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Posted: Monday November 7, 2011, 9:37 AM
Holiday Cookie Contest: Nominations are being sought for best holiday cookies baker
By Elisa Ung of The Record

Who's the best holiday cookie baker you know? And what's their best cookie?

We want to know – because those questions are the focus of The Record's fourth annual holiday cookie contest.

This year, the competition is going to work differently than it has in previous years. Entering is easy, and everyone is invited to witness the final judging.

Here's how to enter: Someone else must nominate you and your best holiday cookie recipe. Your nominator can be anyone – your husband or wife, your mother, your brother, your co-worker, a friend. They just need to tell us why you and your cookie should win our contest – and their letter and your recipe need to be submitted or postmarked by Nov. 17.

Based on the recommendation letter and the appeal of your recipe, we'll pick three finalists who will bake their cookies at a public event the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Chef Central in Paramus. Three judges will pick first-, second- and third-prize winners that night. Aside from bragging rights, the first-place winner will get a five-quart KitchenAid stand mixer. Second place gets a $100 gift card to Chef Central, and third place gets a nine-speed KitchenAid digital stand mixer.

Our judging panel this year will include Englewood resident Florian Bellanger, the French pastry chef who is a judge on the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" and owns Mad Mac, a Paterson-based macaron and madeleine company.

Also sitting behind the judges' table this year will be Phyllis Pette, the Fort Lee native whose recipes won first place in the 2009 and 2010 contests.

You'll get a vote, too, if you attend the Dec. 6 event. Audience members will get to sample all three cookies and pick one of the finalists for a fourth award, the People's Choice winner (who will win an additional $50 Chef Central gift card).

Here are a few things to keep in mind while entering:

Originality and taste. We are looking for distinctive cookies that taste good. You'll get bonus points if they're also gorgeous, but a basic cookie recipe with elaborate decorations is not going to win you a spot in the finals.

Specifics in the nominating letter. Nominators, we don't just want a general statement saying that your mom is the best baker ever in the world. We want to know more: how many years she's baked these cookies, how she came up with them to begin with, what family events she's baked them for. Have the cookies shattered a bake sale record? Did they originate with your grandparents? What do others say when they taste them?

Specifics in the recipe. If you win, your cookies may be baked by untold numbers of home cooks who need to know a lot of details. We also need as much information as possible to evaluate the recipes.

Everyone's oven is different, so don't just write "bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes," also tell us what the cookies look like when they're done. Tell us whether the dry ingredients should be added all at once or gradually. Should the butter be salted or unsalted? Do you grease the cookie sheets? If you're using chocolate chips, are they bittersweet, semisweet or milk, and do you favor a particular brand?

We're flexible. If you're a finalist, you'll need to bake your cookies at Chef Central on Dec. 6, but we'll also work with you if your recipe requires advance preparation, such as chilling the dough overnight.

How to enter

To enter The Record's holiday cookie contest:

Entry forms: Available at northjersey.com/cook iecontest. Entry forms will also run in The Record and are available at local Kings Super Markets.

To submit: Online, by mail or to the stores.

Deadline: Nov. 17. The three finalists will be notified by Nov. 28 at the latest, and must be available to attend the final event on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Chef Central in Paramus.

E-mail: ung@northjersey.com Twitter: elisaung Blog: northjersey.com/foodblog