Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Celebrity Chef In the House!

Today we are thrilled to have the winner of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Very Merry Cookie Challenge, my friend (yes, Ruthy, I have more than one), Andrea Hicks.

<Cheers and applause>

Andrea is one fantabulous cook. It's been proven that Sunday School attendance is higher when she brings the refreshments. I'm just sayin'.

This year, Andrea delved into the world of contest by entering the annual Fort Worth Star-Telegram contest. Not only did she take the grand prize, the panel of eight professional bakers unanimously voted her Chai Snickerdoodles the winner!

Andrea, we’re so excited to have you in the café today. Scoot yourself on up to counter and tell us how you came up with your winning recipe?
Hey Mindy! My mom had a Christmas cookie exchange every year, and the snickerdoodle recipe was one of my favorites. It was the first cookie I learned to bake by myself. It got tweaked a bit when I ran out of white sugar and ended up with half white and half brown. I made them for my friends every year in high school as a Christmas gift. When I decided to enter the contest, I looked for a way to make the recipe stand out. My usual go-to recipes include chocolate in some form (or many forms), but the contest details said they got a lot of chocolate entries. Snickerdoodles are my daughter’s favorite, and it’s a good base dough to play with. Then my son brought home a bag of cinnamon chips from work (he works at Kroger), and they were sitting in the pantry, so I thought I'd try adding those to the mix. I tried a couple of different things to roll them in. I really wanted to make Starbucks Via mixes work somehow, but that one is still in the development stage. I like chai tea, and tried it on a few, and it really tasted good. Family members make good guinea pigs. 

What went through your mind when you found out all eight judges had unanimously voted your cookie number one?

I was crazy excited!!! I think I drove my husband and kids crazy bouncing around the house saying, "Guess what? I won!!" about every half-hour.

What did they have to say when they found out you’d won?

My husband just kept (keeps) saying how proud he is of me. The kids were both excited as well. My son bragged about the cookies at work, and asked me to bake them for his Christmas party. I have a good family!

So where do you go from here? Are there any more contests on the horizon?

I was actually searching online for a contest this weekend, might enter it in the Taste of Home cookie contest. I haven't entered a lot of contests in the past, just one in Indiana where I got a second place prize in a chocolate cookie contest. Beyond that, who knows? 

Ah yes, I can see it now…. Soon you’ll be competing on the Food Network.
Well, Andrea, let's whip up a batch up your winning cookies so everyone can have a taste.
Here's what you're going to need:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening (the butter/shortening combination makes for a softer cookie. If you prefer your cookies crispy, use all butter)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar (Mindy note: I used dark brown because it's what I had on hand)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Hershey's cinnamon chips
  • 4 tablespoons Oregon Chai Tea Latte Mix (or equivalent)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix butter and sugars until creamy; mix in eggs.
Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt, and stir into creamed mixture. Stir in cinnamon chips. These are new from Hershey and they are, indeed, tasty little morsels.
Scoop dough into 1-inch balls and roll in chai mix to coat. Place on cookie sheets about two inches apart. Bake 7-9 minutes. Cool slightly on pan until firm before transferring to cooling rack.
Oh my, do these babies make the house smell yummy while they're baking. One bite and you'll know why they're winners.

Andrea, I'm so glad you dropped by to share these with us. They're definitely going into my baking/holiday repertoire. Now the whole world can enjoy chai snickerdoodles.
Merry Christmas, y'all!




    I was clawing at the screen, desperate for one of these beauties!!

    I'm so trying this recipe. MMMMMMM....

    Thank you so much for coming to visit and congratulations on winning the bake off!

    1. And rightfully do, Virginia. I haven't eaten them all...yet:-)

    2. That's supposed to say rightfully so.

    3. Thank you Virginia!
      Side note, can you adjust the flour measurement? It should be 2 3/4 cups. I tried the white whole wheat flour last night, used it half and half with all purpose, and they still taste yummy. I did sift it though...

    4. In case you didn't guess, the pink elephant is Andrea:-)

      How was it with the white whole wheat? Did it change the texture at all?

    5. Straight whole wheat was okay, but tasted a little 'wheaty' so I went half and half and sifted it real good. I can't tell the difference. But I don't have any of the last batch to compare. :)

  2. yum! I love snickerdoodles - heck most cookies though ginger is my last choice I think...
    I may have to stay away from here til ya'll go back to the healthy stuff new years!
    btw what does cream of tartar do to the cookies? does it poof them up or is that the baking soda? I don't do cookies :-( I managed to mess up the predone frozne otis spunkmeyer school fundraising ones - I keep forgetting they harden after they're out of the oven but they just look so raw when they're soft...I decided to risk undercooked and think I guessed right once...

