Children ruled the first Holiday Cookie Contest in Laguna Beach.
On Monday afternoon, 40 adults and children filled a room in the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center to savor cookies from three young bakers.
The city received 12 submissions between Oct. 13 and Nov. 6. Staff members read the recipes and selected three finalists — Abby Roedersheimer, 12, Hadley Hunt, 10, and Katie Baker, 10 — based on family stories and cookie recipes.
Staff members from the city and Laguna Beach Seniors thought of the idea during a meeting this year.
“We thought, ‘How can we bridge generations?’” said Adam Gufarotti, recreation supervisor. “We wanted the kids to talk to their grandparents.”
Each finalist baked a batch of her cookies for a panel of judges while staff members baked additional batches at the Susi Q Center to ensure there was enough for the public.
The three judges were Sande St. John, a community volunteer and founding member of No Square Theatre; Nadia Babayi, Laguna Beach Seniors’ executive director, and Chris Costley; a member of the city Recreation Committee.
Abby said her family line includes professional bakers. Her great-great-grandmother Mary McMonagle devised the recipe for pecan pie date nut tarts, which look like miniature pecan pies.
Judges complimented the tarts’ crust with descriptions such as “buttery” and “flaky.”
“It has a not-so-sweet but yummy and delicious taste,” Babayi said.
Hadley’s submission for toffee bars came from her great-grandmother, who she said used brown ink when typing the recipe to give to others.
The bars were cut in squares and had a layer of chocolate atop the toffee.
“It’s like a candy bar,” St. John said.
Katie’s submission for lebkuchen, a cookie that resembles gingerbread and hails from Germany, originated with her grandmother.
One year, Katie said, her father and brother cleared the dining room table to make hundreds of the cookies, which include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and candied orange peel.
“I just took a bite of Christmas,” Costley said. “The ginger, the flavor is kind of unique … my mouth is tingling.”
After deliberating, the judges awarded first place to Abby’s pecan pie date nut tarts.
Abby’s photo, along with the recipe, will be printed in the city’s winter 2018 brochure, which went to the printer Tuesday, Gufarotti said.
“The most challenging was how sticky the dates were,” Abby said.
She received a gift basket filled with baking goods.
“It was her effort,” said Danielle Roedersheimer, Abby’s mother.
“Every Christmas we all pitch in in the kitchen,” she said. “They decorate cut-out cookies and roll snickerdoodle dough in sugar and cinnamon. Abby’s getting older, so she can take more responsibility.”
PECAN PIE DATE NUT TARTS
Makes 24 to 28 cookies
Recipe by Mary McMonagle
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (cut into 1/4-inch slices)
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening (cut in two pieces)
2 tablespoons cold vodka
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Process ¾ cup flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined — about two one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough starts to collect in uneven clumps — about 10 seconds. Dough will resemble cottage cheese with some very small pieces of butter remaining. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining ½ cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up — four to six quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium-size bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tack and sticks together. Flatten dough into a 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or up to two days.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on a generously floured work surface — using up to ¼ cup of flour — into a 12-inch-wide circle about ½-inch thick. Using a 3½-inch circular cookie/biscuit cutter, cut out circles and place into small tart pans or into miniature muffin tins.
5. Combine all filling ingredients, adding eggs and then the vanilla, into a bowl.
6. Spoon filling into tart pans lined with pastry and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until done.