All the cookie contest entries were winners

December 26, 2004|by JAKE WOMER

My idea of making a dessert from scratch is adding chocolate syrup to vanilla ice cream. That's why I was so impressed with the outstanding efforts of the Tri-State area bakers who submitted a record number of entries for The Herald-Mail's annual cookie contest this year.

Some readers, though, felt differently about the contest and the winning recipe, and they expressed their opinions in The Daily Mail's "Mail Call" and The Morning Herald's "You Said It."

The following was printed Dec. 16: "I can't believe that a cookie recipe with box mix and Cool Whip could win $100. I was under the impression that the cookies had to be made from scratch. No wonder our kids are getting fat these days."

But then this followed Dec. 20: "To the person who couldn't believe that a cookie recipe with box mix and Cool Whip could win $100. You better believe it, honey, because that person won $100 and obviously the from scratch recipes weren't that great. So sounds like there are some sour grapes there, huh?"


Well, cookies were not required to be made from scratch. That's a good idea, but it would be tough for us to enforce since we cannot double-check every recipe.

And I stand by the contest. It's not scientific by any means, but it's honest.

The Lifestyle department had to round up a few extra judges - not the most difficult of tasks - to sample and evaluate the 84 entries that we received in early December. Each baker submitted a dozen cookies. We chose individuals who both like to eat and like to cook. We picked men and women ranging in age from their early 20s to their 50s. We screened our judges for biases against such cookie ingredients as nuts, chocolate and coconut.

We felt great about our final decision.

Our seven judges had their work cut out for them. They devised a judging system that I believe gave each entrant a fair shot at the contest's $100 grand prize. Each judge first tasted 12 different kinds of cookies, ranking each cookie on a scale of one to 10 for taste, texture and appearance. Taste was weighted more heavily than the other two criteria. The two cookies in each batch of 12 with the highest scores moved on to the next phase of competition. The judges then came together to narrow the 14 semifinalists to 10 finalists, and to choose a grand-prize winner.

That winner was Megan Small of Hagerstown, a third-grade teacher whose Lemon Whippersnapper cookies earned the most points to win Small the grand prize. While some readers have criticized the judges' choice due to the simplicity of Small's recipe - which included 1 box of lemon cake mix, 1 egg, 2 cups of thawed Cool Whip and 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar - I view the recipe's simplicity as the icing on the proverbial ca... er, cookie.

How can you go wrong with a dessert that tastes great and takes little time to make? While the judges were impressed with many of the entries - including those which must have required hours of effort to prepare from scratch - the taste, texture and appearance of Small's Lemon Whippersnappers ultimately impressed them the most.

Congratulations, Megan Small.

Jake Womer is the Lifestyle editor at The Herald-Mail. To contact him, call 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, or send e-mail to

The Herald-Mail Articles