    1. Susanna, these are the best snickerdoodles I've ever had. But just hang with us. The new year will be here soon.

      As for the cream of tartar, I wondered the same thing myself. I know it's a stabilizer. In cookies, I think it makes them less dense. Perhaps someone else can give you a better explanation.

      Don't give up on baking cookies, Susanna. Trial and error. But if the edges are set or golden, you should be good to go.

  3. susanna, I know here cream of tartar and bicard soda are used together and do what baking powder does.

    What exactly is shortening I though it was the same as butter or cooking marg.

    1. You are exactly right on the cream of tartar, Jenny.

      Shortening is vegetable shortening. Crisco is the best know brand in the states. It's white, has a texture similar to butter. It doesn't have to be refrigerated and is usually sold in cans on the baking aisle at the grocery.

    2. I found Crisco in stick form at the grocery store, it's a lot easier to measure.

    3. Andrea, Jenny is from Australia, so she has a hard time translating our terminology sometimes. But we learn lots from her too!

    4. it was easier when I used blogger profile not google.
      just did a google search our copha is a shortening but its hard and solid and needs to be melted. But many said cooking margarine is a good substitute. Oh our copha has to be refrigerated.

      I confuse everyone here with some of my terminology also.

  4. Snickerdoodles are a favorite around here, but I never thought of adding cinnamon chips! No wonder the recipe is a contest winner.

    And aren't baking contests fun? I only entered one - a very small one. It was for a block party when we lived in Indiana. The fact that I won should have spurred me on to bigger and better contests, like the county fair, right? But alas, no. I rested on my laurels. (aka, we moved the next year...)

    I found an answer for the cream of tartar question: http://askville.amazon.com/purpose-cream-tarter-cookie-recipe/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=6812867

    Just further evidence that cooking is really chemistry.

    1. Jan, where did you live in Indiana? We lived in Bloomington for several years before moving to Texas. We miss seasons...

    2. We lived in Goshen - way up north (at least as far as Indiana is concerned :)

      My parents still live there, so we visit as often as we can.

    3. Jan, you've moved so often, I think you've lived near everyone at one time :-)

    4. It seems that way, but I haven't lived near Ruthy or Virginia...I did live near Missy's hometown...

      But now I'm ready to stay put :)

    5. I have friends from Goshen! Do you know any Baxters?

  5. I'm in awe of cooks who are brave enough to play with recipes! Gasp! I near swoon at the thought! I take my recipes seriously and follow them exactly! LOL. You might say I'm not a natural cook but I'm an enthusiastic one! So congrats on your recipe win 'pink elephant'. :-)

    I LOVE snickerdoodles (mostly because they are so much fun to say) and I'll try this one if I can find the cinnamon chips. I haven't seen them up here in Canada though. And I bake with spelt flour most of the time and it sounds like this recipe will be spelt friendly.

    And Jan -- thanks for the chemistry lesson!

    1. Kav, I rarely veer from a recipe either. I always worry it won't turn out and I'll have wasted all those ingredients. Guess we'll both have to take a walk on the wild side sometime:-)

    2. I veer constantly. I love adding/subtracting. And I rarely measure except with butter and shortening... a splash has got to be close to a tablespoon, right?


  6. Welcome, Andrea! And congratulations!!! Thanks so much for sharing your recipe. I didn't even know there was such a thing as cinnamon chips!

    BTW, I recently used Starbucks Via in cake icing, and it turned out yummy! I'll be sharing that recipe soon. :)

    1. That sounds yummy! I think it might work better mixed in something, it was just too coffee-ish for the outside.

  7. Oh, honey, first I LOVE Fort Worth, it's like the best thing to see in the whole area, I'm not even sure why folks go to Dallas with all those yummy guys in Fort Worth... but these cookies!!!!


    Mindy, stop the friend bragging. It's really BORING. Brat. I had a friend once...

    Maybe two. :)

    Anyway, this recipe is going to be on the Ruthy's Place Cookie trays for parents this Thursday because I love all things snickerdoodle and I'm always having fun with new twists on old faves!!! I love you Andrea!!! Hooray for you! We'll see if the upstate parents realize they're eating a solid winner!

  8. We made these yesterday and they're delightful! I did switch to coating the cookie balls in a strong cinnamon sugar mix instead of the chai because the chai batch (first batch in the oven) was too mild. And I made a double batch and put a teaspoon of nutmeg in the batter (1/2 tsp. per batch) because I love that hint of background nutmeg in snickerdoodles...

    Maybe it was my chai mix.... Or maybe I'm in love with cinnamon, but these were a crowd-pleasing favorite with kids and parents yesterday afternoon. Thank you, Andrea! We have a new family favorite!