There’s nothing like a little competition to bring out people’s best holiday cookie recipes. This past weekend, dozens of kitchen creatives jumped at the chance to prove their cookie recipe was the best by taking part in “The Takedown” at Brooklyn’s Bell House. The annual bake off had 25 amateur chefs vying for the top spots, each bringing in 250 cookies to help them win Cuisinart sets, specialty knives and most importantly, bragging rights.
Even though the run up to Christmas is in full swing, there was nary a wreath cookie in sight as the competitors focused more on flavor than seasonal touches. Bourbon and whisky flavored icings were popular as were pumpkin-based cakes. One table had a red tartan table cloth that just helped complete the ski chalet feel that came across from their peanut butter hot chocolate cookie that was topped with a cinnamon and marshmallow meringue.
The event, organized by Matt Timms who hosts monthly “Takedowns” at the Bell House ranging from chili cook offs to meatball showdowns, handed out three People’s Choice awards based off attendee votes. The other awards (four honorable mentions and the top three winners) were named by a panel of judges, which included Edible’s own Rachel Wharton.
The ‘Last Call Choco Taco’ was one such honorable mention, as the delicate lace cookie “tacos” stuffed with Grand Marnier cannoli cream and topped with pretzel and peanut bits looked far more intricate than its creators originally intended.
“We were thinking of a mix of bar snacks and cookies and somehow we came up with this,” creator Shannon Stanton said of her brainstorming process with her cooking partner Gina Ku.
The Ugly Betties that were given the judges’ second place spot were true to their name, as the peanut butter and dark chocolate cookie with caramel center did not look immediately appetizing but made up for that in their taste. Similarly, the deep-fried chocolate chip cookies topped with a whiskey caramel sauce, named “Chocolate Fireballs,” looked almost threatening because of the crunchy exterior but they were the one of the best surprises.
From my count, only one of the 25 competitors explicitly showed a holiday slant in her submission, as Kira Knightingale’s “Christmas Swirl” cookies were red and white dots of cookie dipped in chocolate with peppermint chips added on top.
“I woke up all of my neighbors extra early this morning because I was hammering down candy canes for the peppermint bits,” Ms Knightingale said.
The hammering would have fit right in at the Bell House, as the soundtrack to the event was a full list of heavy metal music. To some, headbanging-worthy tunes don’t necessarily jive with an afternoon of sugar comas, but that didn’t appear to stop any of the attendees who continued to go back for thirds and fourths.
In the end, the judges and the people agreed as both awarded “The Vermonster” the highest honors in both categories. The glob of a cookie was packed with chocolate chips, salted pecans, extra sea salt and topped with a brown butter maple syrup glaze. Roommates Carly Ziegler, Liz McCuaig and her boyfriend Max Effron were the masterminds behind the winning cookie, but they admitted that they had some outside help, giving away their winning secret in their acceptance speech.
“I want to thank my mom for making the maple syrup,” Vermont-native McCuaig said.