Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in an event called The Ramble. The Ramble is a charity fundraiser spearheaded by an organization called Rally Sound. The organization was founded by a friend of mine and a talented Boston musician, Adam Ezra (catch him and his band, the Adam Ezra Group, at the 4 Points BBQ & Blues House in Winterport on September 22nd) and organized by Ezra’s friend-since-childhood, Charlene Bemis. The Ramble has worked with and raised funds for such amazing organizations as Feeding America and Give US Your Poor, as well as raising money to aid Haiti relief in its first year, and rebuilding a public park in Lynn, MA last year. It’s an inspiring event, held on Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts, that started four years ago as one band and their fans and has grown to include a second stage, a number of other bands and their fans, and booths for various community and charitable groups. One of these booths houses the Official Ramble Cookie Bake-Off.
It’s a little tough for me to be objective about the Bake-Off; after all, it is the only booth that’s been around since the first Ramble, and… well, I started it. The Bake-Off operates on a donation-based voting system, in which anyone is allowed to try any — or all — of the cookies that fans bring to enter, and cast their vote(s) by placing money into a corresponding jar. It’s all in the name of charity; the entire pot goes to the organization or cause the Ramble is working with that year, and the three cookie recipes that draw in the most donations are given bragging rights. I’m proud to say that this year, my younger sister, Desiree Fortune, and I swept the top three. The third place cookies this year were last year’s top winner, bacon chocolate chip, and Desiree’s vegan orange cranberry cookies took second. My first place winners this year were a decadent combination: double chocolate salted caramel.
Next year, the competition promises to be even more brutal, and I will have a hard time topping myself, but I look forward to seeing what my fellow fans and competitors bring to the table in 2014.
Third Place: Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 c flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 stick butter-flavored Crisco
- 3/4 c granulated sugar
- 3/4 c packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
- 1 c finely chopped bacon
Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat Crisco, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips and bacon. Spoon onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
Second Place: Vegan Orange Cranberry Cookies
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- “flax egg” (1 tbsp ground flax and 1 1/2 tbsp water)
- 1 1/2 tsp orange peel, grated
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
For the glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar and a splash or two each of cranberry and orange juice.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix the shortening, sugar and orange zest together until smooth. Then add the flax egg and mix. Combine remaining ingredients together and add slowly to the shortening until it is crumbly. Once you have done that, add enough orange juice until it reaches a regular cookie dough consistency. Add in the cranberries. Spoon onto non-greased baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes. Let cool before transferring to a wire rack. Mix together the glaze. It should be fairly thick; add more powdered sugar or juice as needed until you have reached the desired consistency. Drizzle over the cookies and let harden overnight.
For different flavor combinations, try infused cranberries and combine with your choice of citrus in place of orange.
First Place: Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter-flavored Crisco
- 3 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips, melted
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate chunks
- Milk Duds (or other chocolate-covered caramel candy)
- sea salt
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream together Crisco and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla and melted chocolate. Gradually add flour mixture; mixing just until combined. Fold in chocolate chunks. Form dough into pucks about and inch and a half across around a Milk Dud center. Sprinkle with course sea salt and bake until edges are dry, approximately 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.