My husband Nate makes a mean chocolate chip cookie. They are big and gooey and full of things he’s added over the years through trial and error. I only regret that he sometimes makes them when there is no milk in the house.
It was during one of these baking splurges that briefly interrupts our oh-so-healthy family diet that it occurred to me that others would probably agree that his cookies were, indeed, the best bits of confection on the planet, wouldn’t they? How was I to know unless … there was a contest? Yes, a contest for the best chocolate chip cookie in the land (well, our fiefdom, anyway).
Nearly a year has passed since that fateful day (see timeline) and the official search for the best chocolate chip cookie in Maple Grove has finally produced not only a winner but some generous giving to the charity of the winner’s choice, Simpson Housing Services and Homeless. We raised $600 in one night the evening of the blind taste-testing from admissions and a percentage of food sales at Maple Tavern.
You, too, can taste the winning cookie at Maple Tavern on Mother’s Day—for free! You can also win a gift tin full of them at Nadia’s Cakes during the week leading up to Mother’s Day. With your help (and satisfied sweet tooth) we hope to raise even more for the winner’s favorite charity. Speaking of which, the winner is: Kerry Olzenak. She has her Grandma Mimi to thank, and we thank everyone who participated.
It was a lot of fun, even if my husband’s cookie was restricted from entry, completely disqualified from the start—it never had a chance, poor thing. I still think it could have won.
I know—let’s have a contest …
Her story: Grandma Mimi lived in Great Falls, Mont., and whenever we visited she had a batch of chocolate chip cookies ready. She shared her recipe with me, and many people tell me my chocolate chip cookies are the best they’ve had. I enjoy baking, and over the years have donated batches of them to raise money for the United Way, and have given them to friends and family when they are not feeling well; they are also often a staple at meetings I organize at work. Whenever I bake them, I bring little “care packages” of cookies to co-workers to brighten their day. My number of “care packages” grows as new friends enjoy them, because it is a fun and easy way to make people happy. Nothing makes my family sadder than seeing me bake and having the cookies leave the house, so now a normal batch is two batches—one for home and one for work. My family loves to eat the cookie dough from the bowl. My personal favorite is to eat them warm from the oven. They have oatmeal in them so I like to think that they are really a “health” food.
Grandma Mimi’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
>1 cup butter-flavored shortening
>3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup brown sugar
>1 tsp. vanilla
>1 tsp. hot water
>1 tsp. baking soda
>1 tsp. salt
>1 1/2 cups flour
>1 12 oz. package chocolate chips
>2 cups oatmeal
Cream shortening and stir in sugar and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mix until smooth. Add vanilla, hot water, soda, salt, flour and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Add oatmeal and stir well. Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown.
The Winning Charity
Simpson Housing Services and Homeless Shelter houses, supports and advocates for people experiencing homelessness. They provide emergency shelter as well as permanent and subsidized rental housing for single adults and families with children. Their philosophy is to provide housing first and then look to provide services as needed. simpsonhousing.org
Her story: These are my family’s favorite cookies. All my kids’ friends request them when they come over. We love the sweet and salty combination. The butter-flavored Crisco makes the cookies extra-soft, chewy and tall. They don’t spread much, so you can bake several on the same pan.
Pretzel Chocolate Chunk Cookies
>3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco
>1 1/4 cup light-brown sugar
>2 Tbsp. milk
>1 Tbsp. real vanilla extract
>2 large eggs
>1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
>3/4 tsp. baking soda
>1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chunks (can substitute chips)
>1 cup stick pretzels broken into 3-4 pieces each
Combine first four ingredients with electric mixer. Add eggs, blending with mixer. Add flour and baking soda until just combined. Mix in chocolate chunks and broken-up pretzels with rubber scraper. Place golf-ball-size rounds of dough on a sprayed or Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle sea salt on the top of each cookie. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, removing cookies from the oven before you sense they are done—use your nose (when you start to smell them, they’re close). Do not overbake.
Her story: This is the “go-to” chocolate chip cookie recipe our family bakes. The cookies literally melt in your mouth. When my husband Scott and I were first married, he tasted these cookies at a potluck at work. He brought home the recipe so I could experience the melt-away cookies with the secret ingredient (vanilla pudding). The minute we baked and ate them, we knew this was our secret recipe for years to come. Now our family of three boys—Jared, 14; Tyler, 11; and Blake, 6, bake them and continue our great family tradition of sharing cookies with new neighbors, as holiday presents and, of course, just baking them to get our chocolate fix.
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever
>3/4 cup brown sugar
>1/4 cup white sugar
>1 (3 oz.) pkg. instant vanilla pudding
>1 cup margarine
>2 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla
>2 1/4 cups flour
>1 tsp. baking soda 1
>2 oz. Nestlé Toll House semi-sweet chocolate chips
Blend brown sugar, white sugar and margarine with mixer. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix flour, vanilla pudding (dry) and baking soda. Blend into previous ingredients. Stir chocolate chips into dough. Drop tablespoon-size cookie dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cookies sit on cookie sheet for a few minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
The Judges’ Decrees
“It was caramely, pretzely and still kind of good.”
—Judge August Regnier’s comment on the pretzel chocolate chip cookie finalist; August, 9, is a third-grader at Rice Lake Elementary.
“I looked at this recipe and thought it interesting to add the vanilla pudding. I would never have thought to do this and am curiously interested in trying this delightful combination.”
—Jacob Toledo, owner of Maple Tavern and self-professed cookie-lover’s reflection on the first cut of finalists, which included Kay Wiens’ entry
“Chewy with crunchy edges. Love the texture of the oatmeal! The oatmeal really pushes this cookie over the top. You almost can't even tell it’s in there. This is not an oatmeal cookie by any means. It’s a chocolate chip cookie with a secret ingredient.”
—Abby Jimenez, owner of Nadia Cakes Bakery and winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars; thoughts on the winning cookie
“The most appealing-looking cookie of the finalists at the tasting.”
—Neighborhood baker extraordinaire, cookie contest judge Marian Mallam, on Abbe Payton’s entry