and Schotz started by eating whole cookies. It got to be too much, Bain said, adding "I couldn't keep up with those guys."

Schotz left a trail of cookies with a single bite out of each.

All four judges tasted the 16 finalist cookies. The tallies were kept by Schotz, meticulous but for a few stray cookie crumbs.

"It was a lot of fun," Valentini said.

But it was not easy. Bain confessed to feeling a little sick at the finish line. Schotz said he was a little queasy and wobbly.

Still their selflessness and sacrifice are amazing; all would be willing to judge again.

Benden's recipe for Christmas Drops is here as are recipes for the other nine cookies in the Top 10.

We congratulate and thank each of the bakers - all 46 of them.

"There are no losers in the Cookie Exchange," Rowland said.

Or, to borrow from Tiny Tim: God bless them every one.

Christmas Drops

Submitted by Faye Benden of Falling Waters, W.Va.

  • 2 cups butter

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 4 eggs, separated

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  • 4 cups flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups finely chopped nuts

  • 1 can cream cheese frosting

  • 1 Red and green Peanut M&M's

Cream butter. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Cream.

Sift flour and salt, and add to mixture. Mix until all ingredients are well-blended.

Using about 1 teaspoon of dough, roll into balls and dip in egg whites. Roll through chopped nuts.

Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and press thumb lightly into cookies. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes more. Cool completely. Ice with frosting. Top each cookie with a peanut M&M candy.

Makes about 90 cookies.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Submitted by Peggy Shaffer of Hagerstown

  • 3 1/2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

In large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with mixer. Add sugar, beat until fluffy. Add, egg, vanilla, almond extract and coconut extract. Beat well. Gradually add flour and baking powder, beat well. Cover and chill overnight. Or place in sealable plastic bags. Seal, label and freeze up to three months. Roll and cut (flour cutter each time). Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 10 minutes. Use tube icing to decorate.

Ginger Cookies

Submitted by Pat Culler of Frederick, Md.

  • 3/4 cup shortening

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1/4 cup molasses

  • Dash of pepper

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 big teaspoons baking soda

In large bowl, cream together shortening, sugar, egg, molasses and pepper. Set aside. Sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt and baking soda.

Add sifted mix to creamed mixture. Roll into balls the size of small walnuts. Roll in sugar. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie Bars

Submitted by Cindy Shank of Hagerstown


  • 2 cups flour

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup cold butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 2 eggs

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 cup chocolate chips

  • 1 1/4 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

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