I really had a tough assignment earlier this month. But someone had to do it, or else there would not be a North Carolina cookie champion.
I got to judge the News and Observer’s Holiday Baking Contest this month. I also learned that one should not judge a baking contest after eating a full meal. Cookies just don’t taste as good when you feel as if you will explode if you eat a wafer thin mint.
I survived and helped pick some tasty winners. The full list of winners, and their award-winning recipes, can be found in Andrea Weigl’s Mouthful column. Check them out.
I was especially fond of the peppermint crescents, which won honorable mention. It was like a cross between a ladyfinger cookie and peppermint candy. My grandmother used to make ladyfingers, and I remember as a child just loving the powdered sugar taste of this light cookie.
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Perhaps that is why I scored the cookie such high marks. It reminded me of my childhood.
I really want my own children to have some holiday baking memories. But I’m a terrible baker. I screw up most everything I bake.
It’s like a double-edged sword, though, for me. If I don’t bake, I feel as if I’m depriving them of some homemade holiday baking memories.
I kind of have it in my head that they’ll go off to college and look forward to coming home because of Mom’s baked goods, just as I looked forward to my Dad’s homemade buckeyes.
I’ve reserved this coming weekend to bake a few things. I may even attempt the original ladyfingers recipe, similar to what my grandmother made in the ’70s.
The recipe looks easy enough for this amateur to handle. In holidays past, I’ve tried my Dad’s buckeyes, but they are just not the same as his.
Perhaps I’ll have better luck with Grandma’s ladyfingers.
Or maybe I should think of my own holiday tradition that is tailor-made for me.
My kids enjoyed decorating sugar cookies at the Washington Duke Inn this month, and I sipped coffee from the lovely beverage station while they iced their little hearts out.
Maybe trips to a luxury hotel for Christmas cookie decorating will be their Mom’s thing and something they will look forward to even if future years.
I think I will.
Happy Holidays to your family. Thank you for being here with me in 2013, and I’ll be back here with a new column on Jan. 1.