The first holiday cookie contest at Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies in downtown Mount Airy on Saturday was the stuff Christmas movies are made of — adversity, setbacks, an appearance by Santa, and finally, triumph.
Despite a power outage in Dobson leaving Susan Lawrence without electricity, a working kitchen, or even a place to buy groceries, she wrangled a little space in a corner of Miss Angel’s kitchen, and with only an hour until the contest began, baked the winning cookies, winning the grand prize for the charity of her choice, YVEDDI Meals on Wheels.
Angela Shur, owner of Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies, asked local bakers to bake one to two dozen of their favorite cookies from scratch and bring them and a copy of the recipe to the contest Saturday night. Celebrity judges would choose the best cookie based on appearance, taste and uniqueness. The winning cookie would then go on sale at Miss Angel’s for 100 days, and all proceeds generated from their sale would be donated to the charity of the winner’s choice.
Judges for the event were Rep. Sarah Stevens of Mount Airy, who serves in the N.C. General Assembly, and Santa Claus of The North Pole, beloved by children everywhere. Miss Angel had planned to be a third judge but recused herself when three of her employees entered cookies in the contest. “I know who baked what and it wouldn’t be fair,” she said, as the contest was to be judged blind.
After the judges had done their work, the grand prize was awarded to Lawrence for her “Orange You Glad I Said Ginger” cookies. In addition to the funds that will be raised for YVEDDI Meals on Wheels, Lawrence also won a ribbon and a $50 gift certificate for Miss Angel’s store and farm. Her winning recipe was the first to be placed in a special tin which will hold contest recipes from this and future contests.
“I spent years trying to find a soft version of a gingerbread cookie,” said Lawrence. “Then I finally found it and modified it.”
Those modifications found favor with the judges. Stevens admitted that she doesn’t like ginger, but something about the uniqueness of the cookie spoke to her. Santa, a man who certainly knows his way around a cookie, also found them to be intriguingly unique. “We found it to be a tough decision,” said Stevens, speaking for her co-judge who was struggling with a beard full of cookie crumbs.
Stevens said before the contest this was her first experience at judging a cookie contest. “I ran for judge in 2002, but I wasn’t elected,” she said. She said having another judge to confer with, and bounce ideas off of made the job easier.
“I’m a chocolate fan,” she said, “but when Santa said the ginger cookie was unique, that was our winner.”
After the judges had completed their tasting and stepped outside to confer, Shur announced an impromptu contest to predict the judge’s selection. She invited everyone present to taste the remaining cookies, and pick the one they thought the judges would select. She offered to match the ultimate proceeds of the winning cookie, and give the funds to the charity of the person’s choice who accurately predicted the judge’s selection.
After much tasting and comparing, Mary Boyles, executive director of The Shepherd’s House accurately guessed the winner. Boyles was ecstatic that she would be bringing funds to The Shepherd’s House, even though her Shepherd’s Shortbread had failed to find favor with the judges.
She had struggled with the cookies. “I’m not a cookie baker, but it’s for charity, it’s Christmas cheer, it’s cookies, it’s fun.” After struggling for more than two hours to decide what cookie to bake, the first batch was not so good. “Then I made some homemade icing for the second batch, and that was better.”
But not good enough. “The Shepherd’s House wins, even if my cookies didn’t,” she said happily of the evening’s outcome.
Other cookies in competition included Christmas Crack Cookies, which Anne Hardy had baked in hopes of taking the prize money to the Autism Society. Her daughter, Megan Hardy, said, “Mom always makes this chocolate-based dessert, and we Frankensteined it into a cookie.”
Other hopefuls were: Moncha, Moncha, Matcha them Up, Coconut Macaroons, Lemon Madeleines, Chocolate Bomb (a caramel hazelnut dark chocolate cookie), Almond Raspberry Jam cookies, I’m Cocoa and I Know It (a cinnamon hot chocolate cookie) and Aunt Philly’s Ricotta Cheese cookies.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.