We heard about childhood on a California raisin ranch, triumphs in state fair baking contests and recipes brought by ancestors from Norway, Denmark and Germany.
We heard about cookie-baking traditions that go back generations, and new ones that only go back a couple of years but are already cherished.
And we got to turn someone who never wins contests into a baker who will never be able to say that again. Last week, we called Jean Bogdahn of Denver, N.C., to tell her that her star-shaped sandwich cookies were the grand prize winner in The Observer’s Family Cookie Contest.
Our judges loved the tender texture of the cookies, the flavor combination of the buttery cookies and sweet currant jam, and the ease of making pretty cookies that don’t need decorating.
“Oh my goodness! I never win anything,” Bogdahn insisted. She won a $25 gift card, tickets to the Bobcats Jan. 18 game against the Miami Heat, and her choice of a stack of baking books.
Three runners-up also got to pick baking books: Cathy Grossu grew up on that raisin ranch, and her Polish-inspired raisin kolackes won a 4-H baking contest when she was a girl. Jean Newman’s spice cookies feature freshly ground star anise, an unusual touch she got from her daughter-in-law, who was born in the Czech Republic. And Jane Brown got her recipe for Mocha Nut Butterballs from a 1963 issue of Woman’s Day that had so many great cookies, she still bakes from it 50 years later.
Grossu, Newman and Brown are all from Mooresville, by the way. There’s apparently a lot of baking going on up there.
You’ll find the stories about the cookies in our online slide show, along with a dozen more finalist recipes. Look for the gingerbread cookies from Roberta Sell’s Great-Grandmother Uhle, and Norwegian Kringla from Olivia Stegall’s great-grandfather, a dairy man. And you’ll find pecan tassies that Katy Shannon got from her mother and will now make in memory of her son, David, who died last October.
As Shannon wrote: All cookies are love.
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