December 4th marks “National Cookie Day” and to celebrate Kitchen Arts and Letters Bookstore in New York City hosted a Holiday Cookie Contest!
Participants were asked to bake a batch of their best holiday cookies and bring them into the store to be critiqued by an impressive panel of pastry and baking experts. The judges were Chef Johnny Iuzzini (James Beard Award Winner and current host of The Great American Baking Show), Deb Perelman of Smittenkitchen.com, and Katherine Yang of Gigi Blue.
When I heard about this contest, I wanted to give it a try and I knew exactly which cookie I simply had to enter. You see, the entire inspiration for beginning this project and writing the Homefarm cookbook began with one simple recipe – Leena’s Slice Cookies.
I first tasted these incredible cookies two summers ago when my family traveled to the Homefarm for a family reunion. Our beloved cousin Leena baked us a batch of these cookies and by the first bite, we were all hooked. She was kind enough to share the recipe and her daughter, the lovely Marja-Liisa, translated it for us into English. I brought the recipe back home and then “translated” it again into American measurements. In that short time, these cookies have become a family favorite. My mom has also written about the slice cookies on her blog, so be sure to check it out for even more background information and photos!
Yesterday I baked a batch of Viipalepikkuleivät , a.k.a. Slice Cookies and packaged them up for the contest. The instructions were to put three cookies in a small resealable bag for the judges and place the rest on a disposable plate for everyone to enjoy.
What an impressive spread of entries! There were such diverse flavors and styles. The judges said it was certainly a tough competition.
(Image from Kitchen Arts and Letters Instagram – @kalnyc)
Names were removed, each entry was given a number, and they were sampled and scrutinized behind the scenes at the bookstore. It was a nail-biting 45 minutes while we waited for the announcement.
Finally the judges emerged from the back room. Each of the three judges stepped forward to announce their favorite.
I hardly had time to walk from one side of the shop to the other when all of a sudden I hear Katherine Yang declare Finnish Farmhouse Slice Cookies as the first winner! I was so thrilled and honored I could hardly contain my excitement! Katherine said, “If you gave me a box of them, I would probably finish them in one sitting!”
After the initial excitement, I knew I had to send a text message to Finland and share the good news! I couldn’t wait to tell Leena that her incredible slice cookies are now officially an award-winning treat here in the United States.
The other two winners were “Chocolate Chestnut Tortellini Cookies” and “Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies.” They were both incredible!
All three of us walked away with a fantastic prize package including a copy of the brand new Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan, a signed copy of Sugar Rush by our judge Johnny Iuzzini and a $100 Kitchen Arts & Letters Gift Certificate. I immediately redeemed mine for a copy of Scandinavian Comfort Food, The Rye Baker and How to Cook Everything. What a day!!
I hope you give this recipe a try maybe they will become a new favorite in your family as well. Kiitos!
The unique toffee-like flavor in these cookies comes from the secret ingredient – Dark Syrup (Tumma Siirappi in Finnish). This is a dark baking syrup made from sugar beets. It is a typical Scandinavian ingredient that is often used in sweet as well as some savory dishes. It adds incredible flavor to these cookies as well as a beautiful caramel hue. I think Slice Cookies are best when served with a cold glass of farm-fresh milk.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 Tablespoons Dark Syrup
- 2 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons vanilla sugar or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare two baking sheets with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and dark syrup.
- In another large bowl, combine flour, vanilla, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and combine. Wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll.
- Divide into 6 equal parts and shape into logs (approximately 1 inch in diameter).
- Place 3 logs on each of the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from oven and slice on an angle while still warm. Cool completely before eating.