Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting Competitive

I'm not a competitive person.  I never liked organized sports and stopped loving dance when I joined a competitive team.  I don't like games where there is a winner or a loser.  I never enter cooking competitions because I thought it would make me hate baking.

Then grad school happened.  I have become extremely competitive with myself.  I did the Diva Dash in September, pushing my body to its limits in a 5k with 11 obstacles.  I am pushing my mental capacities by writing paper after paper after paper.  And lastly, I am challenging my emotional stamina.  Can I handle this insane amount of stress for four years straight?

All this pushing made me think maybe I could push my limits and try something outside my comfort zone- a cookie competition.  My internship decided to have a staff cookie contest for the holidays, and I signed up to bake.  For a tiny little office, we made it pretty legit.  There were official judges with official score sheets and separate judges' eating rooms and a secret tallying.  For one of the first times in my life, I said "bring it on" to the competition.

I am constantly being evaluated at my internship.  In a professional capacity, in a clinical capacity, and a personal one.  Obviously I want these people to like me.  Normally I achieve this by baking things and winning people over with my sugary skills.  I felt an immense amount of pressure to come up with the best cookie possible.  I researched recipes for weeks and enlisted the help of my friends and family to send me their ideas.

The winning recipe was found by my sister.  I chose these because they were creative and really different from anything I'd made before.  Also, they were freaking adorable, and I'm a sucker for holiday cuteness.

Of course, I always think I know better than the recipe, and had to change it up.  Nutella is ALWAYS better than peanut butter, and shortening should never be used instead of butter instead you want weird textured cookies.  And I doubled it and changed a bunch of other things too.  This is what I came up with:

Nutella Melting Snowmen Cookies
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Yield: 4 dozen adorable cookies.  Feel free to halve the recipe if you don't need as many

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Nutella
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
6 Tbs milk (I, like always, used almond)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cupsall-purpose flour
2 12oz bags of white chocolate chips
~50 mini marshmallows
Candy of your choice to decorate (I used baby Reeses for the hats, orange sprinkles for the carrot noses, and melted chocolate on a toothpick for the eyes)

Assemble your ingredients
Mix together butter and nutella on medium speed until smooth (about 30 seconds)
Beat in the sugars, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined.  Then mix in the eggs, milk, and vanilla.
Gradually add in the flour, trying not to get it all over yourself and the kitchen.
Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into perfect little round balls with your hands, because they spread out very uniformly.  If you have a lumpy ball, it will be a lumpy looking cookie.

Place cookies at least 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350°F for 9-11 minutes.  I liked them at 9 minutes because they were chewy on the inside and ever-so-slightly crisp around the edges.  Cool for two minutes on pan, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Assemble your candy for decorating
Melt the white chocolate chips carefully in the microwave in small batches (about 1/3 of a bag).  If you melt it all at once, it will harden before you use it all, and then you have to microwave it again, and run the risk of cooking it and making it gross.

Spread a little bit of the white chocolate on the cooled cookie.  Place a mini marshmallow on the white chocolate, and then pour more white chocolate over the marshamallow with a spoon, until it fully encases the marshmallow and spreads out nicely around the cookie.  Decorate as you wish, but work quickly, because the chocolate will dry quickly.

First batch I tried to make like the picture
And the second batch I liked putting the faces on the marshmallows

And you know what? They were both delicious AND adorable. They were one of the best cookies I've made in a while flavor-wise. Even if you take the snowmen off, they're awesome. Apparently the judges at the Latin-American Health Institute- Brockton 2012 Cookie Competition thought so too, because they favored mine over the seven other steep competitors! I won two movie tickets, a cookie cutter, and new Kitchenaid measuring spoons!

Maybe this competition thing isn't so bad after all...

Tough Mudder 2013 here I come!  Well, I'll attempt to train for it, anyway...

Happy Holidays!
Love and cookies,

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