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Naughty or Nice Cookie Challenge!

We have our winners!

photo of cookie finalists with voting ballot and golf pencil on a stainless steel background

The Naughty or Nice Cookie Challenge, presented by Honest Weight and the Times Union, is back again! (Last year's winners shown above)

Seventy-six bakers sent us their best holiday cookie recipes--some nice (on the healthier side of the 'cookie' label) and some naughty (decadent and with no-calories-spared). We rated the recipes and voted for six favorites- three from each category. Then you voted for your favorite recipes on Facebook and your favorite cookies based on taste at Honest Weight on Saturday, December 1st.

OUR WINNERS!

• Naughty: Marcie Davis, of Schaghticoke, for her Peanut Butter Fudge Cups.

• Nice: Susan Alviene, of East Greenbush, for her Almond Quinoa Delight Cookies.

• Lovin' Local: Felicia Reid, of Albany, for her All Nighter Cookies

The winners of the Naughty and Nice categories will receive a a $100 gift card and prize package from yours truly. We'll also bake and sell their cookies through the holiday season!

Two runners-up in each category will receive a $25 gift card from Honest Weight, and the Lovin' Local winner will recieve a special Local Gift Bag and a $50 Honest Weight gift card!

NAUGHTY WINNER: PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE CUPS

Baker: Marcie Davis, Schaghticoke

Source: Butterwithasideofbread.com recipe

FOR THE COOKIE

½ cup butter softened, or coconut oil

½ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup white sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

FOR THE FILLING

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin liberally with cooking spray

Using a hand mixer, cream butter, peanut butter, and white and brown sugars. Mix in egg and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Add in flour, baking soda and salt, stirring until combined. Measure out dough in 1 tablespoon scoops, and place them in a compartment of the mini muffin tin

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and immediately make wells in the center of each using a melon baller or a teaspoon measuring spoon. Cool in pan for 8-10 minutes, then carefully remove to wire racks. Cool for an additional 10-15 minutes

While cookie cool, combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Mix lightly and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. The mixture doesn't look melted, but stir gently, add the vanilla, and stir all until smooth.

Transfer half the fudge into a quart-sized zip-close bag. Squeeze the fudge into a corner and snip the corner from the bag. Pipe the fudge into the cookies. It sets super fast, so feel free to fill the cookies well, so the fudge goes above the cookie – it will set up and not run out. If the fudge becomes too solid, microwave for 10-15 seconds. I also warmed up about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter in a small baggie and drizzled it over the top of the fudge cups.

NICE WINNER: ALMOND QUINOA DELIGHT COOKIES

Baker: Susan Alviene, East Greenbush

Source: Slightly modified version of a 2012 Bon Appetit recipe

1-½ cups of white whole-wheat flour

1-teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup honey, locally harvested (Good Day Honey, Coeymans)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup quinoa, cooled

1 cup old-fashioned oats

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup white chocolate chips

½ cup slivered almonds

FOR THE GLAZE

4 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice

2 cups confectionaries sugar

FOR THE COOKIES:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla and almond extract.

Beat in flour mixture, ½ cup at a time. Mix in cooled quinoa, oats, cranberries, white chocolate chips and almonds until incorporated into batter but don't over mix. Spoon dough in 2-tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets, spacing 1" apart.

Bake cookies until golden, 12-15 minutes.

FOR THE GLAZE:

Whisk ingredients together until thick but pourable. Using a spoon, drizzle over cookies.

LOVIN' LOCAL WINNER: ALL NIGHTER COOKIES

Baker: Felicia Reid, Albany

Source: Self-developed

2 cups, less 1 tablespoon, all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour, Norwich, Vermont)

1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoons + tiny pinch baking soda

1 teaspoon espresso powder or finely ground espresso beans or 2 teaspoons finely ground coffee beans (Felicia uses them from Stacks Espresso)

1 ¼ teaspoons + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (From Kate's Creamery, Arundel, Maine)

2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar

½ cup, packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 large egg, room temperature (Feather Ridge Farm, Elizaville)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ cup semi/bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks

½ cup homemade caramelized white chocolate or caramel chips or butterscotch chips

½ cup + 1 tablespoon rolled oats

½ cup smashed honey graham crackers

2 cups potato chips (use a sturdier type like kettle-cooked or ridged)

1 ½ cups mini pretzels or broken up pretzel bits

Line two half size (18-by-13-inch), rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder and soda, espresso, salt, and cinnamon). Whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment (you can also use a hand mixer and a large bowl) , combine the melted butter, sugars, and maple syrup. Beat on medium-low until mixture resembles a thin, smooth caramel sauce—about 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and extracts and beat on medium-low speed until incorporated, about a minute more.

Keeping the mixer on medium-low, by thirds, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until well combined and batter is smooth and thick. Add in the chocolate and butterscotch chips, then the oats. Beat until combined and oats are evenly coated and dispersed throughout the batter.

Using a mixing spoon, in turns, gently fold in the graham crackers, then potato chips, then mini pretzels, taking care to keep visible chunks of the potato chips and pretzels in the batter.

Using a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop (No. 20), portion out the dough onto one of the reserved cookie sheets. Place the sheet into the fridge and chill dough for at least a half hour. While the dough chills, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chilled dough about 3 inches apart on the remaining cookie sheet (six will fit on a half sheet). Using a scrap of parchment paper and your fingers or the back of a spoon, gently press down on the domes of the dough balls until slightly flattened.

Bake cookies for 14-17 min, until edges are golden brown and middles are just barely set (just past no longer shiny). Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, leaving the cookies in the hot cookie sheet for 3 minutes more. Remove the sheet from under the cookies and let the cookies cool on the rack. (I think cookies taste best when cooled for 10-15 minutes but still warm.)

Bake the rest of the cookies in batches. When cookies are completely cool, store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

See all the Recipes online at the Times Union!

 

Three smiling HWFC Bakers in HWFC teeshirts with plates of cookies

Photos by John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union