During the week of Nov. 11, Clark Hall hosted its inaugural “Cookie Cook-Off,” the first of a series of monthly community-wide events aimed at facilitating intra-dorm bonding. Residents faced off to see who could produce the best cookie by Friday, Nov. 17 in order to win a gift certificate for Mondo Pizza.
The competition was organized by Katherine Lu ’15, one of the Residential Advisers for the second floor of Clark. Not only did Lu see the competition as a way for students to work off stress, but she also saw it as a way for them to explore different kinds of baking, especially for those with dietary restrictions. She herself loves to bake but finds the kitchen options limited on campus.
“I know that there’s a huge gluten-free, vegan movement, and people have certain food sensitivities, so I really wanted to have people be able to express themselves through baking,” Lu said. “I know that’s a great emotional release for everyone regardless of their background. I recently became interested in baking, I think two years ago, [but] on campus it’s really hard to be able to engage in [baking] because it involves so much time, ingredients, tools, and so a lot of that holds me back. But I was really happy to see that a lot of freshmen were still able to engage in what they love…despite the limitations or the obstacles in college.”
Lu deliberately left the cookie criteria open-ended, hoping to encourage students’ creativity.
“I specified no nuts, and I basically let everyone run free with it,” Lu explained.
The final turnout consisted of three teams, two from the third floor of Clark, and one from the fourth floor, known as Writing Hall. Lizzie Shackney ’17 and Ruby Lang ’17 of Clark 3 joined together to produce chocolate-chip cookies with Oreos at the center, a recipe they described as straightforward.
“We flattened out the cookie dough, put in an Oreo, and covered the Oreo with cookie dough, and sprinkled some signature salt on top,” Shackney said.
Shackney and Lang felt that the salt was particularly important to the flavor of the cookie, preventing it from being overly sweet and adding to its uniqueness.
“[Salt] gives it a special flair,” Lang explained.
Also from the third floor was a vegan and gluten free cookie pie, courtesy of Anthony Dean ’17.
“I decided to go a bit outside the box,” said Dean. “I decided to go with a cookie pie, which is still technically a cookie, but what was really the kicker was [that it] was a vegan cookie pie. And everyone was like, ‘Whoa, Anthony, how do you make cookies without eggs and butter?’ And I was like, ‘Cooking, you know, life.’”
Dean was especially pleased to have had such good results since it was his first time using the recipe.
“I’d never used this recipe before, but it turned out pretty well,” Dean said. “The chocolate chips melted a lot, so it was just like a giant chocolate, chocolaty cookie [and a] delicious creation.”
Amy Mattox ’17 of Writing Hall put her own spin on chocolate-chip cookies by adding secret ingredients to the classic New York Times recipe.
“I have several things that I do to alter the recipe,” Mattox said. “I use some weird things. I use mayo, and heavy cream, and some other stuff. You know, it’s funky, you just mess around with it. You figure what you like, what makes the consistency better, what makes them keep longer.”
Like Lu, Mattox enjoys baking and finds it to be both fun and cathartic.
“I love to bake,” Mattox said. “It’s always been a very big pastime of mine. It’s like a big stress reliever. It’s a wonderful thing; you get to share delicious things with your friends.
So [when Lu] sent out the email…it was just an impetus to do something that I’d already wanted to do.”
Dean for the Class of 2017 Louise Brown acted as judge for the competition and ultimately declared it a three-way tie because the cookies varied so much. The three teams plan to share the Mondo gift card.
Overall, Lu said she was satisfied with the results of the competition and would gladly hold another, but with a few modifications.
“I would change up it up a little bit [because] it’s hard to monitor interest,” Lu said. “I was always unsure of participation, but I’m glad that a few people participated because they were passionate, and even though participation was limited, it was [of] good quality.”
Dean seconded Lu’s opinion of the competition.
“I thought everyone brought in some good cookies,” Dean said. “I think a good time was had by all.”
Deep-Dish Cookie Pie (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
(Adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie, a dessert blog; baked by Anthony Dean ’17)
2 cups white beans or garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1 cup quick oats (or certified gluten-free quick oats)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tbsp. oil (canola, veg, or coconut)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
1. Blend everything (except the chocolate chips) very well in a good food processor. Use a blender instead of a food processor only if absolutely necessary.
2. Mix in chocolate chips and pour into an oiled 10-inch (or smaller) pie pan.
3. Cook at 350 degrees for around 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Chocolate-Chip Oreo Surprise Cookies
(Adapted from The New York Times/Jacques Torres; baked by Lizzie Shackney ’17 and Ruby Lang ’17)
2 cups minus 2 tbsp. cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. natural vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 package of Oreos
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light for about 5 minutes.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
4. Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined for 5 to 10 seconds.
5. Add chocolate chips. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. (Dough may be used in batches and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.)
6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
7. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie.
8. If making Oreo Surprise cookies, flatten mounds of dough using a flat-bottomed water glass. Place an Oreo at the center of each circle and pinch the dough around to seal the Oreo inside.
9. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden-brown, but still soft, for 18 to 20 minutes.
10. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool.
11. Repeat with remaining dough. Alternatively, refrigerate dough for next-day use. Eat warm and with a big napkin.