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One Smart Cookie: (Hazel)nutty Recipe Wins TCS’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Throwdown

The winning cookies are born...

I ran track and cross-country decently all throughout high school, but I never achieved greatness.  In college, I hoped to find an activity at which I could truly excel and that wouldn’t involve running in circles. Well, I’ve finally found my niche: cookie-baking.

When my team and I arrived at Tufts Culinary Society’s first-ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Throwdown with our official cookie entries, I found myself nearly in heaven, with a number of tantalizing cookies that had me quickly breaking my “no more cookies” mantra. Despite my passionate personal policy of trying any food offered to me, after an entire afternoon of baking cookies (interspersed with liberal taste-testing), I discovered my stomach can only house so many cookies. Nevertheless, Team Cookie had concocted a spicy cookie with a surprise kick of chili powder that I simply had to sample. Another team’s cookies had fresh raspberries, and yet another group had drizzled their creations in balsamic vinaigrette. Who knew if I would ever have a chance to try something similar again? My cookie consumption total for the day quickly reached stratospheric heights.

But, I digress.  The contest left ample room for experimentation in search of contest-clinching deliciousness. The only rules: each team was required to submit at least 12 cookies, and they had to contain chocolate chips. In the preliminary round, a panel of four judges each tasted and judged 4-5 cookies and chose their favorite to promote to the finals. The cookies were evaluated by a point system of:

Taste: 10 points

Appearance: 5 points

Texture: 5 points

Creativity: 5 points

The judges discussed the merits and flaws of each cookie before announcing their favorites that would advance to the next round. After much suspense, Team Cookie’s chili pepper cookie, Team HLJ (my team)’s Nutella-topped cookie, Team Café’s muffin tin-baked cookies, and Team 19 Teal’s oatmeal-chocolate chip marvels were selected for the final round.

In the final round, each judge tasted each cookie and assigned point values; the cookie with the highest aggregate point value would take home the crown. Team Cookie’s spiciness continued to impress, with Judge Joe Golia exclaiming, “Wow, it’s hot!”  My group, Team HLJ, earned praise from the judges for an excellent texture and presentation but was cautioned of an overabundance of Nutella on the cookies. Team Café earned points for inventiveness for baking their cookies in a muffin pan, but Judge Antonella deemed the cookies’ texture “too hard.”  Team 19 Teal’s cookies, however, had a “perfect” texture, and several judges admitted that while they did not normally like cinnamon or oatmeal, they found 19 Teal’s cookie delectable.

HLJ and 19 Teal found themselves neck and neck as the finalists were called up for the presentation of awards, but HLJ’s Nutella-hazelnut cookie took home the crown. To our amused disbelief and delight, out of a field of 19 teams, my friends and I had just won a chocolate chip cookie-baking contest.

The championship-winning recipe, cobbled together during a rather panicked lunchtime planning session at Dewick, follows:

Ferrero Rocher (Nutella Hazelnut) Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Small bag of crushed hazelnuts
  • Small jar Nutella

Directions

1.       Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).

2.       In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add pudding mix, eggs and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.

3.       Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Press a pinch of crushed hazelnuts into the center of the cookie. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

4.       Allow cookies to cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

5.       Spread small dollop of Nutella on center of cookie, and sprinkle a pinch of crushed hazelnuts over the Nutella.

-Emilie Parmlind

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