“Traditional, chewy, chocolate and overall taste,” said Joe Golia (Director of the Office of Campus Life), John Piermarini (Cookie lover and founder of Sweet Idea), Julie Lampie (Tufts Dining’s Nutrition and Marketing Specialist and expert cookie baker) and Mark Lampie (Julia’s husband and “lover of sweets”) when asked about what they were looking for at Tufts Culinary Society’s Cookie Throwdown. Judging by their completely filled water bottles, the four anticipated a night of sampling many delicious cookies—but what they didn’t know was how impressed they would be with these yummy creations. Before the event was over, judges were full of praise for the “really excellent” cookies made by the students. John the Cookie Man even quipped, “I want these recipes.”
Seven teams of bakers presented their cookies at Hotung Café on Saturday night, March 2nd. Many arrived with full plates of baked goodies wrapped in plastic to preserve maximum freshness, looking excited to watch friends enjoy what they’d spent the past few hours perfecting. And it was perfection indeed, or damn near close to it. An audience of eager eaters marveled at the uniformity of the cookies, even with the more complicated cookies like Devyn and Punit’s dulce de leche alfajores.
Once all the teams had arrived and settled down at tables, charming hosts Matt Stofsky and Mitch Friedman kicked off a night of cookie humor, regaling those listening with fun facts about cookie history and the Cookie Monster. Soon, the bakers were invited to introduce themselves and explain their recipes to the gathered crowd. Everyone present then visited each table to try oatmeal raisin, apple cider, sugar cookies, and various others. While the feeding frenzy went on, judges navigated the tight circle that formed in the middle of Hotung and whetted their appetites by looking without touching. Cookies ran out really quickly, and people greedily eyed the last few from each recipe that were reserved for the judges to slowly savor.
One by one, the final three explained the methods employed in their cooking–Flavia and Megan shared how they slapped a dollop of Nutella in the center of the cookie dough before topping the ball with sea salt, Emily, how she rolled her dough by hand, and Erin and Kelley, how they froze their peanut butter chunks first. Appreciative nods from the four judges demonstrated their approval of the creative cooking that went into the now-devoured baked goods.
And then those nodding heads had to make a tough decision. A drumroll led by the MCs tapped out a question in Morse: who would be crowned the Cookie Connoisseur of the night?
After a few minutes of tough deliberation, the judges came to an agreement. Emily Eickhoff’s Almond cookies won her the third prize of measuring cups. In second place, Flavia Alimonti and Megan Wasson won themselves a silicon baking mat with an alternative recipe for brown butter chocolate chip cookies adapted from Pinterest. Erin Callahan and Kelley Cohen’s brown butter peanut butter truffle cookies took first prize, which won them a mixer for even more baking.
The happy winners shared their recipe, which can be found online here.
The delighted judges shared some closing thoughts: “The beauty of baking cookies…is in its very precise and rewarding science. For example, the sugar-to-fat ratio must be watched closely. For optimum chewiness, saturated and unsaturated fat should be in a ratio of about 1 to 3. Too many flavors confuse the tongue, but a beautiful blend of tastes should bring out the best of each ingredient.”
Having tried every cookie, I can attest to the precision employed by all seven groups to create all-around fantastic cookies. If there is a take-home message of the night, it’s that Tufts students have again proven themselves in the culinary arts. This time it was by means of the cookie—who knows what it will be in years to come.
-Min Yi Tan