Baking bragging rights are on the line in the university's first-ever Best of the Nest Cookie Fest.
In less than two weeks, eight members of the UNT Family will take part in the final round of the competition that invited students, staff, faculty and alumni to submit their most scrumptious and, in some cases, most decorative cookie recipes.
A partnership between the UNT College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, UNT Dining Services and the Division of University Brand Strategy and Communications, this isn't any cookie-cutter contest. Each of the three categories are tailor made for everyone from the beginning baker to the kitchen connoisseur.
- Delicious and Decorative: This category is for those proving their cookie prowess and has two major requirements -- the cookies must taste and look incredible.
- Simply Delectable: This category is for easy-to-make treats that are hard to pass up.
- UNTraditional: This category represents cookies made with a UNT spin, whether through the decoration, flavors or both.
The top finalists in each category will bake a dozen of their signature cookies in the campus culinary lab for official judging on April 19.
Learn more about the finalists below including what makes their recipe special to them and what inspires them to bake.
Cookie: Soft Molasses Ginger Cookies
What makes this recipe special? I bake these at Christmas each year and like to add sprinkles into the rolling sugar to make them look special. This past year, I brought them to share with coworkers, and they were gone in a day!
Why do you love baking? I love baking because I love eating baked goods. I also really enjoy sharing delicious treats with people I care about.
What might people be most surprised to learn about you: I lived in Africa for almost a year but kept baking by plugging my stand mixer into a voltage converter and plug adapter. I do not necessarily recommend anyone else do that.
Cookie: Chewy White Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies
What makes this recipe special? This is a recent addition to our household, but the family considers it one of the best cookies they've ever had. As is, the recipe is fantastic, but the additions of dark chocolate chips and/or crystalized ginger makes this cookie spectacular.
Why do you love baking? Yum! Who needs another reason?
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? It will be no surprise to my friends, family or colleagues that I bake.
Cookie: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
What makes this recipe special? I love soft cookies, and these are perfect. The center keeps that nice "fresh-out-of-the-oven" softness. The cinnamon also is a nice touch -- it really helps the vanilla and dark chocolate shine without being too overpowering. I only started making this recipe about a year ago, but it's been a hit every place I bring it to.
Why do you love baking? Baking is a wonderful way to be creative without feeling wasteful or that you are just creating clutter. While I might not have the prettiest-looking bakes, I've found a real love in finding different flavor palettes from the complex (lemon lavender blueberry cake) to the simple (rosemary garlic bread). There also are so many different categories of baked goods that it leaves a lot of room to grow and still keep trying new things. I think my favorite part of baking though is giving my creations to other people. I love watching their eyes light up as they eat something delicious that I made.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I hate ice unless it's in iced coffee. I drink most things (water, soda, etc.) as close to room temperature as possible.
Cookie: Eagle Eyes
What makes this recipe special? The base for this cookie recipe was formatted from a family cookie recipe. We only got this cookie once a year from my aunt. When she passed, I took over making them. They still only get them once a year and are gone in a flash.
Why do you love baking? I love it when I combine ingredients to make something so wonderful that everyone enjoys them.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I once dreamed of being the Vera Wang of wedding cakes. I wanted to design and create amazing wedding cakes.
Cookie: Mean Green Stained Glass Shortbread Cookies
What makes this recipe special? UNT is as varied and diverse as a stained-glass mural, I love how everyone is so different and has their own unique way of shining. I really like how each batch of these cookies looks different and like a work of art just like our student body. I made them in green, but you can customize them for any shade or color, and I feel like it really symbolizes what UNT is: a place where everyone can find somewhere to belong. I made these for my friends at the end of the semester and they were a hit and a fun thing to take home to family. I like to put vanilla in them, but a bit of lime extract gives them a flavor Scrappy would love. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
Why do you love baking? Sweets and baked goods are such a fun way to show people I care about them. I learned how to make gluten-free cookies, how to work with non-dairy recipes, and then how to use different types of sugar substitutes without sacrificing flavor, and I did it because it's my way of showing my friends and family that I really value them even in small ways. I love the creativity of tweaking and playing with new ways to do things -- recipes are great but there's nothing like going off script and having fun with it.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I don't like chocolate -- I can't stand the stuff. But really, I think most people would be surprised to find out that I am disabled and being on my feet in the kitchen can actually be quite difficult. I've had a chronic illness since I was a child, and since having brain surgery in 2013, I've been physically disabled in my leg. Walking and standing for long periods can be difficult for me, but when I have the energy to be in the kitchen, I love what I am able to create for my friends and family.
Cookie: Sweet Green Pistachio Scrappies
What makes this recipe special? I thought something green would be an obvious choice for this contest, but my favorite green food, asparagus, wouldn't make a very good cookie. Luckily, my second-favorite green food is pistachios, and they do make delicious cookies. I created the recipe by considering flavors that pair well with pistachios.
Why do you love baking? As for many others, baking is a stress reliever for me. It also brings back pleasant memories of baking with the women in my family.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? There aren't many surprises with me, but sometimes people are surprised to learn that I have never seen any Star Wars movies.
Cookie: Iced Tea Cakes
What makes this recipe special? This is one of my favorite things to make and is one of the first things I learned to make when I started cooking. I make them for all the holidays and decorate them to match. I even made them to sell at a bakery for about seven years. I tell everyone that I would remember these cookies if I forgot everything else because they are such a big part of my life.
Why do you love baking? When I was 5 years old, I started cooking and baking, and I haven't stopped since learning how to make things like cinnamon rolls, macarons, Madeleines and so much more. Baking is something I did with generations of my family, from my youngest sister to my great grandparents. It's creativity and science (two of my favorite things) and is a place where I find peace when my world is falling around me. It's what I've done with 14 years of my life so far, and what I want to continue doing as long as I can.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I have a lot of layers to me like a croissant or a cake. I am the middle child of 12, with 20 years separating the youngest from the oldest. All of us were homeschooled and in 4-H since we were in the first grade. I grew up on a farm northwest of Lubbock. I can play three instruments. I made the Dean's List in my first semester of college, and I've worked two jobs since I was a freshman in high school.
Cookie: Vanilla Almond Buttercream Sugar Cookie
What makes this recipe special? It's a family recipe, and it's very delicious. It makes people happy, and they eat the cookies at very personal occasions such as birthdays, baby showers, etc. So, I feel I am making a mutual connection with my clients. I am a part of their special event, and they have a part of something equally personal to me.
Why do you love baking? Baking forces me to slow down, take my time and pay attention to detail.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I am a fitness instructor as well.