Cashew shortbread wins annual Chinook Observer cookie recipe contest

This year's cookie winners, clockwise from left: First place, browned butter cashew shortbread; second place.

LONG BEACH - What are the holidays without treats? And what better treat for the occasion than a delicious cookie? The season's best treat was voted on last Thursday during the Chinook Observer's sixth annual cookie recipe contest.

Jeannine Huffman of Long Beach was this year's winner, with her browned butter cashew shortbread.

"I had never seen a cashew cookie before, even though everybody loves the nut," she said of her prize-winning recipe.

She said that after making the cookie for the first time recently she knew it would be a tough one to beat in the contest. Huffman, who says she has always loved to cook and bake, said that shortbread can be a tricky cookie if you don't do it right.

"I think a lot of people overbake them. You really have to keep your eyes on it," she said. "If you over work the dough it can be tough. If not enough, it falls apart."

Huffman has lived on the Peninsula for the last eight years, having moved from her and her husband's native San Diego, saying they wanted to get away from the big city and find a calmer life.

"We have found that," she said with a laugh. "Sometimes a little too calm. But, oh well, we like it."

This is the first time that Huffman has won the Observer contest after placing second twice before. She said she was "exhilarated" when she found out. Cooking and baking contests are something that she has entered from time to time in the past, previously winning first prize in a cooking contest in San Diego and an honorable mention in a national cookie contest sponsored by Nestle.

The second place award went to a Christmas cookie made by Charlene Hadfield. The chewy treat featured white chocolate, walnuts and craisons. Third place was awarded to Mary Lochry for her caramel nut acorns - which were the shape of the nut. For their award, the ladies all receive certificates, a small gift and a subscription to the paper - one year for first place, six months for second, three months for third.

Honorable mention goes to Kerry Amundson for her two beautifully displayed submissions - a chocolate peanut butter pizza and chocolate, chocolate peppermint cookies. Also receiving honorable mention was Jim Varner for his toffee bars and Lorrie Kellis for her sugar and spice cookies.

Also submitting excellent cookies worthy of acclaim were: Terry Lockhart's nanaimo bars; Beverly Rolfe's fudge meltaways and her beautiful Baklava; Ellie Malone's wonderful peppermint snowballs; Bill and Melanie Grill's white chocolate cherry chuckies; Rose Varner's angel halos; Frances Osgood's carob peanut butter/wheat free cookies; and last but not least, Marlene Kent's cranberry and date-filled cookies.

1st Place Winner

Jeannine Huffman

BROWNED BUTTER CASHEW

SHORTBREADS

1-1/2 cups Butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely chopped cashews

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 to 2 tablespoons fat free half-and-half milk

54 cashews

Melt butter in 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly and watching closely, until butter just begins to turn golden brown (7 to 11 minutes). Immediately remove from heat. Pour 1-1/4 cups browned butter into small bowl; pour remaining butter into another small bowl. Refrigerate both bowls of butter until cool (about 1 hour).

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1-1/4 cups cooled browned butter, brown sugar, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Reduce speed to low, add flour. Beat until well mixed. Stir in chopped cashews by hand.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until set. Cool completely.

Combine remaining browned butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, adding enough half-and-half for desired frosting consistency, until smooth. Spread frosting over cooled cookies. Top each with cashew half.

2nd Place Winner

Charlene Hadfield

CHRISTMAS COOKIE

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1-1/2 cups brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup oats

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Beat butter, shortening, sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until creamy, add the egg, beat well. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Gradually beat flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in chips, nuts and cranberries. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Don't over bake. Cool on baking sheets for several minutes, until able to handle without breaking the cookie. Move to wire racks to cool completely.

3rd Place Winner

Mary Lochry

CARAMEL NUT ACORNS

An acorn-shaped cookie, dipped in melted caramels and nuts to complete the look.

Sift together: 2-1/2 cups sifted floor, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Melt: 1 cup butter in 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in: 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup pecans, chopped fine. Add the dry ingredients, mix thoroughly. Shape dough into balls, flatten one side onto ungreased cookie sheet. Pinch top to resemble acorn. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. Cool.

Melt 25 caramels and 1/4 cup water in top of double boiler. Dip flat ends of cookies into melted caramels, about 1/4 inch deep, then into 3/4 pecans, chopped finely, coating thoroughly with nuts.

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