Raising the bar

Cranberry lemon ginger bars win contest, bragging rights for baker

Cranberry lemon ginger bars win contest, bragging rights for baker

December 14, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Carrie Miller created her winning cookie recipe specifically for The Herald-Mail's 17th annual Cookie Exchange Contest.

The Washington County resident created two different contest entries - cranberry lemon ginger bars and, inspired by the chocolate oranges often seen this time of year, chocolate orange fudge bars. Then she asked her husband, Steven, and co-workers at Sovereign Bank in downtown Hagerstown to taste both recipes and help her determine which recipe to enter in the contest.

They voted the right way, because Miller's cranberry lemon ginger bars won $100 and bragging rights.

Asked if she would be bragging, Miller said, "I'm going to do a lot. ... Quite a bit."

Miller's cookies received the highest total score in the contest, which had 45 entries.

"The quality in those bars was awesome," said judge Tammy Twigg, culinary arts instructor at Washington County Technical High School. Twigg sited ingredients such as the wheat flour, oat flour and lemon zest.


"It was a good combination. Very refreshing," Twigg said.

Contest judge Yolanda DiFabio, who worked as a head cook for a children's summer camp and is the wife of Lifestyle Editor Chris Copley, thought the winning cookie would appeal to many people.

Contest judge Debbie Hoffman, who teaches family and consumer science at Clear Spring Middle School, said it was refreshing that the winning cookie didn't have chocolate in it. Around half of the entries contained chocolate.

Cookies were judged on taste, appearance, overall quality and originality of the recipe. The judges were split into two groups, each tasting about half of the entries. Each group selected finalists.

All eight judges tasted the 14 finalists, rating them on a score of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. After the scores were added, the cranberry lemon ginger bars had won - just one point shy of a perfect score.

The other judges were Sylvia Shives, retired culinary instructor from the Career Studies Center, as Tech High was formerly known; Lakin Thomas, 14, of Hagerstown, writer for The Herald-Mail's Pulse teen section; Joshua Hughes, editorial assistant for The Herald-Mail; Beth Rowland, a dessert lover who is publisher of Half Halt Press in Boonsboro and wife of Herald-Mail columnist Tim Rowland; and Meredith Poffenberger, a Herald-Mail employee, retired caterer and former producer of the TV show "Cooking Fresh, Cooking Local."

Miller, 27, who lives south of Hagerstown, said this is the first time she has won a cooking contest of any kind.

Her mother, Kathy Schuerholz of Carroll County, Md., taught her to bake when she was a child.

"(Baking) is something we've always done, starting with making cookies every Christmas when I was a kid. Traditional stuff. As I got older I got interested in experimenting with the recipes and seeing what I could do," Miller said.

Miller enjoys cooking all kinds of foods, and creating her own recipes. She has an herb garden in her backyard to assist her cooking.

The recipe for the cranberry lemon ginger bars were based very loosely on a Land O'Lakes recipe, but Miller said she made so many changes there are few similar ingredients in the two recipes.

Asked how she would spend her winnings, Miller said she'd probably get another Christmas gift for her son, Roland, who turned 1 on Friday.

Roland loves his mom's cookies.

"He loves anything sweet," Miller said.

Cranberry lemon ginger bars

Cookie base:

1 cup wheat flour1 cup all-purpose flour1/2 cup oat flour1 teaspoon baking soda1/4 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon ginger1 teaspoon cinnamon1/2 teaspoon nutmeg1/2 teaspoon allspice1/4 teaspoon cloves1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened3/4 cup sugar3/4 cup brown sugar2 eggs2 teaspoons lemon zest2 teaspoons vanilla1 teaspoon lemon extract1 cup oatmeal1 cup cranberries, chopped, fresh, frozen or dried

Cream-cheese mixture:

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese1/2 cup sugar1/2 cup cream or milk1 egg1 tablespoon flour1 teaspoon lemon extract1 teaspoon lemon zest1 teaspoon vanilla


1/2 cup cranberries2 tablespoons lemon zest2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-2-inch pan or two 10-inch-by-5-inch-by-1-inch jelly roll pans.

To make the cookie base, in a medium bowl sift together the flours, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add eggs one at a time, blending after each. Add lemon zest, and vanilla and lemon extracts. Blend well. Add oatmeal and cranberries and mix until just blended. Spread mixture into pan.

In another bowl blend cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and milk (or cream), mixing after each. Add flour and mix well. Add lemon zest and both extracts. Blend well. Spread mixture over cookie batter.

To make the topping, in a small bowl mix cranberries, lemon zest and sugar. Sprinkle mixture over cream cheese.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

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