Christmas Cookie Challenge review: Colors of Christmas


In this episode of Christmas Cookie Challenge, five cookie makers must bring the warmth of the holiday in just one color, and then the remaining cookiers will create an extravagant cookie cream tart scene.

Host Eddie Jackson introduces the first challenge in this episode of Christmas Cookie Challenge. Recently, monochromatic decoration has become more popular, so the cookie makers will need to depict two different scenes- one indoor and one outdoor- all in white. The challenge here is to provide all the detail and visual interest of a normal cookie without being able to rely on color. Instead, they will need to use texture and dimension to convey their scenes.

Though they are given the traditional ninety minutes for round one, the timing will be extra challenging as they need time for their layers of icing to dry. If the bakers try to add white icing details onto wet white icing, it will sink in and they will end up with nothing but a simple white frosted cookie.

Laura Merkel is making an espresso chocolate cookie. She will make a knitted stocking as her indoor cookie and a decorated front door for her outdoor theme.  In order to help her with the time limit, she uses a stiff royal icing to pipe out poinsettias onto waxed paper. These will dry as her cookies bake, and then she can simply lift and place them onto her cookie. Laura also decides to paint a thin icing layer over her stockings to mask the color of the cookie. This dries faster than a flood so she can quickly begin work on her knitted pattern.

Kara Shall is making a chocolate cherry spice cookie. She decides to create a wooden plaque for her indoor cookie and a winter scene for her outdoor cookie. Her goal for the winter scene is to show a forest path leading to a church. The problem is that her scene is absolutely tiny and all white. Her church is smaller than a pencil eraser. Eddie tells her that her “cookies require a lot of imagination.” Her plaque is easier to read, with a tree in the center to bring out the holiday. It is only as time is called that she looks down and realizes she has two tree-themed cookies and that this may have been a mistake.

Maisha Cottman is an engineer rather than a full-time cookie maker, but that doesn’t stop her from being ambitious. She wants to set herself apart so she decides to make a 3-D cookie. She wants to replicate her mother’s candle decorations by creating a circular cookie, filling it with isomalt, and then setting in an upright candle-shaped cookie. She plans to decorate all sides of her cookie since it will be standing up.

Unfortunately, Maisha cuts her cookies too thick as she is worried about their stability in standing up, and they take forever to bake. Eddie calls twenty-five minutes left as she finally pulls them out of the oven, so she simply can’t complete her original plan. She does create her 3-D candles but they are not decorated on all sides.

Megan Savely is a cake artist who has more recently gotten into cookie making. She plans to bring cake decorating techniques to the table. She is making a butter pecan shortbread representation of the onesie that her grandma knitted for her daughter as well as a forest scene. For her scene, she uses modelling chocolate rolled into thin snakes which she puts on the sides of her cookie. She then taps these with her knife to create lines, and this effectively gives her the look of birch tree trunks. Between the trunks, she pipes her winter scene.

Jordan Gates is using cranberry white chocolate sugar cookies to create a sleigh and a scene of his grandfather’s fireplace and rocking chair. Like Maisha, he cuts his cookies thick and then struggles to bake them in time. He knows that Ree enjoys a cookie less baked, so he hopes for the best.

Time is called and the judges are introduced. Today we have Gesine Prado, Dwayne Ingraham, and of course, Ree Drummond. Megan is up first with her butter pecan shortbread landscape and knitted onesie. Though I was worried about her use of modelling chocolate and the fact that it is not white, Gesine appreciates the off-white color. In general, the judges like her designs but Ree doesn’t feel that the onesie is terribly Christmasy. They like her cookie but the modelling chocolate has a gummy texture that they don’t love.

Kara now presents her take on the forest scene featuring the world’s smallest church. Gesine struggles to find the details in her scene and the judges are also not clear on which tree design is indoor. They enjoy her chocolate cherry spice cookie except that Gesine feels it is lacking in spice. Overall, things are not looking good for Kara.

Laura presents her chocolate espresso cookie stocking and decorated front door. Overall, the judges like her design and flavor which features a bold latte-like taste.

Maisha’s Mexican hot chocolate cookie with maple royal icing is a hit for the warmth of her spices. Even though she does not get the whole cookie iced, they still appreciate her 3-D candle and they like how she has built up icing on her trees to create a snow-laden effect.

Jordan presents last. His fireplace and rocking chair scene is clear and easy to read, but he has relied on the shape of his sleigh too much. It lacks details. His white chocolate cranberry cookie tastes good but even Ree agrees it is under baked. With his under baked cookie and lack of design on his sleigh, Jordan is first out. He is quickly followed by Kara as her designs were too similar and a little unreadable.

For the final challenge, the three remaining bakers will make a cookie cream tart (layers of cookies and cream). The challenge will be to use a cream that can hold up the weight of the cookies. Each baker must use two different doughs and must also include a red or green ingredient- pomegranate or red currant jam for red or matcha or kiwi for green.

Maisha wants red currant jam but doesn’t make it to the ingredient table in time. She ends up with matcha and is not thrilled. She decides to put it in her gingerbread figuring that green ginger tea is a thing. She also makes a pecan shortbread and decides to use a swiss meringue buttercream for her filling.

Maisha’s design is two large triangles. She pipes cream on each triangle and then attempts to set one on top of the other. Disaster strikes as her top triangle breaks. She hopes her decorations will hide the cracks. She plans to represent the land of sweets from the Nutcracker, covering her triangle with churro cookies, poinsettias, tiny sweet potato pies, and star cookies with raspberry jam.

Laura gets dried kiwi slices as her ingredient and decides to make a Christmas tree. She creates her tree with an oatmeal kiwi white chocolate cookie and uses cream cheese buttercream in the center. Her ornaments are carefully piped sugar cookies.

Megan is creating a round ice skating rink out of almond shortbread. She is using a stabilized whipped cream in the center. She hopes her gelatin will give the cream the ability to hold up the weight of her top cookies but plans to add insurance with cream cheese. Unfortunately, most of the cream cheese is gone so she improvises with goat cheese. For even more insurance, she falls back on her cake decorating skills and adds cookies inside her tart for support.

Without too many difficulties, all three pull off a charming cream tart. Megan is up first for judging. To decorate her ice rink, she has dragged a toothpick through her blue icing to create the skating marks in the ice. On the ice are three penguins skating, to represent her family. In the center of her rink, she has made a cookie tree.

The whole effect is adorable but Gesine questions how she has used whipped cream in the tart and not suffered any squidging out. Megan admits using cookie supports and all the judges question if this has met the challenge. On the plus side, they enjoy her gingerbread and shortbread, and they like her whipped cream with goat cheese and red currant jam.

Maisha presents her land of sweets tart next. She has done a huge amount of work given the many different cookies and flavors she has created. The judges try cookie after cookie and praise them all. They don’t sense her matcha ingredient in her gingerbread, though, and they do note the cracks in her piece.

Laura is last to present her Christmas tree. The judges love her choice of oatmeal cookie for the tree as it naturally has a woodsy texture. The judges love the homey feel of her piece and admire her finely decorated sugar cookie ornaments. In the end, her combination of flavors and style win the day, and Laura takes home the grand prize!

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I personally haven’t seen cookie cream tarts before and I think it is a fun idea for a holiday table, especially as you can decorate them to fit your theme. If you have someone in your family who doesn’t like pie, this could be a unique dessert for your table. Anyone up to try out a new tradition?