Christmas came early for New Yorkers during the 2nd Annual FIJI Water Holiday Cookie Swap and Bake-Off that took place in Manhattan’s East Village last Saturday. Guests were treated to not just holiday décor and all the FIJI Water, Mionetto Prosecco, and Green & Black’s Chocolate their hearts could desire, but also a cornucopia of holiday cookies from 25 volunteer bakers. The event raised $9,000 the Lower Eastside Girls Club and their new culinary program.
Stiff Competition, Expert Cookie Judges
Before the event even began, the 25 volunteer bakers got started decorating their tables with Christmas wrapping paper and arranging their cookies for a tasty display. Three bakers would be walking away with prizes for the best cookie of the night, with a grand prize valued at over $500 donated by sponsor King Arthur Flour.
Cookies were judged by an esteemed panel including Julie Christopher of King Arthur Flour, Pastry Chef Jen Shelbo of Maialino, Chef Sue Torres of Suenos, food writer Josh Ozersky, Pastry Chef Myriam Eberhardt of DBGB Kitchen and Bar (who provided us with the very easy-to-make recipe to her pistachio Breton cookies), and Nichelle Stephens, blogger and cupcake enthusiast.
Despite the daunting panel of culinary pros, nerves disappeared as guests poured in excited to try and to buy as many cookies as possible. During the event, the all-female a cappella group Treble put us in the Christmas spirit with classic holiday tunes. The youngest members of the girls club, dressed head to toe in Christmas gear, also joined in for a few songs — which hands-down won for most adorable moment of the day.
In the end, Jamie Newman’s chocolate chip cookies with spicy candied pecans won the grand prize (Newman is pictured above with two plates of his winning cookies). Newman professed to being “overwhelmed.”
“I never thought I would win, given the stiff competition of seasoned bakers,” said Newman. “In fact, I was worried I would have dozens left over, but I managed to sell every last cookie! The win itself was very gratifying, but the fact that all my proceeds went directly back to the Lower Eastside Girls Club made it all the better.”
Newman also shared with us what, in his opinion, made his cookies winners. “People were definitely intrigued by the idea of adding a hint of heat to something as common as a chocolate chip cookie,” he explained.