I’m Baaack From The World Food Championship! And Here’s A Simple Shortbread Cookie For You!
These past few weeks have been a blur in my mind. They have seriously slipped by me at a blink of an eye. I can’t even believe I have already been to Las Vegas and competed in the World Food Championship 2014! Yes folks, I did it! And I feel that I represented the home bakers out there darn good. There were overwhelming emotions the entire time, mostly because I have NEVER been away from my little ladies or husband. The anxiety and “high” you feel just standing on the sidelines of these makeshift, outdoor, Kenmore kitchens is beyond me putting into words. I can kind of describe the prebaking contest jitters similar to childbirth. The doctor tells you that it’s time for your c-section and you nervously lay there on the table knowing that it is going to be an incredible journey, but the unexpected scares the crap out of you. The girls and I like to refer to this emotion as nerve-i-cited.
I chose my mom as my baking assistant this year and it has been years since we have actually baked together. She was a great choice and handled my nerve-i-cited emotions well. The day we landed in Las Vegas, we checked into the competition room and had professional chef photos taken of us for our scoreboards. Then we hopped in one of our many interesting taxi cabs and headed to a local grocery store. Let’s just say I have never been to Vegas and had NO idea you can play slots in the markets, wow. After shopping and separating our ingredients into 2 separate dessert piles, we headed to “old Vegas”, downtown on Freemont street, to check out how the kitchens were set up. Talk about intimidation! There was a long line of competitors waiting to prep and compete that evening. Just seeing the mounds of ingredients, coolers, and looks on some of their faces shook my world.
There was very little sleep the night before, between the time change and anxiety I’d say I clocked in about 2.5 hours-tops. It was freezing to us Orlando girls. Baking outside was challenge enough, but 54 degrees? Let’s just say our butter didn’t like it, but I pushed through that issue. I did fantastic on time; finished each category with 7 minutes to spare. There was then the dreaded wait time until the judges would announce the top 10 desserts that would move on to see who would win 10K and the Dessert World Food Champion title. The World Food Championship had a little teaser this year and would only put the top 20 scores in the signature round on a screen to show who had potential to make the top 10. The WFC takes your signature dessert score and your themed dessert score and averages the 2 to decide your overall score. My signature dish ranked 19, (ugh mass disappointment there when I saw that score, but I still beat out 21 other competitors) there was a chance for me to move on to the top 10 round, but I HAD to get 1st or 2nd in the themed round. The announcements were finally made and it was just so exciting and overwhelming to watch these fellow bakers walk to the stage. Nope, I didn’t get called and I had yet to find out my total score. It was killing me! Had to wait until the following morning to view posted scores online. Low and behold, my heart stopped…13th?! I was pleased. That meant that my theme dished took 7th place. I missed being in the top 10 round by only 1.19 points. And considering this was my first-ever live competition event, I was happy. I played and baked with the best of the best, professionally trained, and seasoned competitors-and this little ol’housewife took 13th.
There is a “high” baking in a competition, like no other. Seeing your fellow bakers rushing and plating in the corner of your eye and having an audience stand in front of you and cheer you on is just empowering. I was hooked from the beginning. I wanted to continue on to the infused, top 10 round so bad, I had such a killer recipe to bake (but that will be for next year). Now my sights are set on World Food Championship 2015 in Kissimmee. That’s right it is literally in my backyard, which means my customers, family, friends, and my big girls can come be on my team! I am striving to qualify and have already started playing around with recipes in my head that may help me win a golden ticket for the World Food Championships 2015 Kissimmee.
The World Food Championship 2014 was such a well organized event. The staff was overly helpful and friendly. The head guru Mike McCloud was usually around and very approachable. I felt very welcomed into this close knit family. So many different events for people to mingle and watch other categories battle it out for the title. I highly recommend each and every striving “contester” to try their best to qualify to participate in next year’s WFC. There are memories to be made with this competition. You will just have to beat me up to try and take my place, lol.
So, the holidays are literally knocking on our door and I figured I would share with you one of my easiest cookies. These simple melt away shortbread cookies are not very sweet. The dough only has one cup of powdered sugar in it. But they are intended to be dressed, which makes up for the lack of sweetness in the dough. I have created and held this recipe close to my heart for years because it is my go-to cookie cutter recipe. This shortbread cookie dough barely spreads when baked and is great for all of those holiday cookie cutters. I love making Christmas cookies with my little ladies and usually make a boat load of vivid royal icing so they can just create away. What a memorable time, sitting and decorating cookies with your young ones, ugh tears in my eyes. This recipe I bring you today is for a fancier looking shortbread cookie, no royal icing. These look like those fancy bakery cookies my mom used to take me to the Chicago bakery and buy at Christmas time. They look difficult, but I promise you the ingredients and skills are very simple.
Let’s start baking…
Melt Away Shortbread Cookies
Yields: Depends on the size cookie cutter you chose, if you need more than 20 I would go with a 2″ circle cutter. I used a 3.5″ circle cutter and got about 18.
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp clear imitation vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour
2 containers of dipping chocolate (found in the baking isle at your grocery store)
Candy canes or peppermint candies, unwrapped and placed in a ziplock bag for crushing
Cookie sheet pan
Cookie cutter, shape of your choice
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. In an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar and mix on medium low speed until well combined.
3. Add in clear vanilla and salt.
4. On stir setting, slowly mix in flour. Yes, you can eat the dough at this point, but remember it isn’t very sweet until it is all dressed up for the occasion.
5. Lay parchment paper on working surface, no additional flour needed to prevent sticking. Dump dough onto parchment and cover with an additional long piece of parchment paper, making a sandwich. Roll out dough into even desired thickness. My dough is usually 1/3rd of an inch thick and I bought these super cool sticks from amazon that you roll your pin over so all sides of dough are even!
6. Leaving parchment on both sides, place rolled out dough into freezer for about 20 minutes until hard.
7. Remove dough from freezer. Take off top layer of parchment, set aside for later use. Cut out as many circles as you can fit on dough. Place cookie dough on baking sheet about 1.5 inches apart. Bake 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes until bottom edges are a golden brown. Allow to cool fully on baking sheet before moving to a cooling rack.
8. Take scrap dough form into a ball and roll out between 2 parchment sheets again. Continue this process until all dough is used.
9. When all of the cookies are baked, microwave the dipping chocolate according to packaged directions.
10. Put candy canes or peppermint candies, unwrapped into a ziplock bag and beat them to heck. You need crunchable pieces for the garnish 🙂
11. Dip half of the cooled shortbread cookies into the dipping chocolate. Shake off excess. Hold over crushed candy cane plate and sprinkle a desirable amount of candy onto wet chocolate. Place on parchment paper. At this point, you can stick them in the refrigerator to hurry the drying process or let them sit out for a LONG time. I actually allow my cookies to sit out over night, and NO they don’t taste stale the next day.
12. Tah-dah! There you have gorgeous, store bought looking cookies made from the heart! So many cute boxing options this time of year too!
I will follow up with my royal icing recipe in a few days, for those of you who enjoy making super cute, decorated, holiday cookies.